Defeat is an orphan.
Summing up the left's response to its deflating loss in a special congressional election in the Atlanta suburbs were two reactions:
1. Jim Dean, chairman of the progressive activist group Democracy For America, in a statement:
"Defeating Republicans in districts that they have traditionally held requires doing something drastically different than establishment Democrats have done before — specifically, running on a bold progressive vision and investing heavily in direct voter contact to expand the electorate. That's what it will take to win districts like this one in 2018 and take back the House. The same, tired centrist Democratic playbook that has come up short cycle after cycle will not suffice."
2. Seth Moulton, a congressman from Massachusetts and former Iraq War veteran, who tweeted that the loss should be a "wake up call" for Democrats. He said the party needs to look to the future, have a "bigger tent" and a "serious jobs plan" and "stop rehashing 2016":
The Democratic divide is highlighted pretty starkly in the string of responses to Moulton's tweet.
Call it the Dean-Moulton Line of Demarcation: Be more progressive! Or — no, be more moderate where you need to be.
Special elections can be overinterpreted. Believe me — some of us thought a special election to replace a Democratic congressman in a white, working-class district in Pennsylvania was a good sign for the party in 2010. It turned out not to be, and Democrats were "shellacked," in President Obama's words, losing 63 seats and control of the House six months later.
But Democrats did this to themselves. They hyped a race that they were hoping would be a referendum on President Trump, and more money was spent on it — more than $50 million with outside groups factored in — than for any congressional race in history.
The party still doesn't know what it is or needs to be — and that can portend problems heading into next year's midterms.
Should the party focus on Trump, whose approval rating is in the tank? (Pro tip: It wasn't so hot in the presidential election, either.) Or should it try to have something else to stand on and sell as a unified party vision? Can it do both?
So far, Democrats haven't been able to walk that line. This year, they are 0 for 4 in special elections, from Kansas to Montana to Georgia and South Carolina. Some Democrats are taking solace in the fact that they fared better in each of those places than candidates who ran for those seats in 2016. And maybe with good reason.
But Georgia 6 was the most moderate by far. Yes, Democrats need to win a net of 24 seats to take back Congress, and 47 districts held by Republicans are less conservative than Georgia 6. But it's the kind of district Democrats need to win to take back the House.