Too often Dems try the same formula: appease moderate Dems, appeal to the GOP, and ignore your base and the untapped, unengaged populations that could expand your base. Our CD-2 race was a disaster; Georgia provides a different model. Read on.
We need to find some means of shifting both the NM Democratic Party and the DNC or we could be in for a big surprise in 2022 and 2024. But before we dive into these issues, it is Veteran’s Day and so we pay tribute to those who have given their lives and those vets who continue to fight for peace.
Veteran’s, Since 1945 Most Often Victims of Imperialism,
Not Defenders of Freedom
Today, we honor those veterans who have given their lives in service of their country. Certainly those vets who gave their lives in WW II, did so most nobly and in defense of freedom. But while their sacrifice has been no less noble, since 1945 veterans have laid down their lives in one misguided imperialist venture after another. Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and a myriad of other more clandestine efforts to prop up puppet leaders friendly to US corporate interests or US economic hegemony. Very seldom have any of these military or paramilitary attacks been aimed at securing justice, freedom or economic equity. But I suspect that few of the vets who have died in these colonialist ventures were thinking about capitalist expansion when they donned their uniforms and gave their lives. They were serving their country. And so, today we honor their sacrifice.
But we also honor the veterans who since the Vietnam War have protested these wars and the sacrifice of more lives. The greatest honor we could pay our vets is to resist the military industrial complex here in NM (LANL, Sandia, Kirkland), to implore our national leadership to cease its overt and covert intervention in the affairs of other nations and to support organizations like Veterans for Peace in their ongoing efforts to choose peace over war and to secure rights, resources and supports for veterans in our communities who are too often forgotten except for on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day when we bow our heads to their sacrifice..
So, in honor of Veteran’s Day, please consider a donation to the Santa Fe chapter of Veteran’s for Peace. Click here to contribute to the Joan Duffy Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Veterans for Peace advocates with its allies to ensure that the perspective, needs and priorities of veterans are respected and to advocate for peace.
The Democratic Party:
When Will It Learn?
Despite abundent evidence that running to the right is a losing strategy and mounting evidence that aspirational campaigns to educate voters and expand the base, Democratic Party leadership seems incapable of learning its lesson. Today we examine two NM state races, one where we have won a tremendous victory and one where suffered a humiliating loss. We then shift gears and examine what we can learn from successful races run in Geogia. Bottom line, the mainstream Democratic Party seems hellbent upon running to the center, ignoring the needs and aspirations of the working class people and communities of color that have been their historic base. Instead the party runs too many milquetoast candidates and offers tepid messaging to try to draw in moderates and Republicans. While this messaging may garner some votes, it eliminates any hope of inspiring a far larger voting block, those voters who never vote because they see nothing to vote for.
First, CD 2 and the Xochitl Torres-Small Disaster & Senate District 23 and Harold Pope, a Study In Contrasts
I want to acknowledge that I don’t know CD-2 as well as many. I also want to state the obvious, CD-2 is a much more moderate district than either CD-1 or 3. In 2016, Roxanne and I canvassed for Torres-Small in 2016 because we believed she would work to educate her constituents and build a base of Democrats committed to its principles. That simply did not happen and her 8% loss to a terrible GOP candidate is the result. Retake has written often about the national Party’s failure to embrace their FDR ideals. Our August 2017 piece outlining how progressives won impressive victories in 2016 despite national results tilting red. This piece and others we’ve written critiquing the DNC are instructive and point to how a different kind of Torres-Small campaign might have elicited a better result.
If you did nothing but watch the ads, you would think that the Herrera — Torres-Small race was a GOP primary. There was absolutely zero aspirational messaging from Torres-Small’s campaign. One of the best things about November 3 is that we no longer have to watch her at the shooting range or hanging out at a fracking operation.
I received numerous emails from Retake subscribers from CD-2, most all lamenting the messaging of the Torres-Small campaign. She shot guns, toured fracking operations and when attacked for voting 95% of the time with Pelosi, never once noted any of the significant benefits that went to CD-2 voters as a result. She could easily have made this a referendum on Trump, his non-response to Covid, the hundreds of thousands of lives lost, his Party’s failure to extend Covid relief, and Pelosi’s strident advocacy for Covid relief for people, not just corporations.
I can already hear centrists say, “but this is CD-2 and messaging that works in Santa Fe isn’t gonna fly down here.” Of course it won’t, but that does not mean you need to run what amounted to a GOP primary in November. I recall a conversation in July with one of NM Dems top campaign operatives. I was asking about Harold Pope’s chances against Sen. Rue. I was told that Pope had no chance because he was running too progressive a campaign for a moderate distric
But not only did Pope run an unabashedly progressive campaign, he inspired hordes of volunteers and donors to join that effort and he easily defeated a very popular Republican incumbent in a very moderate district. Lesson learned: if you give people an inspiring candidate and a clear, progressive message, you will do far better than running an uninspiring candidate who tries to look like a Republican-lite. Besides, how can Democrats expect the nation to understand who they are and what they stand for if they change principles and priorities based upon their perception of what some voters want.
Despite Harold Pope’s impressive win and Torres-Small’s dispiriting loss in CD-2, I’ve heard some suggest we just need to use redistricting to make CD 2 a tad bluer. Perhaps a better strategy is to embrace long held blue policies and principles to inspire people not just to vote, but to work for the party. And as demonstrated in Georgia, sustained, year found voter outreach and education campaigns, can boost the Democratic voter roles without trying to gerrymander your way to election wins.
Mainstream Democratic Party Messaging
I’ve written about this in several posts, most recently: “Why 40+% Will Vote for Trump,” and “How We Went Wrong & How We Can Get It Right.” Since the 70’s the Democrats have run from their FDR roots, abandoning the working class folks that were supported by FDR policies and who overwhelmingly voted for him. Suce the 80s the Democratic Party has turned its backs on labor, rejecting one progressive principle after another beginning with accepting Reagan’s credo that government can’t help people, cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations repeatedly over decades, draining the government of resources to serve the public benefit, while bestowing huge wealth on the rich. We’ve entered into trade agreements that were good for Wall St. but bad for working people. We have not fought for a $15 minimum wage or any meaningful increase in the federal minimum wage.
Over time, this has led to the erosion of support for the Democratic Party from working people. The Dems have stopped courting communities of color and the poor, except to ask for their votes every two years. All the while the Party simply assumes that they will safely vote for Dems because the GOP is worse, all the while the Party caters to Wall St.. And while many of the long-time Democratic faithful among labor and working people continue to vote for the party, we are simply failing to inspire young people and we haven’t done much to advance good reasons for the disenfranchised to vote.
And when Trump came along promising to drain the swamp and asking what has the DP done for you lately, his message resonated.
Which brings us to Georgia and Stacey Abrams.
Over the past ten plus years, Stacey Abrams and the two organizations she founded, the New Georgia Project and Fair Fight, have built a huge base in Georgia, not by running to the middle but by engaging in grassroots organizing voter education, and voter registration. In just the past two years, their efforts have resulted in over 1 million newly registered Democratic voters in Georgia. And Georgia flipped blue by a mere 30-40,000 votes.
We’ve all read about Georgia’s flipping blue and awarding its electoral votes to Biden and its now having two Senate runoff races where the Dems can take control of the Senate with two wins. But this is not the only place where Abrams’ strategy has come to play. In the House 7th District, a suburb of Atlanta that had been controlled by the GOP for over 25 years, an unabashedly progressive Democrat, Carolyn Bourdeaux won the seat last week. In the 5th district another suburb of Atlanta that tilts purple, Democrat Lucy McBath won re-election, running on affordable health care, sensible gun legislation and women’s right to choose.
I’ve given this a good deal of thought, not just in relation to Torres-Small, but in relation to why Trump was elected in the first place and why he secured over 70 million votes even after four years of driving us through the pits of hell. While we should celebrate our win, we also need to question how we could possibly have won such a narrow election in a campaign against a mad man who has practically destroyed the nation. With 70 million Americans voting for Trump, we have not won a ringing endorsement of the Democratic Party, nor have we achieved a repudiation of Trumpism. Why not?
So, the real lesson in NM CD-2, (and likely in other House races) is that Democrats lost because Torres-Small ran a campaign that sounded more like a sensible Republican, instead of going out and using all that ad money to educate CD 2 about how moderately progressive policies actually benefit the very folks she was trying to attract with her pro fracking and shooting range ads. Moderate Republican voters didn’t believe her ads or her and those same ads completely turned off a whole lot of Democrats. I can’t tell you how many emails I have gotten from CD 2 folks saying that they were gonna hold their nose and vote for Xochitl out of fear of the alternative….But they weren’t going to contribute or volunteer.
At a national level, the Party needs to learn that it was the progressives and the grassroots activists in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other cities across the nation, who won the presidential campaign for Biden. The Party needs to give Dems especially the working poor, the poor, and communities of color good reasons to continue to vote for, contribute to and work for the Party or we will be in for a surprise in 2022 and 2024 when there won’t be an existential fear driving people to the polls. Perhaps DPNM needs to invest more in commuity based organizations with roots in CD-2 and other NM communities, to educate and inspire the disinfranchised, to register those voters, to cultivate their support with policies that more resemble FDR than Ronald Reagan.
What do you think?
In solidarity & hope,
Paul & Roxanne