It's All Local: Why Democrats Are Forced to Rely on Grassroots Efforts to Win Elections

Hillary Clinton engages an audience at a local town hall event. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.

Hillary Clinton engages an audience at a local town hall event. Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.

These past four months, I've been living the dream. 

Since I arrived in Palm Beach County in mid-June I've been able to take in the sights and sounds of a vibrant entertainment scene. I've been to movie theaters and malls. I've been to busy outdoor bars and open mic nights during the week. I've been to weekend farmers markets. I've been to the home opening football game for Florida Atlantic University. I've been to a Caribbean festival downtown. I've been to local neighborhood celebrations and gatherings. I've been to the local sci-fi/fantasy convention. I've been to multiple live weekend concerts for performers such as The Dave Matthews Band, The Dixie Chicks, and Fifth Harmony among others. I even attended a PokemonGo-themed event at the local zoo when the craze was at its height.

But I did not actually stay for any of these actual events. 

Instead I roamed the crowd or entrance to these events with a clipboard in hand, asking anyone who crossed my path if they were registered to vote. While the Trump campaign is spending more money on campaign merchandise than campaign staff, the Clinton campaign is heavily investing on a ground game, especially in battleground states. In Florida alone, the Clinton campaign has amassed an army of 90,000 volunteers to do all the nitty gritty that comes with a presidential campaign: registering new voters in crowded venues, knocking on doors in the hot Florida sun, and recruiting new volunteers on the phones during the dinner hour. While the Trump campaign is insisting that large rallies will turn out large numbers of voters, the Clinton campaign is relying on traditional Get Out The Vote tactics and techniques to ensure that they have as diverse an electorate as possible in place to then mobilize and get to the polls over the final month of the campaign.  

As Vice-President Biden famously stated ahead of the 2014 midterm elections, Democrats are on the right side of every major issue in this country. Numbers back up this statement as support for a number of issues has actually increased over the past two years. Currently 53% of Americans support raising the minimum wage, 55% of Americans support marriage equality, 55% of Americans want tougher gun control laws, 65% of Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 70% of Americans believe in climate change, and 78% of Americans want to overturn Citizens United. All of these issues are prominent parts of the Democratic Party platform and are frequently mentioned on the campaign trail by Hillary Clinton, Tim Kaine, and any and all surrogates who are out traversing the country, stumping for Democratic candidates.

So then why do Democrats have to bust their ass to win every single election? 

The answer to that question has become apparent in my work over the past four months. The truth is that Republican efforts over the past half-century have created a generation of working class people who fail to reap the benefits of what they sow. Thanks to consistent Republican-backed efforts to block meaningful legislation to help the middle class in this country, there remains a large segment of our population stuck in an endless cycle of generational poverty. For them, they honestly feel that neither party is looking out for them, despite the fact that the Democratic Party is the only party bringing forth meaningful legislation to increase the minimum wage, to enact stricter gun control laws, or to protect social security. Thanks to stagnant wages due in large part to the disastrous policy of trickle-down economics, many of these people have failed to see significant improvements in their daily lives over the past half-century and they view politicians today as simply being the latest in a series of people who are unable to help them and the ones they love. 

What Democrats fail to understand is that all politics is local. It is why they currently are on the outside looking in with 31 states currently controlled by Republican governors. These governors, many of whom are pushing ALEC-backed legislation, are perfectly content to worsen the lives of their citizens for political gain. Whether it's advocating open carry, or refusing to expand Medicaid, the minimum wage, or the voting rights of convicted felons, these governors have made it clear they don't give a damn about the working class in their states. And when that happens, those stuck in generational poverty who don't see any benefits begin to believe that neither party is helping them. They see their lives relatively unchanged under President Obama and end up reaching the conclusion that neither he nor fellow Democrats care about them when in fact we all know that is not the case. However, what they aren't able to see is the fact that it is their Republican-elected governor who is the one who is intentionally hurting them instead. 

And so this is why every four years Democrats have to bust their ass to go out and expand the electorate. Because Vice-President was right; the country is becoming more progressive as a whole. However, Republicans have done a masterful job in creating apathy through a generation of failed economic policies that have hurt the working class. That is why Democrats struggle every four years to re-engage the middle class in this country. It's a hard sell after 50 years to tell someone that his or her life will get better when that is the same sell they have been hearing consistently since the days of Richard M. Nixon. Yet, it's the work Democrats simply have to do to win. They can't and won't win over everyone who has been disillusioned by the political process. Their only hope is to convince enough of them that their vote does still matter and their voice can still be heard if they become engaged in the political process.

And they need to convince them now before it's too late. 



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