Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell (Mich.) blasted the Democratic Party on Wednesday for its “identity politics.” The Michigan congresswoman said that Americans have forgotten what it means to work together and that “our strength comes in community and in community of all of us.”
Dingell made the comment during a live interview with MSNBC’s Craig Melvin, a day after Democrat Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel in Georgia’s special election to replace former GOP Rep. Tom Price, who is now President Donald Trump’s health and human services secretary.
Dingell said that Ossoff’s defeat in the solidly conservative district in Atlanta’s northern suburbs came as no surprise to her. In fact, Dingell pointed out that she foresaw Trump winning in her home state of Michigan, despite what many others in the Democratic Party thought.
The top issue, according to Dingell, for Michigan voters who backed Trump instead of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was trade. Trump vowed throughout the 2016 campaign to withdraw the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, which was signed into law in 1993 by former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton’s husband.
Dingell said that Democrats’ refusal during the campaign to talk about these issues ultimately cost them the presidency.
“We were afraid to talk about them [the issues],” Dingell said. “But we’ve got to get our acts together. We’ve become this identity politics. We’re the women’s caucus, the black caucus, the Hispanic caucus. We’ve lost sense of ‘we,’ that our strength comes in community and in community of all of us.”
Dingell noted that she is a “proud Democrat” and has no plans to change parties, but she further acknowledged that “sometimes” she doesn’t feel like she belongs in any of the different congressional caucuses.
“The fact of the matter is I’m going to be who I am and fight for the issues that I think matter to the people of my district,” Dingell said.
“I think the American people are tired of the partisan bickering. I think they’re tired of us not getting anything done. They want to see us work together so we will start solving the problems that this nation is facing. And that’s what I’m committed to doing,” the Michigan congresswoman added.
Melvin later pressed Dingell on her previous statement about identity politics.
“It sounds like you think identity politics have sort of hijacked the party. That’s what I’m hearing,” Melvin said.
“I am very concerned that that is what’s happening,” Dingell said, “and that we are forgetting our strength comes in being we, all of us coming together.”
“And if we don’t figure out how we become we again, we’re going to keep losing,” Dingell predicted.
Dingell said that she has been discriminated against for being a woman while making the point that “it’s important that we understand each of these groups has issues.”
“But I know my power comes, or my strength is being part of a broader community where we all pull together and fight for issue,” she said.