Grassroots organizing has netted victories in a number of state and local elections, including recent elections in New Hampshire, New York, and Illinois. Here’s a rundown:
Wins in Illinois Local Elections
This April, HuffPost reported, “Democrats In Illinois Just Unseated A Whole Bunch Of Republicans.” From the report:
- The city of Kankakee elected its first African-American, Democratic mayor.
- West Deerfield Township will be led entirely by Democrats for the first time.
- Elgin Township voted for “a complete changeover,” flipping to an all-Democratic board.
- Normal Township elected Democratic supervisors and trustees to run its board ― the first time in more than 100 years that a single Democrat has held a seat.
Each of the winning candidates benefited from a initiative by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), Build The Bench. (Read more about Rep. Bustos’ Build the Bench initiative here.)
State Legislature Wins in New Hampshire and New York
New Hampshire Democratic Party Headline: NH Democrat first in nation to flip seat from red to blue. From the report:
New Hampshire Democrat Edie DesMarais won a special election state House seat previously held by a Republican. In doing so, DesMarais became the first candidate in the country to flip a federal or state legislative seat from red to blue. DesMarais also became the first ever Democrat elected in Wolfeboro.
New York Times Headline: New York Democrats See Special Election Win as Good Sign for ’18. From the article:
There were two special legislative elections in New York on Tuesday, both won by Democrats. The outcome of one was a foregone conclusion, the other an utter surprise — especially given the convincing margin of victory by the Democrat, Christine Pellegrino.
Ms. Pellegrino defeated her Republican opponent, Tom Gargiulo, in the Ninth Assembly District on Long Island, 58 percent to 42 percent, even though the district is heavily Republican and President Trump won it with 60 percent of the vote.
Hudson Valley Wins
And don’t forget the local wins right here in the Hudson Valley we reported earlier here.
How much does this matter? It matters BIG TIME. Political scholar Theda Skocpol, who has closely studied the Tea Party movement and is a strong proponent of the Indivisible movement, recently offered four lessons from the Tea Party movement. Here’s Lesson 1:
Engage in state elections and party politics.
About 900 grass-roots tea party groups were active in 2009 and 2010. Many of these local activists were very politically sophisticated. Tea party groups followed local politics closely, and their members showed up at school boards, town meetings, and state legislature hearings when issues they cared about were up for debate. Even when activists held very inaccurate views of actual policies . . . they knew how to navigate our political institutions to have a real impact on policymaking.
This is particularly relevant for activists on the left, who sometimes suffer from the opposite problem: a high level of policy knowledge with a naive vision of politics. In recent years, Democrats have tended to focus on the federal government and especially the presidency, neglecting the state and local races that have huge effects on whether and how policies get implemented.
This is one reason liberals have been losing. . . .
The tea party activists we met had a pragmatic relationship with the Republican Party. Tea party activists were mostly very conservative Republicans, and were often disgusted by their own politicians’ compromises. However, that disgust did not turn tea party members away from the party; instead, it strengthened their motivation to engage in party processes. . . .
What this suggests for activists is that power comes from engaging with the political process at all levels. States’ power will matter in the Trump era on everything from environmental regulation to immigration enforcement. The major political parties are institutions through which activists can assert themselves.
These local and state election wins demonstrate that, now, we’re the ones who have momentum. Let’s keep it going!