Here, There, and Everywhere: An Argument for Widespread Democratic Investment
What do Democrats stand for?
For those of us who are true party loyalists, this question is easy to answer. Democrats are the big tent party of inclusion. They believe that a rising tide lifts all boats and that we are stronger together. They believe in policies that benefit the middle class. They believe the rich and corporations should pay their fair share in taxes. They believe in the value of social welfare programs that help the poor, working class, and senior citizens. They believe that immigrants have and will continue to make our country great. They believe in a woman's right to make her own health care decisions and to receive equal pay for her work. They believe in marriage equality and transgender rights. They believe that Black Lives Matter and that we need criminal justice reform. They believe that voting should be made easier and not harder. They believe in diplomacy rather than preemptive war. They believe that climate change is real and that we have an obligation to address it for future generations. And they believe that a country that engaged in open cyber warfare against the United States should not be rewarded for its actions.
For a nation that leans center-left, these policy positions now resonate with the majority of Americans for the very first time. However, the question that has now arisen in Democratic circles is what to do when these policy positions don't resonate with the local populations. After all, all politics is local. Is it really worth the Democratic Party investing time, resources, and most importantly money in local races in notoriously conservative areas?
It is on this issue that there are two trains of thought, the first being that these areas are lost causes. This view emphasizes that in these areas, thanks in large part to partisan gerrymandering, the Republican candidate will win simply because he has an (R) next to his name. These are areas that makeup "Trump Country", regions denoted by strong Evangelism, a strong dislike for immigrants, overt patriotism and machoness, a strong skepticism of intellectualism, and an open disdain for any and all Washington politicians, specifically Democrats. With a worldview that is hardly recognizable to Democrats, these areas seem almost like an entirely different country with little or no common ground.
ln the age of Trump, the Republican Party has shifted to the far-right in an effort to appease its xenophobic, misogynistic base and it is this base that largely makes up Trump Country. It is this very base that supports Republican candidates and policies, regardless of how hurtful they will be to the same supporters that helped elect them in the first place. Republicans in these areas support a pedophile senatorial candidate in Alabama. They support an assaulter Congressman in Montana. They support a tax plan that hurts the upper middle class and increases the deficit. And they continue to support the most corrupt administration with a president with more allegiance to Russia and Vladimir Putin than the United States. As any CNN interview or New York Times article tells us, these people are all in and have no regret for their support of today's Republican Party. With all this being said, the argument against investing in these regions is centered on the idea that there is simply no way to win these people over.
And yet, these areas can and should be contested.
The reason these areas are the way they are is that they have been ignored for so long that they don't know what a Democrat is or what they stand for. This argument stems from the idea that voters in Trump Country consistently vote against their own self-interests exactly because they've never heard a Democrat provide them with an alternate option. It's easy to demonize a Democrat if the only ones you ever see are on Hannity. However, it's a lot different if you see a Democrat run for the local school board. This is someone you see out in the community. Their child attends the same school as your child. They may even attend your church. When this happens, when Democrats are visible, it forces people to realize that they actually may have a choice in who they vote for rather than voting for a candidate by default.
Democratic candidates in Trump Country will not win in 2018. They might not win in 2020, 2022, or 2024. But it's important to run in these areas to sow the seed for future generations. Americans have extremely short-term memories when it comes to politics. Many people today would be shocked to learn that George H.W. Bush actually won the state of California in the 1988 election. In just 30 years, the state of California has gone from a red state to a bastion of liberality. This didn't just happen because people wrote off the state entirely. It happened thanks to a continued effort to swing the state blue combined with racist, Republican-generated legislation in the form of Prop 187. By publicly attacking the state's entire immigrant community, California Republican ignored demographic trends and essentially ensured that the state would turn and remain blue for the foreseeable future.
This is why Democrats need to contest races everywhere, including Trump Country. What the recent Virginia elections showed us is that even some traditional Republican-leaning regions are rebelling against the modern-day GOP. Trump represents a repugnant stench that will stick to the GOP for a generation or more. His base may continue to support him, but it is that same base that watches Fox News and has an average age of 68 years old. The base is dying. Yes, it is a long, drawn-out death, but not only are they dying but their antiquated views are slowing dying with them. When Orange County goes blue in a presidential election for the first time since 1932 and when a Democrat candidate wins in Nassau County, there is something positive to be said for campaigning in traditionally Republican areas. Both these areas had a steady string of Democratic candidates campaign there over the previous decades, and it was these candidates whose hard work laid the foundation for those two monumental victories over the past year.
That right there shows the importance of running candidates everywhere, including the reddest of the red areas. It might not yield immediate results but we are now at a time in our nation's history when we need to plant as many seeds as possible. Everyone needs to be aware of what Democrats stand for, especially at the local level. Even if a candidate loses by 40 points when he previously lost by 45, that 5 point gain can lead to a profound shift in a generation if Democrats continue to campaign in that region. Donald Trump and those close to him committed treason and the entire Republican Party allowed it to happen. As all this comes to light, typical Republican voters in Trump Country will have a lot of soul-searching to do to decide if they will continue to support a political party that actively engaged in treason against the United States of America. As long as they have a viable alternative, for the first time in their lives, they will consider voting for a Democratic candidate.
As long as they know who that Democratic candidate is and what he or she stands for.
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