“Building the Next Wave”
“About 60 million people turned out to vote for Democrats for the House this year. That is a **crazy** number. (Republicans got 45m votes in the 2010 wave.)
And this was sort of missed. Why so many stories about Trump voters in truck stops and not so many about "the resistance”?”
– Nate Silver, Twitter thread, Nov. 18
First, let me apologize for the lack of Resistance Reports for the past two weeks. As I suspect may have happened with others, there were too many things needing attention that had been put on hold prior to the election. In this post I won’t try to cover everything that’s happened (thank goodness), but let’s look together at some broad trends.
Note the quote above. It’s important to realize and to say to others that the midterm election was an historic rejection of Trump and the Republican Party. The main media outlets, who have spent the last two years falling all over themselves to interview Trump voters in every diner of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, haven’t expressed the same interest in trying to find out what happened in this election. Don’t let their poor reporting throw you off. By any measure, the results were massive. Not only that, they were driven first and foremost by grassroots energy – by you and tens of thousands of others like you all over the country, including hundreds of new candidates elected to office.
“People who think that Dems can’t do much better in a presidential year like 2020 - in states they didn’t win this year - are not thinking about politics right. 2018 was the beginning of the power of the Resistance. Not the end.”
– Neera Tanden, Tweet, Nov. 18
Waves aren’t singular. We can make the next wave in 2020 even stronger – and we must. Part of the pain of the 2016 election was the fear that we were losing our country to madness. The ensuing capitulation of the Republican Party to Trump only deepened that fear. But the midterms showed us not only that we weren’t alone, but that we are in fact an overwhelming majority. This isn’t to minimize the danger of a third of the country being in the thrall of delusional propaganda and racism. But it is to say those of us rejecting Trump, Republican corruption, and white nationalism are a large majority. In a democracy, when the voting is fair, that means we win. And as Neera Tanden writes, above, this is just the beginning of our power.
Indivisible National has put out two new Guides: one for going on offense with Congress and one for the state level. They’re excellent and you should take the time to become familiar with them, as they give a clear picture of a significant part of our work going forward, now that we have the majority in the House and can introduce and move legislation forward. But there’s even more that we need to do.
Preparing the Ground
We also need to prepare the ground for the next election, both by holding the districts that we’ve won and by growing the conditions to flip other districts and states. For example, an enormous effort from all over Sonoma, the East Bay and San Francisco went into Josh Harder’s campaign in CA 10. He didn’t just win it on his own and he may well need support to cement his relationship with his constituents so that in 2020 they enthusiastically re-elect him.
Then there are the red districts that still need to flip. Audrey Denney, Jessica Morse and Andrew Janz were terrific candidates in CA 01, 04 and 22 respectively. And each improved dramatically on closing the gap from the 2016 election. Clinton’s margin in 2016 in District 1 was -19.4%. Denney’s was -9.7%, an improvement of 9.7%. Morse closed the gap in her district by 6.2%. And Janz trailed Devin Nunes by only 5.5%. Contrast that with the 35.2% margin of victory for Nunes in 2016.
All of these districts need sustained help building a Democratic presence and muscle and improving the local, grassroots “brand” of the party. Each of the above candidates was an excellent messenger for this brand: they were dedicated to caring for their constituents and running a government that serves the people. From this base, we can continue to help these and other districts grow and, next time, flip.
Making America Safe for Democracy
As movement, we also need to ensure that democracy can take place and survive. This isn’t a small matter: the Republicans can’t win fairly through elections in many places and they know it. So they cheat instead. Trump’s election was the biggest, most spectacular fraud, perpetrated by Russia. But it’s far from the only one. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp disenfranchised voters all over the state in order to win the race for governor against Stacey Abrams. The election was a travesty that made a mockery of democracy and of fairness. Abrams lost the election, but she isn’t done fighting back – she’s suing the state.
Republicans use the idea of “voter fraud”, ie people voting multiple times or when they’re not registered, to do things like purge voter rolls and to throw up roadblocks to voting, such as voter id requirements (which disproportionally discriminate against the poor). There are virtually no examples of such fraud taking place, but Republicans hammer on about it because it allows them to disenfranchise voters. It’s a smokescreen. However, now there actually is an election where the results are being held up by allegations of voter fraud. And it’s a Republican who appears to have committed the crime.
In North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, Republican candidate Mark Harris seemed to have won, with a little over 900 votes. However, there were statistical irregularities that caused the Board of Elections to hold off certifying the results. Now there are allegations that people were going to the houses of absentee voters and collecting their ballots, ostensibly to turn them in, which is illegal. The story gets even murkier from there, but suffice it to say, it appears to stink. If Harris is behind it, as alleged, he needs to be disqualified and probably jailed.
Meanwhile, up in Wisconsin and in Michigan, Democrats took the governorship and other state offices. So now, in their lame duck sessions, both legislatures – Republican-controlled – are planning to limit the governor’s power and rig other elements of the political process to retain control that the voters in their wisdom just took away from them.
Here’s the thing, folks. A democracy only works if people can vote, know that their vote is counted – and that the results of that vote will be respected. Republicans are deliberately cheating on each of those counts, all the while complaining about fraud that is completely bogus. They have to be stopped.
So another critical part of our work in the next wave needs to be ensuring the availability, integrity and viability of the vote. Some of that will need to come through lawsuits, but it also needs to come through teaching people about the meaning and value of their franchise. Fortunately, the first focus of the new Democratic House will be HR 1, a “message bill” to advance fairness in electoral funding and in elections.
Journalism In The Time of Lies
Finally, the press and media continue to largely fail to responsibly cover the Trumpublicans, in part because their journalistic traditions fail them in the face of outright lies. So another part of our work going forward needs to be focused on journalism. We can turn for inspiration to George Lakoff with his concept of the “truth sandwich”. Lakoff teaches us that repeating lies (for example, in headlines that begin, “Trump says…”) reinforces them through repetition. (Familiarity can fool the mind and seem like fact). Merely “fact-checking” them afterwards is ineffective, because the repetition has already happened. Instead, Lakoff recommends beginning with a statement of the truth. Next comes a paraphrase of the lie, not a direct repetition of it. Finally, the truth again. It’s important that the truth dominate.
It will take time to change journalistic culture, but we have to figure out how to do it. Many voters never dig beyond the headline or the soundbite. We can’t afford for them to be mislead.
And then there’s disinformation. It has become abundantly clear that Facebook is a bad actor that cannot and will not correct itself. Instead of trying to reform, it has attacked its critics using rightwing disinformation tactics. This is despicable. We desperately need new platforms and to kill FB off as soon as we possibly can.
Finally, there’s the “state-run media” of Fox, Sinclair and others. We ignore it at our peril. Last Spring we saw that boycotts can work against Fox. We need to find more ways to chip away at the disinformation sources the rightwing uses to such effect.
The Republicans continue to be in denial. It’s almost as if they don’t have a choice. They’ve tied themselves to Trump like sailors to a mast. Those who doubted him have resigned or lost. Many of those who remain are in very red districts and are blind to the fact that they’re a despised minority. Expect them, as well as Trump, to double down on their wildly unpopular white nationalist agenda.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t come a time, perhaps unexpectedly, when they abandon Trump anyway. He has become increasingly erratic, perhaps even ill, and will only come under greater attack in the days and weeks to come. Mueller is closing in and Democrats in the House will investigate the corruption that is everywhere around Trump. Trump will fight back blindly, because he can’t help himself, even if it dooms him.
It also doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll lose or that Trump won’t complete his authoritarian hold on power. Both are continuing dangers, as is the possibility that his lashing out will cause great damage. We have no choice but to push forward, strongly and resolute. We can hope that the Republicans have sown the seeds of their own destruction. And we can help them complete the process.
A marvelous aspect of the midterms was the number of new, young, diverse candidates who answered the call to serve our country. They’re an amazing crop and are driving a huge opportunity for us to remake our politics, returning us to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. They have the power not only to bring integrity and service, but also transparency and engagement to our politics.
And this is the power to transform – our party, our government and our country. To get a taste of how, follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes on Instagram and watch as she livestreams herself cooking dinner and answering questions about politics or as she posts a story about her first days in “Congress School”. Follow our new California Representatives. You’ll get a view into working together for our future that’s never been seen before. This is a tremendous start, full of so much potential. And it’s just the beginning.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.