The Kavanaugh fight was a painful loss. We saw the legitimate concerns of survivors of sexual violence swept aside so that a far-right partisan could take a crucial Supreme Court seat. Folks are furious and exhausted from the psychic toll of the last few weeks, but there is no loss that can’t be overcome if we keep fighting. As the old labor slogan goes: Don’t mourn, organize.
Right now, we must channel every bit of energy on winning the midterms. If we win a big, broad victory on Election Day, we will have some power to hold the Republicans accountable. But right now, less than 30 days out, we need to take the passion and energy from the Kavanaugh fight, and refocus it on winning the election. We need to keep speaking out strongly for the rights of women, but we also need to have a message that gets back to the basic issues and themes that were winning so decisively just a couple of weeks ago.
Republicans are master manipulators, brilliant at using fear and lies to distract swing voters, and to motivate their angry, white-male base to vote. They are having an impact using those tactics, although they probably would have gotten their Trump-loving base voters to turn out regardless of the Kavanaugh fight. The question now is what the Democrats focus on to motivate their own base voters to turn out, and to appeal to undecided swing voters.
Democrats will win if (and only if) they do the following in the 2018 elections:
- Turn the passion of the Kavanaugh fight into voter turnout. All of the demonstrating has been enormously inspiring—now it is time to harness that energy to turn out the vote. Knock on doors, hit the phone banks, and reach out to your friends and family. That means a lot of conversations with folks who are not normally very engaged in politics and voting. Be patient with them; persuade them with facts; help them find their polling place; offer them a ride to the polls. All of these things will help us to win. Remember, the key factor that will decide this election is whether Democrats—and the demographic groups that trend heavily our way, including people of color, women, unmarried folks, and young people—turn out to vote.
- Talk to people about race and class. The way Democrats win elections is by having a message that works with both people of color and working-class white folks. Consider this report and corresponding handout, which we co-developed with Ian Haney Lopez and Anat Shenker Osorio for Demos: This message leads with race and class at the heart of its narrative. It says to people that whether white, black, or brown, a newcomer to America or someone whose family has been here for generations, we all want to build a better life for our families. Politicians like Trump are trying to divide us along racial lines, so that they can pick our pockets and give out benefits to insiders and the rich. If Democrats can convey that they will unite us rather than divide us, and want to help all working people by raising our wages and lowering our health-care costs, their constituents will listen. Every other economic issue can be addressed through this race/class lens.
- Talk to people about health care, especially women’s health care. Women activists have been impassioned ever since Trump got elected. From the Women’s March to the stunning surge of women running for offices at all levels to the Supreme Court fight, women have taken the lead. According to polling, the number-one issue all cycle for Democrats has been health care; can build the widest majority of women voters by homing in on that issue. This includes Roe v. Wade and protection from sexual violence, but it also includes access to decent health care and coverage for preexisting conditions.
- Reach out to young people on the issues that matter to them: climate change, student debt, mass incarceration, and our dysfunctional immigration system. Most young people are cynical about politics, but passionate about progressive issues that affect their lives. Democratic candidates need to focus in on the youth and let them know that they will actually deliver for them on these crucial issues.
- Actually drain the swamp. Despite his promises to drain it, Trump is the most corrupt toad in the DC swamp. But the system was corrupted by big money and insider favoritism long before Trump got to Washington. Voters have to believe that that we can combat cronyism, a deeply rooted cancer that allows the rich and powerful to do whatever they want to do and get whatever they want to get. From closing tax loopholes to holding sexual harassers and corporate polluters accountable, we need to make ending corruption a central priority of the next Congress. That will only happen if Democrats win majorities and create a check on Trump’s cronyism.
We have less than a month to go before Election Day. Democrats and progressives have had the edge in this election from the beginning of Trump’s presidency—not only because he is a terrible person, but also because the issues are on our side and our activists are fired up. We must be relentless in focusing that fury on voter turnout and persuasion. November is coming.