President Donald Trump is the manifestation of the dysfunction of the political processes in the United States—a dysfunction born out of the propertied class seeking disproportionate control over government to promote an agenda that favors their interests which is getting richer.
They are the owners of real estate and large corporations whose influence on the political process and governing was enormously enhanced by the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United which opened the floodgates for campaign financing. That they were able to push through enormous tax cuts for corporations through their proxies in the Republican Congress despite the overwhelming disfavor of the American public is testament to their hegemony.
There are signs that Democrats have been energized by what they have experienced in the short span of Trump’s time in the White House. The first sign was the Women’s March on the day of Trump’s inauguration. In last month’s elections in Virginia, Ralph Northam’s nine-point winning margin in the race for governor shocked the political punditry as did the Democrats flipping 15 seats in the House of Delegates; 12 of those 15 successful candidates were women, including Shelly Simonds who appeared to have won her seat by a single vote. The courts have since reversed that decision and she is now tied with her opponent. A coin flip could decide whether Republicans retain control or are forced to share power with Democrats.
Progressive-minded Democrats and independents combined for enough votes to elect Doug Jones as Alabama’s next senator and spared Republicans the inglorious plight of being the official party of pedophilia. There is much to unpack about this election before progressives become overly optimistic about what it portends for the future. This senatorial race featured a uniquely flawed candidate in Roy Moore and a very popular and astute candidate in Doug Jones who reached out effectively to black voters and to young voters. Those who followed the election closely know that Republicans across the board kept shooting themselves.
Black women played the decisive role in Jones’s victory in Alabama. They were nearly 60 percent of black voters who went to the polls in record numbers. Blacks comprised 29 percent of the total electorate, about the same as Barack Obama got in 2008 and slightly more than he received during his run for reelection in 2012. By comparison white women comprised 47 percent of white voters. They went solidly for Roy Moore, 63 percent to 35 percent for Jones.
Democrats received more good news this week from an NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll that showed the party with an 11-point edge in the generic congressional poll. When asked who would you like to see in control of Congress, 50 percent of respondents chose Democrats compared to 39 percent who chose Republicans. Additionally, Democrats held a 12-point leader among independents (43 – 31 percent), a 20-point lead among women (54 – 34 percent), and a whopping 48-point lead among voters 18 to 34 years old (69 – 21 percent).
It is too early for Democrats to get overly excited. November is a long way ahead and much can happen in a year. Republicans are right to talk about rigged elections. Many electoral districts, both state and federal, have been gerrymandered in their favor. While it is promising that coalitions rallied to score several key electoral successes, the party is far from a cohesive family. A contentious primary left bitter feelings among Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton supporters that more than likely contributed to her Electoral College loss as Bernie Sanders supporters stayed home or voted for a third-party candidate. The party must reconcile its socialist wing with its more moderate adherents. Perhaps instead of calling for Medicare for all, Democrats can unite around an idea of expanding Medicare that resonates with independents and the public. Maybe not free college for everyone, but certainly affordable college. And so on.
Democrats will be challenged to find policies and messaging that resonate across the board. This is no easy task. Republicans are more homogeneous with a solid base of older white voters. Democrats must appeal to diverse groups—progressive whites, African Americans, Latinos and younger voters. They cannot afford take any bloc for granted. But the traditional identity politics—appealing to different groups differently can appear to be patronizing and downright dishonest. Social workers voices and policy ideas need be in the public discourse. When the opportunity comes, what will we say?
Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D
Got Any Fresh Ideas? was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.