We’re already in the start of primary season, and Democrats have a large selection of candidates competing to be the Party’s nominee. There’s going to be a lot of horse racing commentary in the media, and polls being analyzed. None of those really matter at this time, and won’t until we get toward the end of the year. I’m not going to advocate for any candidate in this post, since I’m not even close to deciding. However I do have some thoughts for the year 2020. In addition, back in early 2018, I wrote a post with four thoughts for 2018 and beyond. Those still hold true, and I’ll be revisiting some of that in this post. What am I thinking?
First, remember that 2020 is a census year. That means that in addition to counting the population, it means that redistricting will be happening. Some states will gain population, other will lose population, and there will be population shifts within a state. That means districts for the House and state legislatures will be redrawn. It also means that there’s more at stake than just who is sitting in the White House. Yes, the Senate and House races are there as well, and important. But so are state legislatures, and unless you live in a state that has a nonpartisan redistricting commission, those legislatures will determine how the districts are drawn. If you’ve been paying attention to the news, at least two states (Pennsylvania and North Carolina) have been ordered to redo the districts that were drawn after the last census. In other states as well, Republican legislatures have drawn theirs to “lock in” their partisan advantage. So who is in control of state legislatures, and those lines, depends on who gets elected in 2020.
Second, we need to ditch “purity” and get pragmatic. Two of the points I made in my “Four thoughts” post were that all politics are local, and not every candidate is going to be a “real liberal” or “real progressive.” While a lot of press discussion has been about the “leftward trend” of the party, and focusing on some of the freshman members, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the reality is that outside of solidly Democratic areas, the Party members tend to be more center or center-left than left. In my district, another “Justice Democrat” ran in the primary, and came in dead last. The important thing is not whether a candidate somewhere is a “real progressive,” but can they win. Why is it important? One of the oldest rules in politics: First, you have to win. Control of the House and Senate means that many progressive proposals are likely to get enacted. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter how great you think those ideas are, they’re not going to happen. If you haven’t learned that over the past few years, you haven’t been paying attention. Pragmatism also applies to campaign funding. Relying strictly on small donors is handicapping ourselves right at the beginning. Yes, it’s a wonderful thing to have lots of small donors, and like many people, I wish campaigns weren’t so expensive, and I’d like to see Citizens United chucked in the dumpster. But I recognize that’s not the current reality, that it’s going to take a lot of money to win, and that the Republicans have no qualms about big money donations.
Third, stress common issues. What seems to shock various progressives is finding out that their grand ideas are met with a “meh” or worse by many Democrats. I touched on that several years ago, when I pointed out that the issues important in my area aren’t always shared with other areas.
I live in New York State. If I were to live in New York City, or any major urban center, mass transit would be a core issue. You’re going to be advocating strongly for public transportation, you probably want “walkable communities,” bike lanes, and so on. It’s a given, a part of being “progressive” and “environmentally concerned.” Leave the city, and move up to my area in the Adirondacks? No one cares about those things.
That’s just one example, but there are many others. Issues are of importance to you aren’t important to me, and vice versa. That said, there are issues in common. Like urban areas, rural areas worry about affordable housing, education, healthcare, and infrastructure for a short list. They’re also issues where a real contrast can be made with Republicans. No, I’m not saying ignore the other issues, I’m saying that talking about those should be targeted where they matter.
Wrapping up, the last thing is to remember my fourth point: It’s a marathon, not a sprint. As we’ve seen, it’s not enough to take back the House. We need to take back the Senate and the White House as well. But even if that happens in 2020, it doesn’t mean that things will get better right away. It’s going to take a long time to undo the damage done by Republicans, and “declaring victory and leaving” after 2020 isn’t the way to go. It means keeping it up for at least a decade, if not longer.