Working together we can win in "Red America," really we can. We must ask for their vote though!
Over the last couple of weeks, I have written a couple of posts that have provoked lots of dialogue. It is taking the form of a series now.
The first post was People in "Red America" are not voting against their own interests. In that post, I essentially argued that we should cease making the claim that they are voting against their own interests since we did not even ask to represent about 117 million potential constituents because we did not field 1,479 state legislative candidates in the last cycle of elections. They are voting for the people seeking to represent them.
The following week I posted To hell with "Red America" and other nonsense. The focus there was responding to sort of the core objections to the first week's post turned into a rallying cry to engage with "Red America." I site several historical moments and movements that drove progress in our country and noted how each one of them took the fight to the heart of the evil they sought to change. We must follow their example.
AN ASIDE, BUT AN IMPORTANT ONE.
Over both those posts there have been a few comments that have really struck me and will serve to set up the reason we MUST work together to turn red areas blue which is the theme of the rest of this post.
First was one comment decrying the fact that why are people not living in “Red America” being asked to help out Democrats in these areas, shouldn’t they be the ones to step up? I sensed a great deal of frustration, and I get it. With all the shit going on around us it is hard to imagine extending ourselves further. I reflected on this comment for awhile, then I realized something profound. I remembered the dislocated feeling I felt on election night. Sitting in a roomful of like-minded friends and their families. Pent up expectations for an historic moment in our nation, only to be replaced by a sense of fear for many of my friends, a sense of anger and worse a sense of being isolated, separated somehow from the rest of America.
Now imagine sitting alone in your apartment watching this in “Red America.” A liberal alone in a sea of red. Take the sort of helpless sensation we all felt that night and imagine sitting there thinking no one in your state values what you do, at all. That must have been even more difficult for them to process. Imagine the isolation you may have felt, even among a group like-minded folks. Put yourself in the shoes of a person deep in “Red America” watching the returns by themselves and maybe a spouse and children. We must throw these people a life line.
Second there was one comment on each post that drove the sense of isolation home. One was someone from Nebraska where they pointed out that only two democrats that appeared on their ballot at all; Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. No Democrat ran for any other seat at all. No mayoral candidate, no one for the state legislature, no one for dog catcher even. No state or local Democrats sought to represent the people in that area of Nebraska AT ALL. The following week someone from Mississippi made the exact same comment. We can not show up in these parts of the country and then wonder why we do not get their votes. We must run, we must help them.
I did have a conversation with Kim Drew Wright today that gives me hope though. She launched a Facebook group a few days after the election because she was feeling that isolation in “Red America” in Chesterfield County, Virginia. She hoped the Liberal Women of Chesterfield County group might attract a few people in the area she could maybe get to know, meet with, share her fears and anxieties with. She wanted to connect with people because she was feeling that isolation. Now there are more than 2,200 women from Chesterfield County that are part of the group. They are actively engaged in the resistance, they are working to impact the politics of Chesterfield County and are rallying to support the House of Delegates in the County. It was inspiring and it reflects reality, people who stand for justice, equity, equal rights and protections of personal liberties found in choice and fighting discrimination can be found across all regions of America. We must make them feel part of our party, we must run candidates for them to rally around.
THE IMPACTS OF NOT SEEKING TO REPRESENT SO MANY PEOPLE.
This week I turn my attention to the practical impact our tendency to not contest so many races in "Red America" has and why it is important we contest every race. I have done a complete series of profiles on Republican-held House of Delegates districts in Virginia. I did this because they have an election this fall for the House of Delegates and I have launched the Full Slate Project to encourage every state to find a Full Slate of candidates to challenge for these state legislative seats.
My focus rests there for three reasons:
- As noted above, we did not even ask to represent 117 million constituents in state legislative bodies in the last election cycle for 1,479 seats.
- Republicans are only 24 state legislative seats away from being able to amend the Constitution to match their ideology.
- The Virginia elections are going on now. Primaries for these seats are June 13th. Each of my district profiles links to the Democratic candidates if you want to check them out.
I tend to hammer away at the importance of focusing on these state legislative races. Now, to take the fight to the Republicans in "Red America" I will turn my attention to one of the favorite electoral subjects on Kos, Congressional elections. Specifically, Congressional District 1 in Virginia.
VIRGINIA CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1 (CD1) FAST FACTS
- Current Office Holder: Republican Rob Wittman
- Number of Constituents: 733,103
- Estimated Voting Age Population: 586,482
- Active Registered Voters: 475,623
- Estimated Eligible Voters Not Registered: 110,859
- Total Votes Cast in 2016 CD 1 Race: 330,352
- Votes Cast for Republican in 2016 CD1 Race: 201,507 (61%)
- Votes Cast for Democrat in 2016 CD1 Race: 117,126 (35%)
- House of Delegates (HoD) Districts in CD1: 16
- Precincts by HoD District: 243
- HoD Districts Challenged by Democrats in 2015: 8
- Active Registered Voters in Contested HoD Districts: 193,684
- Precincts contested by Democrats for HoD 2015 Races: 97
- HoD Districts Not Challenged by Democrats in 2015: 8
- Active Registered Voters in Uncontested Districts: 281,939
- Precincts not contested by Democrats for HoD 2015 races: 146
As you can see, in the last CD1 election, the Republican won this seat handily with 201,507 (61%) votes to the Democrats 117,126 (35%) out of 330,352 cast in that race. That is a margin of 84,381 votes for a 26 point victory. That is an ass whipping. No doubt about it.
Buck up though, we can make a serious challenge for this seat. We will have to work together to do it. It can be done; it must be done.
Frankly, it starts with the House of Delegates races this fall. I pulled apart some interesting data that clearly demonstrates the importance of competing for every duly constituted government office we can, including these HoD seats. When you compare the 2015 HoD results to the 2016 CD1 results, there are some interesting things to take away. First, let's look at comparisons across a variety of elements of the CD1 elections and election results for both the CD1 race itself and the precincts in CD1 from the 16 HoD Districts that make up CD1.
The black bars in the above bar graph represent the counts in the precincts that make up the 8 HoD races that were not contested by Democrats in 2015. The yellow bar is the same data, only for the areas that Democrats did field a candidate. There are all kinds of interesting takeaways from this chart.
First, we did not ask for the vote of a vast majority of the active registered voters in Congressional District 1 in the 2015 House of Delegates campaign. That sends a clear message, we do not want to represent you. To put it in electoral terms, the people we sought to represent got crushed by 18 points since we had 281,939 (59%) voters wedid not ask to represent versus the 193,684 (41%) we did show the basic respect of asking for their vote.
Second, the total turnout for the Congressional race and the total number people that did not vote in the House of Delegates races is almost identical. I only bring this up because it is a clear indication of the lack of focus of both parties voters on off-cycle elections. That said, Republican turnout does fare better. 53% of the 2016 vote for Republicans also voted the year before while only 22% of the 2016 vote for Democrats turned out in the House of Delegates races the year before. It is not surprising since Democrats did not run in half of the HoD districts, but still, that number is sobering in and of itself.
NOW I WANT TO FOCUS ON THE CD1 RACE DATA BY ITSELF.
This graphic alone points to the importance of contesting every race. Republicans won more than twice as many votes in the precincts that had no Democrat working the district in 2015 while scraping out a much narrower victory in precincts for seats contested by Democrats in 2015. Sure the HoD districts are gerrymandered. For example, the districts we did contest averaged 55% white population while the seats we did not contest averaged 73% white. That 18 point difference does not account for the more than doubled vote tally for the Republican in areas not contested while the Republican enjoyed only a narrow victory in areas we did contest. You would expect a stronger margin for the Republican in these districts for sure, but the gerrymandering accounts for only a portion of that doubled vote margin.
Probably the most alarming aspect of this chart is the fact that whether or not we contested the 2015 HoD race, more people did not vote in the CD1 race than voted for us. That is a sobering number to consider. I am not surprised this is true since we did not compete for half the HoD seats the year prior, but, it is just one more sobering statistic.
LET'S LOOK AT IT ANOTHER WAY TO DRIVE HOME THE POINT:
As you can see, the blue area represents the number of votes the Democrat got in the CD1 race in 2016 while the red portion of the bar represents the votes the Republican got more than the Democratic total. In other words, if we turn those voters blue we would win the seat. Note the narrow slice we need to pick up in contested districts, compared to the huge block we would have to flip to win in uncontested races. Again, you would expect to see a wider gap in these districts given demographics, but not to the scale seen here.
THE NEWS IS NOT ALL BAD THOUGH.
Let's look at some charts that show us what we need to do to win this thing.
Where we did not compete in HoD races, there were 82,100 registered voters that did not vote in the 2016 CD1 race. We need to win 63,390 of them to win those precincts (of course the next election will not yield the same vote totals, but, if we hit these numbers we should easily win in the 2018 midterm cycle, this is more a mental exercise to understand the scale of the challenge.)
Where we did compete in HoD races, there were 62,557 registered voters that did not vote in the 2016 CD1 race. We need to win 18,158 of those to secure victory in those precincts. (again, this is not a precise vote total target, just an illustration of what we need to do to move toward victory in this difficult district.)
THE ROLE VOTER REGISTRATION CAN PLAY.
The final chart looking at CD1 totals factors in an estimated total of eligible people not registered to vote.
There are roughly 110,859 people of voting age not registered to vote across CD1. Increasing voter registration reduces the share of people that did not vote that we need to convert to win victory. It is a much harder lift to convert 58% of the 144,657 registered voters that did not vote to win compared to only needing to convert 33% of the 255,516 total eligible people that did not vote. To look at it another way, every 5% of unregistered voters we register reduces the percent on registered non-voters we need to convert by 2 points. For us to reach less than 50% of non-voters to flip we need to register about 19,000 new voters in this district for example.
If you live in Virginia the registration deadline for the June 13th primary this year is just 11 days away, May 22nd. Get people registered now!
ORGANIZING IN CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 1: THE IMPORTANCE OF WORKING TOGETHER
CD1 2016 Partisan results by precinct
I want to wrap this post up looking at the HoD districts and the candidates within those and the Congressional district. Prince William County, which is part of this district, just had a special election on April 18th where a Democrat won a countywide seat. She was something like only the 2nd or 3rd Democrat to win any countywide seat in Prince William County since the 1930s. That is a big deal, and they did it because most of the House of Delegates campaigns worked with the Clerk candidate in a coordinated way to win. It worked. We need to keep that ethic up.
The good news is the first step is done; we have candidates fielded in every single House of Delegates race in the 1st Congressional District. In fact we have robust primaries in many of them. That is 100% improvement. We have gone from asking for the vote of only 193,684 voters to asking for the vote of all 475,623 registered voters in these precincts within CD1. That is fantastic to see. As noted above, there is a clear benefit in precincts in the Congressional race when the prior year saw a HoD candidate working the area.
It would be great to see the candidates for Congress work in a coordinated way to support these 16 HoD districts campaigns this cycle. Win or lose in the HoD races; it will provide the Democratic nominee for CD1 next year with a team of well-trained field generals in each House District. That experience and the relationships that come with it will be essential to flipping this district. It will be a heavy lift, it will take the work of all of those folks and the support of people all around to make it happen.
Here is a list of the announced Congressional District 1 candidates.
HoD Districts in CD 1
- HSE 002
- HSE 013
- HSE 018
- HSE 028
- HSE 031
- HSE 050
- HSE 051
- HSE 052
- HSE 054
- HSE 055
- HSE 088
- HSE 093
- HSE 096
- HSE 097
- HSE 098
- HSE 099
Virginia presents an interesting test case for the proposition of contesting every race and its potential impact. I combed through the Virginia Elections database and can not find one cycle in at least the last 30 years where Democrats have fielded candidates in every one of these Congressional District 1 House of Delegates races. The fact these races come the year prior to the Congressional race itself will allow the Congressional candidates to be able to build relationships they will need in order to win the race in 2018.