This November 2017, the state of Virginia has a great opportunity to elect Ralph Northam for Governor and build a majority in the state legislature. This in turn will create an example of how other national and state elections can repeat the success. To get to this point for progressives, we must analyze a few key factors to develop a winning political strategy.
KNOWN FACT: Trump did not win the national popular vote. Further, his margins of victory were dismal in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania -- less than 0.5%. We know that this was merely due to thousands of registered democrats in those states not showing up to the polls or them being diverted to protest for Johnson or Stein. It is also clear that voter turnout in red states, like Arizona or Texas, was worse for Trump than for the past two Republican presidential candidates. And yes, we now know that according to America's intelligence community, the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 Presidential election. For these reasons, and Trump’s poor presidential performance thus far, we must maintain our fight for "resistance," and continue to "re-litigate," with much help from the media, the 2016 election.
Let’s be clear. There is abundant evidence pointing to the direction of "collusion" by Trump's campaign and "Russian interference" in our election. How far it reaches – if to the level of an impeachable offense – is a matter of due process. In addition, there is growing evidence of potential "obstruction of justice" by the President into the current investigations. And, there are hundreds of hints suggesting conflicts of interest between the Trump family business and his job as president. This interference involves, among other things, likely financial connections with Russia and Trump’s "opaque" businesses.
Despite these offenses, impeachment of a sitting President is a political judgement, more than a legal one. And, given today’s congressional political climate, there might be great challenges for an impeachment to occur. Not to mention, if Trump is impeached, this would lead to a Pence presidency – a much more ideologically driven and dogmatic politician, with beliefs far distant from the majority of Americans. Comparatively, Vice President Pence is an institutional and democratic leader, while Trump embraces "neo-authoritarianism,” essentially leaving the real work to those competent in the field of psychology or psychiatrics.
Accordingly, does it make sense to brand "impeachment" and "resistance" the center of the political strategy to regain power? I see the merits of "resistance tactics" to prevent the extreme, such as the possibility of passing Trumpcare 3.0. I do agree that Congress should make Trump accountable for his affair with the wealthiest in America. However, for an impeachment to occur, Democrats need to be in the majority in Congress. Resistance alone, or the prospects of impeachment, are banking on the actions by others, namely republicans.
Democrats need to convert the popular vote majority we uphold, into seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Furthermore, Democrats need to gain control of the state assemblies where the two biggest threats to democracy are emerging due to voter suppression and gerrymandering. Alternatively, we need to elect governors who will veto every piece of legislation that could reverse our civil rights, like Governor Terry McAuliffe has done approximately 111 times in Virginia.
Democrats need a proactive strategy. We need a message about what we want to do in America and for Americans. We need to push for legislation that will unveil who really cares for the working class and Rural America. Let’s start with Congress voting on legislation to raise the minimum wage, similar to California’s plan to increase federal minimum hourly wages to $15 over the next four years. We should also create specific legislation that will advance the foundation provide by the ACA, policies that will improve what’s necessary to make sure our seniors, working class, and those in need will receive the quality healthcare that they deserve. For example, Senator Sanders has presented legislation to allow imports of prescription medicine from Canada, which will drive down costs to patients significantly. However, the U.S. Senate introduced a bill that doesn’t even mention the word “woman.” How could they neglect such a vital aspect?
During the 2016 presidential election cycle, the U.S. saw how ballot initiatives on raising wages or introducing gun control to prevent violence and crime in our communities won the majority of the vote. However, how was it possible that the candidates whom stood for those issues lost their elections? In part, the reason is negative campaigning, instead of communicating and organizing coalitions beyond political parties, with independent voters who care for those issues.
It is well over time to move from resistance to action, from being in the defensive to rolling out an offensive. We must communicate how the lives of working Americans, the middle class, and those most vulnerable matter. And, we must move beyond traditional partisan politics and coalitions, and activate independents whose aspirations would be better served with the ideas, laws and policies of Democrats. Also, we need to go local the message, issues and policies. We need to listen and develop progressive common sense responses that can be carried by local and state governments, we also need to find common ground with those who have good ideas to solve those problems.
This strategy will move our country forward and better the chances of electing Ralph Northam for Governor of the state of Virginia. Building a majority in the state legislature would not only stop the bigotry reigning in the DC-VA corridor, it will signal a path to reclaim a Senate majority in 2018.
We cannot win, of course, by negatively campaigning against Trump or making Russia and a potential impeachment the central theme in our narrative.
The message in this Virginia governor’s race should be about hope and what the people need, preserving the economic and social progress we have made under President Obama, and fixing what needs fixing with specific proposals to mobilize the majority of the people.
Let's make Virginia the case to replicate nation-wide in 2018 and 2020. Building a majority, empowering and mobilizing a broad coalition, and public engagement with a positive policy message is the winning strategy. This will not only benefit the Democratic Party, but it will bring progress for our nation to move forward.