Since the national elections, it looks like Democrats, such as they are, will be primarily in reactive mode as they really have little control over what happens at the national level. There is the historical surge of resistance from the grassroots, which is very encouraging, but the question is how long will we be able to keep it up? Given the historic nature of our situation, maybe we can hang in there and prevail in the end! Don’t even consider it unless you personally are ready to make it your main objective. In looking forward to the 2018 midterms, we have both good and bad aspects to consider. On the bright side, we stand to gain as the minority party, and the Brand New Congress movement, inspired by the Sanders campaign, is encouraging and supporting a field of new progressive candidates. On the dark side, we have gerrymandered congressional districts that don’t flip very readily and a very lackluster Democratic Party that has done little to regain the trust of all those it alienated in the last presidential campaign. They may get a boost from the election of Tom Perez as new Party Chair, but many, like me, feel that the failure to elect Keith Ellison, the clear favorite of the progressive wing, is a sign of yet more dissembling and a refusal to defer to the new energy in the party. Given that Democrats generally have lower voter participation in midterm elections, this doesn’t bode well. As of now, the predictions, for what they’re worth, give even odds of retaking the Senate and almost no chance of retaking the House.
If the national level doesn’t look too promising, we have local and state governments to fall back on. The Constitution says that all powers not specifically given to the national government belong to the states (and, I would assume, cities). The sanctuary movement, which includes almost 200 cities and counties, and some states as well, is a sign that we are ready to flex our constitutional muscles.
We in Washington are in a good position to leverage some power under the Trump regime. We might get a little more bang for our buck tending our local political garden. If we paid attention to flipping just one state Senate seat, the Democrats could have control of both houses and the governorship. Would you like full funding for education, formation of a State Bank, a state-run, single-payer health care system, or creation of the green economy? We can do these things at the state level, Trump or no. We will still have to coerce the Demos into renewing the party, but we’re talking offense here now, not just defense. Another reason to win a legislative majority in 2018 is that that legislature will preside over redistricting national congressional districts in 2020. Rather than follow the usual program of shamelessly gerrymandering the districts in our favor, we should set up a nonpartisan citizen committee to do the redistricting. Judicious, even-handed legislators come from districts that are competitive and issues are actually discussed rather than railroaded through.
We need to apply some attention to all our state governments. The Republicans have been very diligent over the last 40 years, and their work has paid off. The Democrats have lost almost one thousand state legislative seats in the last three elections. As of 2014, The Republicans have control of more state legislatures than they have since the Civil War when Lincoln headed up the party. They control thirty-two legislatures and the Democrats only thirteen. The Republicans have a trifecta (control of both houses and governorship) in twenty-five states, Demos only six. The work that Republicans have put in to secure state control has resulted in congressional gerrymandering that has won them a virtually unassailable majority in the Congressional House of Representatives. That’s the same House that has held the entire US Government hostage for the last six years.
Another aspect of state control that our friends, the Koch brothers have been working on, is that state legislatures can initiate and pass amendments to the Constitution and call a Constitutional Convention in which they could change the very substance of the Constitution. How about enshrining special rights for corporations or removing the barrier between church and state or restricting voting rights to only people of property? With control of Congress and thirty-eight state legislatures, they could ride herd over us and change the Constitution to read like an ultra-right conservative’s fondest dream. It behooves us to give some attention to our state legislatures.
Still, as I have always said, to maintain local resilience in these trying times, our most important task is to nurture our local community and become more self-reliant and resourceful, both individually and communally.