Opinion writer

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) attends the 2017 Ford’s Theatre Gala on June 4 in Washington. (Morigi/Getty Images for Ovation)

“I’m not sure where I fit in.”

Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) is a stalwart of the Democratic Party from what used to be the blue state of Michigan. And unlike anyone else in her party, Dingell saw President Trump coming. She warned, pleaded and cajoled to no avail. Now, she feels like a stranger in her own party.

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“The Democratic Party’s in disarray,” Dingell told me in the latest episode of “Cape Up.” “I don’t know where I belong. I’ve said that. I sometimes feel like I have no home even in the Democratic Caucus here.” She went on to say, “We need to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and understand where their fear is coming from.” Dingell also added this: “We took people for granted. We, for a long time, thought we had that worker, men and women, that union worker. We’ve lost them because we stopped talking to them.”

Dingell said her Dearborn, Mich., constituents “don’t think we [Democrats] understand them.” In the battle between automakers and environmentalists, Dingell is particularly clear-eyed.  “I’d really love to bring permanent peace between California and Michigan,” she said, noting that what her car constituents want is certainty. “If everybody agrees as they did on the fuel economy standards, then the companies have what they need, which is economic and political certainty.”


Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) in her Capitol Hill office after talking with The Post’s Jonathan Capehart for the “Cape Up” podcast. (Jonathan Capehart/The Washington Post)

That part of the conversation on intraparty squabbling, which began with Dingell saying, “We’ve got to stop demonizing each other,” was an echo of what she said at the start of the interview. Coming the day after House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and three others were shot on a Virginia baseball field by an angry, left-wing, anti-Trump partisan, Dingell’s message had added resonance. “We’ve got to figure out a way to tone down the rhetoric, that we have to stop this demonization of each other,” she said. “We have to find a way to respect each other, to listen to each other.”

Listen to the podcast to hear Dingell talk more about the degradation of national political discourse, how she is battling believers of “fake news” and how the members of the large Muslim American community in her district are feeling.

“They’re very afraid,” she said. “They’re afraid that … something, somebody could physically attack them.”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever else you listen to podcasts.