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With or Without the Democrats

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Published by the St. Louis American, November 13, 2018

The Democrats flipped the U.S. House of Representatives in the midterm elections. Now we have a divided Congress because the GOP has control of the Senate. And while political pundits proclaimed the elections were a referendum on Trump and his Republican Party, it was as much a referendum on the Democrats.

Voters set a record with an estimated 113 million voters coming out to make their voices heard. Another 36 million voted early, also a record. Over a hundred women will take office in many capacities across the country – another record.

Voters put some new kinds of faces in office. States elected the first Native Americans, first Muslims, first openly gay, first blacks, first Latinos. This kind of racial and religious diversity will only make a difference if those elected share a humanistic worldview through a feminist, anti-racist and anti-homophobic lens.

I truly hope that voter turnout and this kind of diversity become a trend. Having an organized force of informed and empowered voters plus progressive-thinking elected officials is a powerful combination.

For the last decade, I have joined others in calling out the lack of vision and strategy of the Democratic Party. Polls are showing that African-American voters, still the party’s most loyal constituent base, are not just disenchanted by the Dems but feel disenfranchised.

Last year Brilliant Corners Research presented its polling results to the Congressional Black Caucus underscoring that 63 percent of black voters think the Dems take them for granted. There was an apology from Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This is an old, empty repentance with no corrective action. Black voters are slowly moving away from the party and, in some cases, moving away from electoral politics as a viable vehicle for democratic participation.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) and the Democratic Party knew that she’d be in the fight of her political life this time around. Josh Hawley hadn’t been in office a year as state attorney general before he smelled the blood of wounded prey. The young, conservative whippersnapper was encouraged by his party to take on McCaskill and got its unwavering support.

McCaskill’s strategy? She embarked on a state tour of 50 town halls to white, Republican-majority areas. Her goal was to “go out of my way to places where I’m not that popular.” A cursory look at some predominantly white St. Louis city wards showed that they were also places where Claire was not all that popular. She wasted time and money on voters she admitted “have never and will never vote for me.”

Dems seem to be clueless about how to select and support candidates (particularly those of color), how to value and engage their constituents, or how to strategically counter the red steamroller coming at us.

Thanks to tone-deaf Democratic Party leaders, key seats are being lost all over the country. Missouri is now flaming red with a supermajority Republican state assembly and governor. Only the state auditor prevails as the sole statewide Democratic elected official.

Up-and-coming young, progressive candidates aren’t waiting around to kiss the ring of the Democratic Party. Check out winners like U.S. Rep-elect Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York), who ran a left, grassroots campaign, beat the incumbent Democrat and went on to become the youngest person elected to Congress at 29.

Tricks, statutes and laws have been put into place by the GOP to suppress the votes of the Democratic Party’s constituency, yet the Dems seem have no defense strategy. That trick the conservatives pulled in North Dakota was unconscionable – at the last minute, requiring physical addresses for all tribal voters instead of their traditional postal boxes.

Anyone could have predicted the Georgia secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp would suppress votes. The Georgia Democratic Party and the DNC should have been screaming to the next galaxy calling for his immediate recusal.

Voters want more democracy, not less. They want less corruption and more accountability. They want commitment to a political platform that includes the issues and values for their families and communities and not those of corporate interests.

The midterm elections show that we must build upon our strengths, re-charge and re-tool our strategy and tactics. We need to stay woke with a 2020 vision, figuratively and literally. Communities need to step back and think about how we’re going to advance political power in this current climate – with or without the Democratic Party.

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