I am not so naive as to think that winning a bunch of elections translates into substantive change, but the overwhelming number of local and state wins yesterday, by people who look like their communities and who support public banks, legalized marijuana, universal healthcare, and LGTBQ rights was just staggering. What if?
Retake has long been emphasizing that if we are ever going to turn this country around, it is going to begin with local activism that works on very personal levels, helping neighbors change the minds and hearts of neighbors, helping relatives connect dots and recognize that there is far more that unifies us than divides us. And most importantly, we need to help many sort out how much of what divides us, are the result of falsely framed issues intentionally designed to keep us apart. In national elections and in public policy ‘debate,’ money in politics dominates and fear-based electioneering can undermine thoughtful discourse. But locally, when you talk with your neighbor or your colleague at work, there is a trust developed over the years that allows for conversation and potentially leading to connected dots.
Tuesday’s election results were absolutely stunning not just in the number of Democratic wins, but in the kinds of people who won and the bold policies they proudly endorsed. While the Virginia Governor-elect is hardly a stirring progressive, in most all of the other races reported below and in the literally dozens of others not included, the wins were by women, people of color, gays and trans, refugees, and youth and these folks are not shy about their highly progressive goals. Tuesday was a 100% rebuke of Trump, the GOP and maybe just maybe the beginning of the formation of a wave of progressive populism that could lead to substantive change.
Yesterday, I posted a link to just one article that ticked off two-dozen local races won by progressives, but Retake readers only rarely follow the links to the full reports, so I feel compelled to summarize some of the dramatic results yesterday and examine what they could mean.
- Danica Roen became the first openly transgender candidate to win a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates and she beat the 13-term, self identified homophobe and GOP Delegate Bob Marshall who introduced the “bathroom bill,” in Virginia (loving the poetic justice there, and as of this morning, Virginia had flipped 15 seats in the House of Delegates, far, far more than even in the wildest of dreams was considered possible. In fact, with several delegate districts still too close to call, the Dems only need one more to flip the legislature to the Dems.
- Maine voted overwhelmingly to expand Medicare in defiance of five vetoes by their conservative GOP Governor;
- In Washington, Democrat Manka Dhingra handily defeated Republican opponent Jinyoung Lee Englund in a blockbuster Washington state Senate race that put the Dems in power of the state legislature unifying Democratic control with a Democratic Governor, a feat repeated in New Jersey where its House was retaken by Dems with a Democrat winning for Governor, as well.
- The New Jersey Governor elect favors public banking, legalized marijuana, and universal healthcare;
- Ravinder Bhalla was the first Sikh American to be elected mayor of a New Jersey city. Last week, Bhalla was the target of racist flyers that showed a picture of him along with the words “Don’t let terrorism take over our town,!” but he won nonetheless;
- Refugees from Viet Nam and Liberia won key local elections with Wilmot Collins from Liberia being elected the first African American Mayor in the history of Montana;
- Claude Peck was elected the black first Mayor of St. Paul and pronounced: “We’ve built what I’m excited to say is a big, bold, bad vision for the future of St. Paul;”
- In New Mexico, progressives achieved a complete sweep of the three seats on the Las Cruces City Council to provide a solid majority on their City Council; and
- In Alabama, a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic Senator since the days that the old south Dems were ardent racists, Doug Jones is now even in the polls with Roy Moore. If Jones wins on Dec 12, the GOP’s hold on the Senate shrinks to 51–49..
I wrote to Tim Keller yesterday to say that I am guessing he woke with a smile on his face seeing the wave of progressive wins across the country. Next Tuesday, NM has the opportunity to continue to build that wave by electing a strong progressive Mayor of ABQ and defying the abhorrent dark money ads that have tried to undermine him. I have seen 3-4 versions of the same ad making Tim out to be a total reprobate. This is the kind of rhetoric that was rejected on Tuesday and if you ant to help Keller beat Lewis and create a powerful progressive force in ABQ, click here to find out how you can call from home and help get out the vote.
The takeaway here is that while there is work to be done, there is the possibility of working together, talking with our neighbors and friends and helping us find the common ground. But this does require each of us making the effort to reach out to those friends, colleagues and family members and talking about the issues. And then as we get closer to local, state and national elections taking the time to talk with strangers, on the phone through phone banks, knocking on doors through canvassing and making calls to friends and family to vote, to retake our democracy.
The victories with so many of the local winners people of color and women and advancing highly progressive agendas should also send a message to the DNC and the Democratic Party that to win back the House in 2018, the Party needs to heal its wounds, address its own Party practices, and begin showing more respect for the progressive wing and provide an inspiring alternative to the GOP. As one GOP House Representative put it: “A whole lot more Democrats came out to vote yesterday (Tuesday), a whole lot more.” The reason from exit polls seemed a clear “no” vote on Donald Trump. Now to ensure continued voter engagement, the Democratic Party needs to advance candidates and messaging that was consistent with the scores of victors on Tuesday: bold, visionary and progressive. As Naomi Klein advanced in her most recent book: No Is Not Enough.
Tuesday was a good day. We need many more days just like that.