To hell with "Red America" and other such nonsense!
Last week I wrote the post "People in "Red America" are not voting against their own interests." I was pleased to see the robust debate that it sparked on DailyKos. I think this is an issue we as a party need to tackle and debate. I learned a few things about people opposed to the basic premise of the post; we need to run a full slate of candidates, contest every race, wherever we can.
The objections to the idea of recruiting candidates to run in every district everywhere (I am focused on state legislative races in particular) fall into a few basic camps.
CAMP 1: THE FRAME I USED WAS WRONG
Without rewriting the entire post, let me summarize by saying I believe that since we did not contest 1,479 state legislative races representing roughly 117,000,000 constituents in the last election cycle, that the familiar trope of "they are voting against their own interests" just does not hold any water. In fact, I argue, people in "Red America" are simply voting for the party showing any interest in them.
Before I go further let me state clearly, I get the objection. It is not our fault there are people in these red districts that want to restrict the rights of others. I agree, the fact that there are so many people that fall into that camp is both upsetting and discouraging all in one. It remains, that if you do not run candidates in someone's district, particularly at the state legislative level, it is not surprising if they do not turn up to vote for your party.
The fundamental issue boils down to this reality; people form political beliefs based on their personal experiences and the relationships they have. Right-wing propaganda exploits the good ole boy network in a remarkably efficient way. It is what drives the impact and power of the propaganda. "Good Ole' Boys" is a unique network with a culture all its own. It relies on personal relationships to work. We can not beat it unless we engage and begin to build relationships in these areas ourselves.
Don't be confused though; it is not about reaching out or pandering to the good ole' boys. Only 55% of the eligible population voted in the most public, media-heightened political campaign probably in the history of the planet. There are people across the political spectrum sitting these important elections out. There are people that do share our values in "Red America." I imagine they feel as if they are stranded on an island. The Democratic party just does not show up there.
One commenter on my post last week was from Nebraska. Their numerically driven, factual post touched me in an emotional way. Their ballot last November had precisely two Democrats on it. Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. No Democrat ran for mayor or city council. No Democrat ran for school board. No Democrat ran for any county office, nothing. The only Democrats they could vote for were Clinton and Kaine. Let the ramifications of that sink in.
What do you think that tells the people living there? I know what it would tell me, the Democratic party does not care. I get it, Hillary had detailed plans, with "pay fors" for things that would have helped these people, while Trump delivered nothing but empty promises and hate. The national party produced the most progressive platform in history as well. I get all that, all of it is meaningless if you do not have relationships to counter the lies.
Remember, the good ole boy propaganda surrounds them, and since we run for NOTHING else there, it is not hard to imagine why so many people just check out of the electoral system. Relationships are the only effective way to defeat entrenched propaganda electorally. We do not run in enough races in "Red America" to cultivate the relationships we need to counter Republican misinformation.
We can fix this. We need people to run for office. We must at least show these people the basic respect of asking for their vote.
CAMP 2: WE NEED TO BE STRATEGIC
I must admit this one makes the most sense to me on its face, but only on its face. I think the trap we have fallen into is largely a result of this reality. Resources are scarce; we must conserve resources. The problem arises when you start using this to write whole regions of a state or the country off.
Electoral politics that reflect Democratic Party values should fundamentally be a process of expanding our reach. However, in the era of "big data," we have ruled too many places out as "too red" to win. As Republicans gain control of more seats, our reach contracts. Just one example, we had majorities in both state legislative bodies in the state of Arkansas as recently as 2009. Now we do not even field enough candidates to win a majority even if we won every race we enter for their house chamber.
Arkansas is not the only state we do not field enough candidates to win a majority. We have used data backward. Data should be used to find opportunities, not rule things out. It should be used to find weaknesses in our opponents that our eyes and intuition do not see. Data should be used to help candidates compete in their races wherever they run. Be it what we consider a safe blue seat or deep red Mississippi.
CAMP 3: TO HELL WITH "RED AMERICA."
I have sympathy with this camp. My blood boils when I think so many people are so deeply racist and misogynistic they took glee in Trump's campaign. It hurts when I consider so many of my friends and family were willing to overlook`so much evil to vote for the man in the name of "change" whatever that could possibly mean at the hands of such an obvious con man.
I am mad as hell we are where we are. My healthcare is at stake; my friends stand to be harmed by the bigotry and misogyny. I watched the returns at a friends house with a small group and I saw his young children reaction to the result. This election hurt my heart. It is nothing short of a tragedy. We must resist, we must fight them. To do that in an electoral system like ours means that we must confront them where they are. We must run in "Red America." We must.
The Freedom Riders did not go from DC to Chicago. They boarded those buses and headed to Birmingham the heart of the segregated Jim Crow South. They faced the hate and bigotry head on; they changed America.
Freedom Summer did not focus on voter registration in areas where blacks had few if any barriers to the ballot. They went into the heart of Mississippi where they faced hate and violence; some even lost their lives as a result. They organized, they cultivated allies that provided housing and safe spaces for organizers. They registered people to vote; they changed America.
Women did not flock to Montana, the first state to grant women the franchise. They marched on the centers of power in every state. They recruited male allies, they made cause with other civil rights leaders confronting their own hard realities. They challenged the morality of their jailers when they faced arrest by going on hunger strikes. They marched on Washington; they changed America.
Dr. Fergie Reid returned from the Korean War and confronted the systemic racism in Richmond Virginia, the capital of the old Confederacy and began to organize precinct by precinct. Forming neighborhood groups, registering voters. It was hard work, it took time, after 12 years he eventually won election as the first black state legislator in Virginia since the end of the Reconstruction. He confronted the bias and hate head on. He and those that rallied around him changed Virginia; they changed America.
I have sympathy for the hard feelings toward these parts of the country. I am angry too. We just must remember there are good people in these areas too, and we need to help them, throw them a life preserver. We also must confront this evil where it is; we must take the fight to them. Like those that came before us, we can change America.
THERE IS HOPE, AND IT IS STARTING IN VIRGINIA
I have been doing data profiles on every Republican-held House of Delegates District up for election this fall in Virginia. What I have found is exciting. Virginians are stepping up big time.
In the last election cycle, only 56 House of Delegates races had a Democratic challenge for the seat. That is out of 100 seats. That meant that Republicans only had to win seven contested races to secure a majority. As of this morning, there are, I believe, 84 districts that have Democrats competing in them. That is amazing. I encourage everyone to check out my index of all the profiles by clicking here.
I believe we should field candidates in the remaining 16 races as well, and there is still time as the Democratic Party can add candidates to the ballot "by acclamation" through the June 13th primary. That said, forcing Republicans to win 32 races to secure a majority instead of seven is something to be thrilled with.
I have spoken to many of these candidates, and the energy and vision they are bringing to this inspire me. Those profiles include links to their websites and Facebook pages if you want to check them out as well.
Let's take the fight to "Red America." Let's back these wonderful candidates running in Virginia this fall. If we can marshal the resources needed turning the Virginia House of Delegates blue this fall could be the political shot heard around the world.