A candidate most people have never heard of, in a state few people pay attention to, could help lead the way in changing the political trajectory of this country. David Garcia’s gubernatorial bid in Arizona offers a roadmap for rebuilding progressive power, a vehicle for galvanizing voters to flip Republican-held congressional seats this year and the White House in 2020, and the opportunity to bury the poisonous policies of a president who is callously crushing the moral foundation of our nation.
At a time when the president of the United States of America is ripping Mexican immigrant children from the arms of their parents and putting them in cages along the southern border, progressives can elect a Mexican-American father as the governor of a border state and send a powerful message about who we are as a nation and what we stand for as a people.
Since the 2016 election, much progressive attention has focused on the Midwestern states that Trump won and the white, working-class voters who overwhelmingly backed his candidacy (although it bears repeating that Trump did not win because large numbers of Democratic voters defected. The progressive vote splintered, and many progressives stayed home, allowing him to win the Electoral College). Many millions of dollars and untold hours of labor have already been invested in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Progressives such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren tout economic populism as the elixir to attract white working-class support. Other, more moderate Democrats such as Joe Biden and Congressman Tim Ryan emphasize the importance of “listening” and feeling the pain of aggrieved and resentful white, Midwestern voters.
Democrats should never have lost those states. And they must put in place the infrastructure to rebuild that blue wall that held for Obama and other Democratic presidential nominees in the past. But it is equally important to seize upon new opportunities to increase our chances of winning—not just now but into the future.
What Census and electoral data tells us is that the most promising regions in our country for future Democratic wins are in the South and Southwest, where the multiracial ranks of Democratic voters are growing faster than in any other part of the country. Last month, Georgia offered a powerful testimonial to the political possibilities of an unapologetically progressive and inspiring multiracial campaign when Stacey Abrams swept to victory in the gubernatorial primary, garnering more votes than any previous Georgia Democratic nominee in decades (more even than some guy named Jimmy Carter). The demographic and electoral trends in Arizona have created similar conditions for Garcia.
Often overlooked in 2016 election postmortems is the fact that Arizona was one of the most closely contested states in the country. Clinton lost by just 3.5 percent—coming closer than she did in Ohio, Iowa, and North Carolina, states that slid from the Democratic column after Obama had previously won them. Trump won by just 91,000 votes in Arizona, a state in which 600,000 Latinos who were eligible to vote didn’t cast ballots.