Discouraging as that may be, there has been good news. It may be the best kept secret in America but for Donald Trump's taxes, but there have been special elections across the country, and it looks like our protests and demonstrations are paying off. If only someone would tell the Democratic Party.
Back in the spring, we actually had a special election that made national news. In a solidly republican district in Georgia, apparently where IQ's are higher than most, Hillary had lost to Trump by only one percent. Encouraged by that fact, a young man named Jon Ossoff garnered so much excitement that people who had once been afraid to put out lawn signs for Democrats were now campaigning door-to-door. When republicans got wind of this excitement -- and while they suck at governing, republicans are really, really good at sniffing out the political winds -- they went all in against Ossoff. Oppo research went into high gear, ads that were so nasty Mitch McConnell could only look on in envy. Trump did a robocall telling republican voters to protect their right to not have Democrats be part of the electoral process in Georgia's 6th.
And despite Karen Handel's relative unpopularity, she won. But despite all the dirty attacks against Ossoff in a staunchly republican district, he only lost by four percent.
And even more significant, in a race in South Carolina that went pretty much under the radar, Archie Parnell lost to his republican opponent by just about the same margin. Here! In South Carolina! With little acknowledgement or help from the national party.
Well, if the situation had been reversed and these were republican losses in Democratic districts, the republican party would be celebrating a huge win. We would have heard for days, maybe weeks, about what an upset had just occurred. But what happened? Democrats wondered if Ossoff was too young. They worried that they hadn't done enough in SC's 5th. In a masterly irony-free comment, the ever invisible state hero, Jim Clyburn, said,
"I don’t think we had the campaign that was designed to win," said Clyburn. "If we had gotten the resources, I think we would have won."
A week or so ago, I got an email from Ryan Grim who writes at The Intercept. It had some amazing news...
A Democrat stunned in a special election in Oklahoma last night. In November, Trump won this state legislative district by 11 points, and Jacob Rosecrants, the Democratic candidate, lost his election by 20 points. Last night, Rosecrants -- the very same guy -- ran again in the special, and upset his opponnent by 20. I'll do the math for you: that's a 40-point swing.
It's the third special election Democrats have flipped in Oklahoma (!) since November -- and in a fourth, in May, they lost a race by two points in a district that Trump had carried by 50. (That’s not a typo; it was a 48-point swing.)
And in New Hampshire, in a 29-point swing, Democrats flipped another district. (There are like five gazillion members of the New Hampshire legislature, so I wasn’t paying close attention to that one.)
In the race I was watching closest, in Mississippi, there were reports of people -- many students -- showing up to the polls and being told they were no longer registered. The Democrat, Kathryn Rehner, finished second, but forced a runoff election in October. If you know anybody who lives in Hattiesburg, Miss., forward them this email and tell them to get in touch with me if they were turned away at the polls. (And tell them to sign up while they're at it.)
El-Yateem, the democratic socialist running for city council in New York, lost by 7 points.
Apparently, the Democratic Party has decided to keep the good news under their hats. Now, some of you who do more serious news watching than I do may have heard of these victories somewhere, but please keep in mind that most voters just don't go beyond the headlines. And these victories were not headlines.
Be aware that these are state and local elections, not national. What is important about this is what we have been learning since November: that we need to fight on the state and local level; that when we change the fight on the local level, it moves up to the national level. Keep in mind that the abhorrent attack on redistricting could only have happened in states where republicans controlled the drawing of the maps. And 2020 will be the election that determines who will draw the next census districts.
If the Democratic Party celebrated the narrow losses in once-republican districts as well as all those local victories, eventually the voters who don't have time to read the fine print will start to recognize that something important is going on, and the republican party is on the wrong side of it.
And believe me, it will convey to national elections, which is something republicans have known all along, or at least since the Kochs, Art Pope and ALEC recognized it and started throwing their money at local elections.
Our SC state party has begun to send out informative emails about upcoming candidates as well as those who are already in the Statehouse fighting for us. If you aren't on their email list, go to their website and sign up. I've been very excited to see them move away from their "Give $3" fund-raising emails to actually informing us about issues and individuals.
On the other hand, the national party continues to hide out, which I suppose is preferable to all that public hand-wringing. My philosophy has become throw all my support and enthusiasm behind all those great candidates, and don't expect much from the party. They may figure it out someday, but the excitement comes before the money.
There are a couple of national campaigns I've recently heard about.
In Texas, besides having a really great name, Beto O'Rourke has decided to take on the evil Ted Cruz. A friend alerted me to him via a link describing what is becoming a famous road trip. O'Rourke took a congressional seat away from a long-time republican incumbent, and looks like he could actually do it again against Cruz. He has a strong personality and a strong progressive message. What he doesn't have is Ted Cruz' wealthy donors.
Two things about that. Social media has been proving to be more powerful than big bucks. And Jon Ossoff proved that when the message is right, we will find the money.
And maybe it is better these days to not be controlled by a twitchy party. I read an article a few weeks ago talking about all the great people who are stepping up to run for office in 2018. The article talked about how they made the pilgrimage to the national party office to ask for support, which the party made clear was contingent upon their fund-raising ability.
Pardon my French, but fuck that.
While they obsess about why Democratic voters have stopped responding to the deluge of fund-raising emails, they seem to have no clue as to why Democratic voters have stopped going out to vote. So, candidates first. First, last and in the middle. Candidates with a message that puts the 99 percent ahead of the one percent should not have to make raising funds for the big dogs part of all the hard work they are having to do to be heard.
Candidates need to be fearless. They need to know that the closer they come to being heard, the dirtier their opponents will stoop. They need to incorporate that into their campaign, as in, "The reason my opponent's party is attacking me is because he knows I can win. They know I am going to fight for you, and that you know I am going to fight for you. Their special interests have lots more money than me, and they will do anything to keep us from talking about the issues. I am not going to let that happen."
And our candidates need to resist the party message of cautiousness. That is how republicans divide us. They have used abortion and gay rights to throw shade on the real issues of individual rights and income disparity. In January, Indivisible led the way to a movement in which our unity gave us power. We have let that unity work for us in our fight for health care and against the Muslim ban, for transgender and reproductive rights, for DACA and voting rights and environmental rights. We can get the candidates who reflect that unity elected. We just have to show up and be heard.
We can help by letting everyone via email, on Facebook, Twitter and all those other social media outlets that I haven't yet gotten to, know right now about those great people who are considering running. We need to show up at their debates and rallies, and we need to get them in the news on local TV and the newspaper.
I would like to end by talking about the other potential candidate, one who has me pretty excited.
Annabelle Robertson is an employment discrimination attorney. She is also founder of Indivisible South Carolina. Today she is contemplating a 2018 run against US House Representative Joe Wilson. You may recall that he made it to national fame by yelling "You lie!" during Barack Obama's speech to Congress in 2009. What was less well-known is that it was Wilson who was lying, and that he later apologized to Obama for his crude outburst. He may have been wrong, and he may have apologized, but he has done lots of fund-raising on that undignified act. Not only did those two words reflect a new low in respect for the office of the president, but once again made South Carolina a laughingstock on the national stage.
Robertson represents everything the Democratic Party should stand for, as reflected in Indivisible. And the icing on the cake is that she is a really smart woman. So we need to a) encourage her to run, b) support her any and every way we can, c) get the word out.
The naysayers may be out there, but you know what I say to them.