In last year’s elections, [Kansas] bucked its long tradition of moderate Republicanism. Conservatives ousted several moderates in Senate primary contests and went on to victory in November. Now, for the first time in generations, the House, the Senate and the governor’s office in Kansas are controlled by conservative Republicans. In much of the rest of the country, the political equation is similar: The Republican Party now controls both legislative chambers and governorships in 24 states. Democrats have single-party control in 13.This is, to say the least, disheartening.
I want to riff on President Obama's refrain from his Second Inaugural Address: "Our journey is not complete".
From evidence like this, it's obvious that our journey is far from complete. We're on the right path, an end is in sight, but the path is not even or without impediments.
On MSNBC during the its coverage of the inauguration, Joy Reid kept repeating that the America that Romney and Republican voters cling to is one that no longer exists. They cling to it because they see it slipping away, bit by slow bit, and they feel that they'll have no place in the new America which is being born. Van Jones on CNN made the same points.
I see this new America all around me. But let's be clear: I live in a blue city in a blue state. California and Los Angeles are ten years ahead of most of the country on many social issues. Of course this new America is motoring along at full rev here.
But those 24 states where the Tea Party holds both legislative and gubernatorial power are part of the old America trying to stem the tide. They don't want an America where gays can live openly and in peace; where immigrants are welcomed as long as they come to work hard and be part of the American dream; where we act communally when communal action is warranted, rather than clinging to a rigid idea of individualism which is nothing other than social Darwinism. Make no mistake: that America is going away, but it won't do so quietly, or quickly.
The question is: what are we going to do about it? Are we going to look at the data, cry out, and throw our hands up in despair? Or, as Carpenter concludes his piece:
For the left it becomes a question of resources and staying power. Can it effectively fight with persistent determination a two-front war?--the newsier, sexier national crusade, as well as the state and local struggle?The one thing the right has been doing to great effect for the past 40 years is organizing. The Republican Party of Richard Nixon, as right-leaning as it was, no longer exists. It was taken over at a grass-roots level by activists who tacked further and further to the right, until now we have 24 states where the advances of the past two generations are at serious threat.
I can't know the answer to that, none of us can; but we should know that the challenges are really just beginning.
And while the right was doing that, the left did not much of anything. We didn't see the threat. We thought we had won not just the battles, but the war. But the thing about politics is that it's a never-ending war. To paraphrase, the price of progress is eternal vigilance.
I'm more than heartened by the fact that OFA is becoming an independent political organization, outside of the DNC's purview. More than anyone, Obama understands that change is difficult, messy, and must be attended to constantly. I don't know if it'll turn its attention to state and local politics; but its run by smart people who can see the whole picture, and local politics are where national politics begin.
Notice that I say "a new America being born". It hasn't been born yet. This struggle will continue after Obama leaves office in 2017—another reason I'm glad for OFA's new direction. We can't cede those 24 states to the Republicans. We have to pair the national crusade with the hard house to house struggle of local politics. If we focus on the national struggle to the exclusion of the local and state war, at best we'll have a stalemate. Change is hard, progress is hard, and anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you fool's gold.
Yes, I have an optimistic view. Sometimes I'm chided for it. I can see a possible progressive future, where we continue to perfect our Union. But it won't be done without work. It won't come without setbacks. Our journey is not complete, and in a sense it never will be, as there will always be new battles to be fought. But we're on the right path. The question is: will we keep on the road, or veer off course? That's the work that has to be done.