Election 2016 has come and gone, and the Democrats were handed their most resounding defeat in almost a decade.
There is a lot of hand ringing going on over what happened, how it happened, and why it happened, and the further into the elitist stratosphere the questioner, the more confused they seem to be.
But if you listen to any commentary, from the left or the right, it is fairly clear what happened. Democrats ignored a feeling festering in the hearts of not just “working class whites,” but also white women, college educated whites, and young people. That feeling is that our political system is broken, and that traditional, establishment candidates are not working for us. Some responded by voting for Trump, many responded by not voting for Clinton.
Much of the focus has been on the elitism (real and perceived) of the Democratic Party, and on why people feel so disconnected to the political process. Another important conversation, though, is one of strategy. All across the country people are talking about what they are going to do and how they are going to mobilize against a Trump administration. But the grassroots will have a hard time competing against the interests of big business and the Republican controlled government. For better of worse, we need the counterweight of the DNC, and we need it to be heavy.
Over the last decade, Republicans managed to double the number of state houses under their control. They hold 33 governors offices, and countless local and municipal seats. They have poured money into electing down-ballot Republican candidates, including for judicial elections. Local governance around the country has gotten more conservative, which laid the groundwork not only for this election, but for the laws most of us actually live by.
People fear that the Supreme Court of the near future will roll back legislation that many of us have come to take for granted, like Roe v. Wade, and even the Civil Rights Act. At this point, with a Republican White House, Senate, and House, the only way to combat a regressive SCOTUS is to fill judicial seats in lower courts. Cases that could set back pieces of landmark legislation will not make it to the Supreme Court if the Democrats manage to get progressive judges elected across the country.
If Democrats believe they are “Stronger Together,” they have to do the work of finding America’s strengths. They must go to and invest in diverse communities in every part of the country—not just the familiar faces from Washington.
Dems must spend the party’s vast resources to find people already leading in their communities. Go to schools and find the teachers and administrators every student loves. Find the CEOS whose employees are genuinely happy and healthy. Find pastors whose parishioners leave positive footprints in their towns. Find tech innovators who know how to blend technological progress with the heart of humanity.
It cannot be stressed enough that this effort cannot only consist of verbal support. Many people who should run for office do not have the resources to do so, and that is where the DNC needs to come in. Rather that syphoning funding to presidential elections, the resources – the cash – must go down to state, city, and county races. Wealthy Democratic Party donors need to be directed to candidates running in their state races. The attention and the resources must shift.
Another aspect is reaching out to groups that the Democratic Party has not paid attention to in recent years. That list includes evangelical Christians who will not be able to swallow President Trump’s character, and rust belt workers who find fossil fuel and coal jobs lacking. There is a real opportunity there to educate and push clean energy initiatives and jobs, and it is beyond time to bring Christians into the moral high ground that Republicans have held the monopoly on for too long.
American politics is messy, and for many at the moment, it is scary. But if there is any lesson to learn from the accidental domination of the Republican Party, it’s that playing the long game in local and state races lays a groundwork that even the most flawed candidate can’t topple.
Most of America exists outside of Washington, it’s time the Democrats did too.