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McCaskill Blames Loss on Democrats’ ‘Demand for Purity’

Democrats have abandoned moderates in flyover country, Missouri senator says

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party has abandoned moderates. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said her party has abandoned moderates. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Claire McCaskill is leaving the Senate after losing her re-election bid to state Attorney General Josh Hawley by 6 points earlier this month, but the Missouri Democrat isn’t heading out on a whimper.

McCaskill blamed her defeat not on her own campaign, but on the Democratic Party for abandoning its moderate constituents.

“This demand for purity, this looking down your nose at people who want to compromise, is a recipe for disaster for the Democrats,” she told NPR in an interview aired Friday. “Will we ever get to a majority in the Senate again, much less to 60, if we do not have some moderates in our party?”

McCaskill is a rare breed of Democrat, one who won statewide election in Missouri twice even though a Democratic nominee for president has not carried the state since Bill Clinton from neighboring Arkansas in 1996.

She was one of four Democratic senators to lose their bids for re-election in states President Donald Trump won in 2016.

Compromise between the two parties is difficult, McCaskill conceded in her interview with NPR, especially with so many information sources for voters to choose from.

“We have developed into a society where everyone can go to their chosen news outlet for affirmation and not information,” McCaskill said. “They can go to their chosen websites, their chosen Facebook pages, for affirmation and not information. Everyone gets in their own bubble.”

The Democratic Party is not alone in its need of soul-searching, McCaskill indicated. Republicans risk losing moderates in states that lean blue if they do not stand up to Trump when he does things like dismiss the alleged Saudi government’s hand in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Turkey or keep entertaining his own business interests even while he’s president.

In some states, moderates are turned off by those aspects of the president.

“The Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump right now. Now, that really helped him in Missouri. And it helped him in Indiana. And it helped him in North Dakota. But it hurt him in a whole lot of other places,” McCaskill said.

“I actually don’t see that getting better for Republicans. And I think there will be Republicans 10 years from now that will look back with regret that they did not stand up and speak out at moments that were critical,” she said.

McCaskill then offered a bit of self-reflection, suggesting that she should have protested the president’s worst moments with more vigor.

“I would be nervous if I were some of the Republicans, that are my friends and colleagues in the Senate, that like me, have held their tongue [about Trump],” she said.

McCaskill will officially hand over her chair to Hawley on Jan. 3 when the 116th Congress is sworn in.

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