Editorial: Lessons on election elusive to some

The Island Now

Both Republicans and Democrats appear to be having some difficulty coming to grips with the 2020 election results.

Jay Jacobs, the Nassau County and state Democratic chair, ripped into Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow Democrat representing the Bronx and Queens, the week after the election in interviews with the New York Post and City & State.

Jacobs blamed what was seen as his party’s disappointing results in state and congressional races in purple districts on Long Island and upstate on Ocasio-Cortez and others for pressing progressive policies, such as “defund” the police, and bridled at the criticism of Democrats who didn’t promote a progressive agenda.

“I invite AOC to come to Long Island and stand for election in one of our districts. You’ll see different results,” he said.

“AOC has no standing on how to run a general election in the suburbs and upstate. AOC is in a district that’s 6-1 Democrat and she couldn’t find a Republican in her district with binoculars,” Jacobs told the Post.

Ocasio-Cortez had blamed Democrats’ failure to win swing district races on candidates’ reluctance to embrace progressive policies. She also cited a lack of “core competencies” on the part of Democrats to run campaigns in the digital age.

We agree with Jacobs that Republicans had effectively used the slogan “defund the police” against Democrats in swing districts as well as targeting their mishandled rollout of long-needed bail reform legislation.

We also think Ocasio-Cortez does a real disservice to Democrats trying to change the direction of this country when she blasts the contributions to President-elect Joe Biden’s victory from folks like the Lincoln Group, Republicans and former Republicans who produced some of the most effective ads against President Trump.

But Ocasio-Cortez might have a point about the candidates’ campaign tactics and even who was running.

It is after all the job of candidates and political parties to counter the criticism of their opponents. And Jacobs is the chairman of both the Nassau County and state Democratic Party.

Jacobs’ response was also odd.

For one, he is the state Democratic chairman and AOC is a Democrat.

So why attack her by name – in the Democratic-unfriendly New York Post no less?

And, yes, AOC is a Democrat in a heavily Democratic district straddling Queens and the Bronx, but she easily defeated a first-time Republican challenger who raised more than $10 million to help make the race the second most expensive House contest in the country.

But two years ago, AOC – then a first-time challenger – stunned the country with one of the greatest upsets in House history by defeating Congressman Joe Crowley, who at the time served as chair of the House Democratic Caucus and was chairman of the Queens Democratic Party.

So AOC, who herself raised $17 million this year, does seem to know a little about winning elections at least in large cities. Jacobs just might want to see what he can do to keep her inside the Democratic tent.

Jacobs also made his comments about the Democrats’ performance when about 1.5 million absentee ballots had yet to be counted – a time when there was plenty of evidence that those ballots would heavily favor Democratic candidates.

Sure enough, those ballots have fallen heavily into the Democrats’ column and many Democratic favorites who appeared in trouble won easily if not by margins that were expected.

Jacobs also did not address the merits of the progressives’ issues, just their politics at a time when many in this country are calling for Republicans to place principles over politics in asking President Trump to concede the race.

Ocasio-Cortez and her closest allies in Congress – a four-woman group known as The Squad who all won re-election – did toe the party line while calling on grassroots activists to boost Biden and Democrats down-ticket.

And Ocasio-Cortez was not the only one critical of the Democrats’ track record.

Asked about the Democrats underperforming statewide, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he believes the party “lost a messaging war over police and public safety.”

Republican state Assemblyman Ed Ra continued the messaging war in a column, published last week by Blank Slate Media, titled “GOP gains in federal, state races prove need for bipartisanship in Albany.”

Ra’s comments, like those of Jacobs, came at a point when not all the votes had been counted.

Democrats now hold an overwhelming lead in seats in the state Assembly and actually picked up two seats in the state Senate to earn a veto-proof supermajority. And the governor is a Democrat.

As are both U.S. senators, the lieutenant governor, the state attorney general and the state comptroller. Which is to say every statewide seat is held by Democrats.

But this did not prevent Ra from saying that the “successful issues we campaigned on – promoting public safety, battling the COVID-19 pandemic and reviving and revitalizing our economy – should be the blueprint for the upcoming Legislative Session in January.”

And then apparently in a demonstration of bipartisan goodwill, Ra explained the Republicans’ secret to overperforming in the election.

“Republican elected officials didn’t create the anxiety over dangerous criminals being automatically released after their arrests, cop-killers being sprung from prison by the parole board and leftwing politicians calling for police departments to be defunded,” Ra continued. “We simply share it. We have compassion for crime victims. We have respect for law enforcement officials, and we have empathy for New Yorkers who want to feel safe in their communities and secure in their homes. We’re asking Democrats to do the same.”

So much for bipartisanship. And hello culture wars.

During a Blank Slate Media town hall before the election, Hempstead Town Councilman Bruce Blakeman was asked several times if he thought the Republican Party was now the party of President Trump.

Blakeman, a former moderate Republican who was the liaison between the Nassau County Republican Party and the Trump campaign, answered in tone and words echoing those of the president.

Ra appears to be echoing Blakeman – echoing Trump – in his column.

But we have a suggestion for Ra and other Republican officials.

Before you focus on New York’s problems, why don’t you first demonstrate your support for democracy and elections?

Call for Trump to halt his campaign to subvert this country’s election system by trying to get Republican state legislators to ignore the will of voters.

Demand that Trump stop endlessly filing ludicrous lawsuits challenging the election results.

Tell him to stop eroding trust in the election system that put you in office by falsely saying he had defeated Biden.

A group of leading GOP national security experts on Monday called on “Republican leaders — especially those in Congress — to publicly demand that President Trump cease his anti-democratic assault on the integrity of the presidential election.”

Republican state officials in states across the country have done their jobs and rejected Trump’s efforts to steal the election.

Republican elected officials in New York should announce that they stand with the Republican officials, that Biden is the president-elect and that Kamala Harris is the vice president-elect.

Perhaps then they could become a viable statewide party. The Democrats certainly seem willing to give them that chance.

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