Tuesday’s election in Alabama came as a welcome surprise for Democrats. For the first time in a quarter century, the state is sending a Democrat to the Senate. But beyond this win, what does this surprise triumph tell us about the future of the Democratic Party, the strategies we should be employing going forward and where we should spend our resources?
Working together, the diverse coalitions in the Democratic Party are a force.
A widespread diverse coalition led by black voters—especially black women—are responsible for Doug Jones’ win on Tuesday. An astounding 97 percent of black women and 93 percent of black men pulled the lever for Democrat Doug Jones. What’s more, the turnout among black voters in certain areas was as high as we’ve seen since the 2008 presidential election. That group of voters, joined by millennials and older white liberals pulled a surprise upset in a state that usually goes for Republicans by more than 20 points. And just as much as Tuesday’s win is emblematic of widespread disgust for the Republican candidate Roy Moore—an accused child molester—it’s indicative of the previously untapped Democratic enthusiasm in the South. This excitement is something that Democrats would be wise to further tap into and grow.
Black women voters led the way in Alabama. Black women candidates can lead the way in the South.
Black women made their voices heard, and now we all need to make sure they have seats at the table where the most important decisions are being made. We need to celebrate the power of black women voters, but we also need to recruit them to run for office and support their campaigns to win up and down the ballot. Democrats should be investing as many resources as they can in turning black women voters into black women candidates. That’s how we get equal representation in the South and power the resistance.
Black voters – and particularly black women – who showed up at the polls in record numbers are the reason Democrats are celebrating this week. Republicans already field terrible candidates like Roy Moore all over the place in the South, so if we can convert some of those voters into candidates, as well as recruit and train other good candidates to run, we can replicate the Jones win at all levels.
When Democrats invest resources in the South, it pays dividends.
Even prior to Tuesday’s election, Emerge America recognized the incredible potential that exists in the South. This year alone, Emerge America, my organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, launched affiliates in Alabama, Louisiana and South Carolina and established organizing committees in Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and Texas. Moreover, we have existing affiliates in Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. Our affiliates are on the forefront of recruiting the next wave of Democratic women to take back power in the South at all levels—and it’s already working.
This year, Emerge Virginia alumnae were responsible for flipping nine of the 15 seats that Democrats gained in the Virginia House of Delegates, including the first Latinas, one of the first Asian American women and the first out lesbian in the House and the first out transgender woman ever elected to a state legislature. In Georgia, Emerge boot camp alum Deborah Gonzalez flipped a state House seat, helping to end the Republican supermajority in that body. And just last week, Emerge boot camp alum Jen Jordan won her special election race for the Georgia State Senate, flipping a seat blue and ending the GOP supermajority in that chamber too. When we’ve put resources towards Democratic women in the South, we’ve seen results.
In the recent past, the Democratic Party had all but written off the South as a lost cause. Perhaps Tuesday’s election and the other wins we’ve seen this year will show them that there is ample reason to reinvest.
Democrats should be running and winning everywhere.
Winning in Alabama proved once more that Democrats can’t leave a single race in the country uncontested. We have a huge opportunity in 2018 to take back power at all levels of government in states across the country and we should seize upon it. Next year, all of the House of Representatives, eight Republican-held Senate seats and 26 Republican-held governorships (and one Independent) are up for grabs, not to mention the hundreds of state and local races that will take place across the country. It’s up to Democrats to make sure they are fielding candidates in every single one of these races, from school board to city council, state legislatures to Congress and governorships. This is the moment when Democrats can take back power at every single level of government and build a deep bench and pipeline of qualified candidates that will last a generation.
Tuesday’s election proved once and for all that Democrats can win in the South. We can win in the Midwest. In the North. We can win anywhere and everywhere. And we should.