BOSTON — After serving four tours of duty in Iraq and ousting a sitting member of Congress, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton has set out a new challenge — helping usher in a new, younger Democratic leadership to a party striving to regain political power.
Last year, Moulton was among a minority of Democratic House members to throw his support behind Rep. Tim Ryan’s failed bid to unseat Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader.
He has also staked out more centrist policies, while not holding back in his criticism of Republican President Donald Trump, whom he has called “a draft dodger” and “unfit to lead.” Moulton’s name has even been floated as a possible future presidential candidate.
The Associated Press chatted with Moulton this week.
AP: You’ve been working to recruit other veterans to run for Congress across the country. Is there a unifying philosophy?
Moulton: I think the unifying philosophy is they’re true public servants. They’re true servant leaders because they’ve had the experience of putting country before their personal and party politics. Many of them have literally put their lives on the line for our country and I think that ethic of service is lacking in Washington today.
AP: What lessons can Democrats learn from their recent wins in Alabama and Virginia?
Moulton: I think it shows the value of having a party that can expand its tent, that never forgets the base, that is proud to have people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren … but is also willing to invite Democrats like Doug Jones and the Democrats who won in Virginia who are not on the far left but ultimately fight for the same values and principles. I think that Virginia and Alabama should give us great hope for 2018, but it would be a massive mistake to think that we’ve got everything right.
AP: You’ve called President Trump a unique danger to the country. What do you mean by that?
Moulton: He is literally threatening lives here at home by trying to take away health care. He is threatening the lives of our troops overseas by getting us dangerously close to a nuclear war in Korea that will quickly become a U.S.-China conflict. He is threatening our economy and our livelihoods by trying to bankrupt the government, pushing through a massive tax cut for the richest corporations who don’t need it, paid for on the backs of middle-class families. He is threatening our system of government by trying to make it acceptable to lie to the American people and the world every day.
AP: You’ve also argued Democrats have to broaden their appeal.
Moulton: We’re not going to give up one inch on our fight for civil rights because sometimes we’re the only people fighting for folks who are still not getting the rights and respect they deserve in America, but we don’t need to always lead with that as a party. There are people for whom that is the most important issue. There are other Americans for whom getting a good-paying job and supporting their families is the most important issue right now.
AP: You’ve very publicly called for new Democratic leadership in the House to replace Pelosi. Why?
Moulton: I think it’s time for a new generation of leadership in the party. This isn’t about age. It’s about new ideas. It’s about having a vision and a plan for the future. Sometimes her aides say mean things about me in the press, but it doesn’t affect my work. I’ve gone through a lot worse. Sometimes people ask me, in Congress it’s pretty rough there right now — is Congress or Iraq harder? I mean, give me a break. Nobody’s shooting at us in Congress.
AP: You voted against tabling an impeachment amendment, do you think Trump should be impeached?
Moulton: I just looked at whether this was a bill that we should legitimately debate as the United States Congress. I voted against tabling the impeachment resolution because I believe the charges are legitimate and deserving a hearing. But I’ll also say that the time of the resolution was poor, the legal argument could be stronger, and politically advancing it now is not the best time.
AP: So what about 2020? Are you thinking about running for president?
Moulton: I understand the political pundits want to focus on 2020, but the stakes are so high right now for 2018. That’s where I’m entirely focused. … If we can’t figure out as a party how to win in 2018, we’re going to be in tough shape for 2020. So I think it’s a mistake, I think it’s a huge political mistake, for Democrats to even be talking about 2020 at this point.