In my article last week, I tried to take a brief look at the reasons why it is unacceptable to be complacent about anything happening in the political sphere. John McCain’s death could have been a return to civility in Washington, D.C.; however, it actually seems to have been a loss of the aforementioned civility.
To be honest, it’s frighteningly easy to dive deep into existential anxiety surrounding the future of the country and the world. It seems like any semblance of politicians honestly wanting to work and make things better has, for the most part, faded away, leaving us to watch the political theater play out on C-SPAN and Twitter.
There are good things happening in the world beyond the political spectrum, and I would love to spend an article acknowledging these things. “Black Panther” is on Netflix, Block 1 is almost over, and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is banned from Twitter. Hope is not an easy thing to come by in 2018. There is cause for it, though.
In states from Wisconsin to Florida, exciting and diverse progressive candidates with revolutionary platforms are gaining national recognition and seem to be worrying both the establishment Democratic party and the GOP.
I can’t say that a Bernie Sanders-type progressive candidate could easily win presidential office in 2020, but it is deeply within the realm of possibility for such candidates to capture the offices of governors, senators, and representatives. And it’s those positions that, arguably, produce more effective governance than that of the White House.
Let’s begin with campaigns for the state capitals in the South. In the entire country, 33 states have Republican governors. In Florida and Georgia, two Democrats are running campaigns reflective of bold new progressivism. Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, Fla., is the recent Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Gillum, campaigning on a platform of increasing corporate tax rates and legalizing marijuana to increase funding for public schools, gun reform, and strong stances on climate change and women’s rights, beat out the favored Democrats in the primary to go on to the statewide election. He didn’t spend much time ahead in the polls, but he is now on a national stage with the chance to become the first black governor of Florida. That’s not nothing.
Stacey Abrams, former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, also beat the establishment to win the Democratic nomination for governor of Georgia. She is focused on criminal justice reform, common sense gun reform, increasing affordable housing, strengthening the middle class, and protecting Georgia’s natural resources. She would be both the first female and the first black governor of Georgia.
That is something important and essential in the future of the Democratic Party – that it isn’t a party of white people. These two candidates are clearly no fluke, either. Gillum leads his opponent as of the most recent polling, and Abrams is tied.
Beto O’Rourke is a Democrat. He is running to fill the U.S. Senate seat of Ted Cruz, in Texas, a state thought of by many as one of the more secure red states in the country, where it’s all guns and border security and no room for progressive Democratic policies.
And yet, O’Rourke has visited every county in Texas and isn’t holding back on any of his positions. He isn’t trying to be a conservative Democrat to win in a conservative state; he’s an honest progressive politician, and he is currently neck and neck with the incumbent. As the summer wore on, Cruz steadily lost his lead over O’Rourke, and the race is now a toss-up. O’Rourke may well prove that you can win in Texas without taking any money from PACs, with his moral compass set straight and policies firmly Democratic.
My home state of New York is often a political hotbed, and this summer proved to be no exception. In June, we saw the stunning victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Joe Crawley in the Democratic primary for House District NY-14. Crawley was viewed as an entrenched incumbent with little chance of losing his seat, and Ocasio-Cortez’s victory has been hailed as a harbinger of things to come for the party. She is an unabashed democratic socialist, with little political experience but high ideals and a clear desire to make things better for her constituents and the country.
Also in New York, Cynthia Nixon, the former “Sex and the City” actress, has been making headlines with her challenge to incumbent Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo. To be frank, I’m hesitant about another TV star running for high office in this country, but Nixon has important ideas and is trying to use her privilege and her platform to improve the lives of those marginalized in the state of New York.
The Democratic Party is far from perfect. It is no well-oiled, progressive machine. The party’s organization and apparatus has lapsed in recent years, and it shows. The ire of the left has been energized into organizing progressive candidates like those mentioned above, among many, many others.
If print space would allow, I would share more examples and expand on the exciting and bold platforms laid out by the candidates above. It isn’t necessarily easy to remain optimistic in the face of what seems like the complete erosion of our nation’s highest ideals and the institutions of democracy. But it can be better, and there are people willing to fight for it to be improved. The folks discussed above are some of those people, and I hope that you are, too.