CNN anchor Dana Bash directly asked Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) on Sunday morning whether the Democratic Party had become “too woke,” citing veteran Democratic strategist James Carville’s complaints about recent GOP election gains.
During an appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Warner was first asked about the House finally passing the long-awaited bipartisan infrastructure bill late last week. Bash wondered aloud whether he felt earlier passage of the largely popular package could have helped push Democrat Terry McAuliffe to victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race.
“I think if we could have been talking about that win, and showing the kind of job creation that actually has been taking place, things might have been different,” the centrist Virginia lawmaker responded.
After Warner reiterated that he “absolutely” thought McAuliffe could have pulled off a win if the infrastructure bill was passed prior to the election, Bash swung the conversation towards moderate Democrats blaming recent election losses on the party’s supposed leftward shift. In particular, she noted that Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) groused that “nobody” elected President Joe Biden to be FDR.
“So are you misreading what Americans wanted out of this president, out of the Democratic Congress that is now in control?” Bash asked.
“I think what the American people wanted was to do rational pragmatic things,” Warner replied, adding: “I actually think that is what the American public hired Joe Biden to do, and I think once we do it, I think you’ll see the president’s numbers dramatically improve.”
Bash, meanwhile, aired remarks made by Carville following the GOP’s shellacking of Democrats last Tuesday. In the former Clinton strategist’s estimation, “stupid wokeness” and “‘defund the police’ lunacy” was to blame for the Democrats’ loss.
“Some of these people need to go to a ‘woke’ detox center or something,” Carville said, essentially adopting right-wing messaging. “They’re expressing a language that people just don’t use, and there’s backlash and a frustration at that.”
Bash straight-up asked Warner: “Are Democrats too woke, senator?”
Noting at first that he doesn’t “support defund the police,” the Virginia senator said that Democrats that did succeed last week largely talked about “investing in our police forces.” At the same time, Warner pushed back on Republican-led claims that so-called critical race theory has taken over K-12 schools, a conservative moral panic that was key to Virginia Governor-Elect Glenn Youngkin’s victory.
“There is not a school in Virginia that teaches critical race theory but Governor-Elect Youngkin stirred up the cultural pot there,” Warner sighed. “I hope he governs in a different way.”
Bash quickly interjected, acknowledging that while “it’s true” CRT isn’t part of Virginia school curriculum, it was also true that Democrats missed “a chance to signal to parents in particular that they understand their anxieties.”
“Dana, I think Glenn Youngkin touched a nerve that was felt in Virginia but frankly felt all over the country, and I think sometimes our response, yes, we need to make sure that we increase teacher pay,” Warner reacted. “As a matter of fact, we put—the federal government has put more money into education both under Trump and under Biden, in the last 18 months through COVID than ever in our history.”
Further asserting that “we needed to have acknowledged the challenge that parents have felt” during the pandemic, Warner said that Democrats “candidly” need to look at providing “mental health assistance” to both kids and school workers due to the disruptions they’ve faced.
“I think the aftermath of COVID is not going to be simply solved as we get these schools reopened but getting schools reopened does require the kind of hard choices this president has made about vaccines,” he concluded.