House Majority Whip Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) lashed out at progressives on Sunday morning, blaming “defund the police” rhetoric from social justice activists for costing Democrats races in the Senate and House.
While former Vice President Joe Biden was able to defeat President Donald Trump, Democrats underperformed in the congressional races, losing at least a half-dozen House seats they expected to gain and falling likely short of flipping the Senate. This resulted in a Democratic caucus conference call in which centrist members angrily chastised progressives for embracing far-left positions and not pushing back against allegations of socialism.
During an appearance on NBC News’ Meet the Press, Clyburn echoed this sentiment, agreeing with host Chuck Todd that the “defund the police” movement was used by Republicans to batter Democrats, costing a number of seats— including in the high-profile South Carolina race between well-funded Democrat Jamie Harrison and incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“I’ve talked to the people down in South Florida, they told me that that really, really was a problem down there, but I can tell you about the 1st congressional district of South Carolina,” he said. “I really believe that that’s what cost Joe Cunningham his seat. And I can also tell you about the Senate here in South Carolina.”
“Jaime Harrison started to plateau when ‘defund the police’ showed up with a caption on TV, ran across his head,” Clyburn continued. “That stuff hurt Jaime. And that's why I spoke out against it a long time ago. I've always said that these headlines can kill a political effort.”
In another interview on CNN’s State of the Union, Clyburn reiterated that he had come out “forcibly” against that slogan months ago and noted that he had discussed it with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-CA) just before Lewis passed away this summer.
“John and I sat on the House floor and talked about that ‘defund the police slogan’ and both of us concluded that it had the possibilities of doing to the Black Lives Matter movement and current movements across the country what ‘Burn Baby Burn’ did to us in the 1960s,” the Democratic lawmaker declared. “We lost the movement over that slogan. A lot of people don’t realize.”
Clyburn concluded by saying that the racial justice movement needs to focus more on what “makes headway” than what “makes a good headline.”