#AbolishICE, growing tensions may shape Democratic party’s future heading into midterms and 2020

PHOTO: Rep. Raul Grijalva speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2018.PlaySusan Walsh/AP, FILE
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As the progressive and centrist wings of the Democratic party battle over the movement to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, #AbolishICE appears to be the poster child for rapidly-escalating tensions within the party that could help shape the midterms and 2020.

These tensions, ranging from addressing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies to responding to his Supreme Court nominee, may provide insight into where the Democratic party is headed this fall.

And coupled with a new wave of progressive candidates running in the upcoming midterm elections, they may even change the trajectory of the party leading into 2020, where it hopes to ignite its base and have a real shot at winning back the presidency.

PHOTO: Rep. Raul Grijalva speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2018.Susan Walsh/AP, FILE
Rep. Raul Grijalva speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 17, 2018.

“The party’s shift to the left is what voters want, and it is time for the Democratic party to meet these expectations. People are tired of the status quo and tinkering around the edges, and they know that the Republican Party is rigging the rules against them in favor of big corporations and the wealthy,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told ABC News in a statement.

Grijalva’s simultaneous chairmanship of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and his membership in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus puts him in a unique position.

Because while the progressive group’s members have come out in favor of abolishing ICE, even sponsoring a bill to do so, the Hispanic Caucus has disavowed the movement to terminate the agency.

“Simply terminating ICE fails to address President Trump’s underlying cruel immigration policies and priorities that target families and children. Any federal agency charged with conducting immigration enforcement...will continue to implement Trump’s depraved immigration priorities,” Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, D-N.M., said in a statement on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“Abolishing ICE should go further than a slogan, and actually address the oversight, accountability, and transparency issues currently found in the agency,” Grijalva said.

This movement is just one of many issues that divide Democrats and may offer a prognosis of where the party is headed.

PHOTO: Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens to Sen. Rob Portman on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a meeting, July 11, 2018.Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens to Sen. Rob Portman on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a meeting, July 11, 2018.

Another issue Democrats are divided is how to counter efforts to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

While some Democrats such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., have painted him as a staunch opponent of abortion rights, others have pointed to his past statements on executive power or his views on healthcare.

But more moderate Democrats have declined to take a clear stance on how (and, if at all) they’ll oppose the nominee.

“Some of the people that have come up to me at parades have said, ‘Shut ’em down, do this, do that,’ and it reflects a limited understanding of how the Senate operates,” Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said last week.

“We have to win over two different sets of senators,” Brian Fallon, Hillary Clinton’s former campaign press secretary, said of the party’s divided ranks in the Senate. Fallon now serves as the executive director of Demand Justice, a new group that promotes progressive judicial nominees and opposes Kavanaugh's nomination.

Meanwhile, a new wave of progressive congressional candidates are running for office this year – most notably, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who pulled a stunning primary upset last month against House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.– Grijalva has been vocal in his support of a leftward shift.

“The progressive wing of the party offers transformational policies that can directly improve lives, such as universal health care and a higher minimum wage. And polling pretty consistently shows that the bold policies we support are what energizes the Democratic base, not the opposite...a shift to the left is exactly what is needed to both maintain, energize, and bring new people into our base,” Grijalva said.

PHOTO: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates with supporters at a victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Representative Joseph Crowly, June 26, 2018, in New York City. Scott Heins/Getty Images
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrates with supporters at a victory party in the Bronx after upsetting incumbent Democratic Representative Joseph Crowly, June 26, 2018, in New York City.

In fact, well-known Senate Democrats and potential 2020 contenders have supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ universal healthcare bill – a marked shift from two years ago, when he proposed a similar bill and couldn’t find a single cosponsor.

But as progressive candidates push even Sanders to the left, other party members aren’t so sure this is a step in the right direction.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has attempted to distance the party from its progressive insurgents, while former Sen. Joe Lieberman, a Democrat-turned-independent, criticized the party’s shift to the left in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

“If Democrats are to regain a majority, it will be by winning swing districts with sensible, mainstream candidates,” he wrote Tuesday.

The House Democratic Caucus did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

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