by Kellen Squire
Oh, I know; everyone and their sister has a hot take for last night’s elections in Georgia and South Carolina. I’ve seen ‘em all, and I know you have, too.
We burned thirty million dollars!
B-b-b-but there was a huge swing!
Archie could’ve won with even a modicum of support!
We let the Republicans see our hands too soon, but we made them burn through more than we did!
Jon Osoff was a walking, talking third-way policy paper! He was a candidate made from whole cloth!
Et cetera, et cetera, so on and so forth. But I ain’t gonna opine on that; I’ll leave those sorts-of hot takes for other folks. Last night’s elections simply cemented to me what I’ve known the whole time- that the way forward ain’t gonna be overnight. The Cubs didn’t win the World Series last year if they didn’t start almost a decade ago, with a plan; building support from their farm team, building infrastructure. And anyone here that thinks that we’ll be able to skip that step, and magically fix what ails the electoral woes in one shot is deluded.
It ain’t gonna be easy. It’s going to be blood, sweat, tears and toil. You want to provide “Canadian Air Support”? You’re part of the problem, not the solution, so don’t complain about the outcome. But if you really want to turn things around, and take our country back from the toxic brand of politics that have come to the fore with Trumpism, I can tell you exactly how we come back from here.
Start from the ground up. Local elections. State legislative elections, in particular- especially with that gerrymandering case coming from SCOTUS imminently, only makes it more important.
This time eight years ago, the Koch brothers had already dumped a billion dollars into state legislative races, or the infrastructure and associated PACs to go along with ‘em. A Jon Osoff-style race could blow through $50k without blinking; that’d fully fund a handful of local races. In a state legislative race, that’s your staff, volunteer, and field costs for the entire throwdown in a more-expensive race, or possibly the entire amount needed in others.
And I hate moral victories as much as y’all do, but- and this is the sole “hot take” you’ll hear from me on GA-06- what did we gain from that money we spent in Georgia? Sure, we forced the Republicans to spend tons more, but what infrastructure is left over there to elect other folks? It’s like building a rocket; lots of light and noise, but when it’s all over, there’s nothing left if you don’t make orbit. We need to be building roads, bridges; you might not be able to finish it in time to win the election, if you need a big enough one, but by God the framework is still there for the next time. And other candidates can use it as well!
You have to have a coherent message aside from Trump; and you have to show people you’re going to fight for them. This isn’t an indictment of any candidate, it’s just the truth. And I fully believe that our country won’t survive Trumpism if we don’t do something substantive about it. But we can’t run on Trump alone; and this is one I can attest to that personally.
I’m running for the Virginia House of Delegates in the 58th District of central Virginia, which is home to- yup, you guessed it- the Trump Winery. The incumbent here is so close to the Trump family that he was invited to spend election eve with Ivanka in Northern Virginia. He’s the sort-of guy who loves to opine that Trump Values are Virginia Values.
But every time I write that in a diary here in the blogosphere – as the main subject behind the diary- guess what happens?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. My ActBlue account waves a white flag. Even here, on one of the most virulent anti-Trump sites on the Internet, I get zilch from running against Trump. How d’you think I’ll do using that out in Dyke, or McGaheysville, or Cunningham?
D’you know what’s moved more people to actually contribute and support my campaign? What’s gotten us more unique donors and volunteers to date than most local and legislative races in Virginia have their entire campaign?
Talking about the strange dichotomy of being told by a MAGA-hatted gentleman he wasn’t going to pay his ER bill, and still caring for him the same as I would anyone else in my job as an emergency department nurse.
Talking about how I fought to get kids school lunch in a school district that refused to provide hot lunch for anyone, after watching a friend of mine go hungry rather than be made fun of for being poor.
Talking about the insanity of my Congressman in Washington, as well as my opponent here at home, sharing a mindview where they think simply sneering “Meh, people can just go to the ER- problem solved, we don’t need to govern!” is acceptable.
And it’s showing people that you’ll fight unapologetically for them. It’s going out to where they live. Talking to them. LISTENING to them. Not just waiting for your turn to talk, but listening to them— really listening to them. And that one is the hardest of the bunch to find, nurture, and replicate, because it’s rare. It’s not something that can be taught. And it absolutely, positively, has to be genuine. Because if it’s not, people will know.
Folks can talk a good game on places here, like DailyKos, in diaries like this, but if I couldn’t match up talk here with my actions in front of the people who make up my own community, I’d have been sunk long ago. Being simply anti-Trump won’t ever win us an election.
The one hot take I took something away from this morning, and that I’ll inflict on you, is from Steve Schale, who talked about winning the last Osoff-like election in Florida. He says:
… we had basically the unicorn candidate, a well-regarded City Commissioner from the district’s population center, Tony Sasso. Sasso was a pure progressive on environmental issues, which gave him base bonafides, but was libertarian on enough issues to win over some right-leaning swing voters, and reasonable enough as a Commissioner to give moderate voters comfort. He was a well-liked known commodity.
Now, that statement isn’t to trigger anyone into screaming “Republican Lite!,” nor is it fuel for the folks who argued Jon Osoff wasn’t “progressive enough” to be able to win (“He mentioned market forces! He didn’t put single payer on his website! Clearly he’s no progressive!”). It’s just saying that these are tough races, and the road to 45-47% might be smooth, but the 50% + 1 threshold… hoo, buddy. It takes a lot of doing, especially in a place like GA-06.
And it speaks to this- more than where you are on the ideological spectrum, more than what policies you pontificate about on your website, people want to be sure of WHO you are. Like in Simon Sinek’s great talk at TED, people don’t buy your WHAT. They buy your WHY. That’s where trust comes from. That’s what gets candidates to that coveted win number.
So, do you want to make a difference? The next big chance is here, in the Virginia House of Delegates, this fall. And it makes more of a difference than just a repudiation of Trump; it affects every one of you, in every part of the country. My opponent, for instance, has a bigger warchest than most Federal congressional candidates do, simply because our campaign finance laws in Virginia are non-existent. He’s taken almost $300k alone from a mining magnate and mountaintop removal advocate alone. So when he runs unopposed and still raises hundreds of thousands of dollars, what does he do with that money?
He donates it. To other candidates, to other PACs… even to Federal PACs. To defeat candidates in your state. In your town. So don’t be deluded into thinking you’re powerless. Don’t be the person who told me “Oh, we only donate to Federal races, because other races don’t matter”. Don’t tell yourself these races in other states than your own aren’t important; because they are.
You’ve got a chance here, in the Netroots, to make that difference. If you pull together and push through this difference, it’ll be YOU powering the future of progressive politics. It’ll give a new generation of leaders the freedom to stand up for their constituents, instead of lobbyists and special interests, of billionaires and corporations.
Find these candidates; donate to them on ActBlue, because even Bernie was built on $27- so imagine what $27 can do for them. If you can, knock on doors. Run booths. Make phone calls. Write letters to the editor. Tell your friends about them. Nothing groundbreaking here, folks- same story it’s always been. But you have to do it. You have to be engaged in moving us forward.
Because the stakes for inaction are just too damn high.