I’ve done a lot of canvassing this year, much of the time knocking doors that haven’t been knocked in over a decade by anyone from either party. It’s been sometimes inspiring, and sometimes heartbreaking. There are some faces and stories that will be etched in my mind forever.
Because while most people in my Beltway bubble are doing pretty well, there are people all over Virginia facing real hardships. I’ve talked to a man caring for his cancer-ridden wife, terrified that they might not be able to afford treatments; a wife desperately fighting to keep her husband home following a leg amputation, unable to get Medicare to cover an in-home aide; a young girl who’s lost her voting rights at barely a quarter of the way through her life; an elderly man with hardly any teeth, who desperately needed his children and grandchildren to be able to find jobs; the stories go on and on.
Sometimes I think about stepping away from trying to win votes, and just putting all that energy into finding direct and immediate ways to help these people instead. Because political solutions–waiting for the Democrats to have a majority in the General Assembly to enact better policies–seem so far away in the face of the kind of suffering I’ve seen.
And here’s where Democratic Promise comes in. Because it turns out that winning votes and helping people right now don’t have to be mutually exclusive tasks. When we help people, we ARE winning votes! We are literally demonstrating to voters that government is there to help them–that we, the Democratic Party, are there to help them. Volunteers at Democratic Promise reach out to voters with a simple message: We are the Democratic Party, how can we help you? And then, guess what? That’s followed up with action, with a volunteer social worker who will make sure that if there’s a governmental solution available, that the voter has the ability to take advantage of it.
I can’t tell you how excited I was when I first learned about this project. One of the first districts Democratic Promise began working in was Floyd County, where I’d canvassed with Flo Ketner. It’s beautiful country there, but the people there, who are often accused of voting against their self-interest, feel abandoned by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Honestly, we have no right to call them up and ask for their votes–the proof is in the pudding. We need to first show them why they should vote for us, why government (or even, dare I say “big government”) is not a bad thing. Only then, when we’ve earned their vote, should we ask for it.
Although Democratic Promise is starting out in the counties of the 6th Congressional District (since this is Delegate Sam Rasoul’s brainchild), there’s no reason to stop there. We can be of service to people all over the state; and, in fact, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a model for Democrats all over the country. The idea is catching on quickly–people know a good idea when they see it. Just this week alone, it’s been featured on NPR, in the Washington Post, and it’s getting some big time attention from the Democratic Party itself–with a big endorsement from DNC Deputy Chair, Keith Ellison, who said “It’s an equation that can work in every state across our nation.” That is promising, indeed.
For more information on Democratic Promise and the work they’re doing across rural Virginia, visit www.DemPromise.com or call (833) 4DEM-HELP.