The New Year has begun and, with that, a new Congress has been elected. Politically, the pendulum will swing to the left and to the right over and over again. While there is really no tri-fold brochure on how to politically navigate 2019, I will do my best to dispel a few myths that, if you are in the “Blue Bubble,” you might be tricked into believing. Full disclosure: while I vote majority Democratic, I have not always. Until 2012, I was a registered Republican. Does that mean I didn’t vote for Democrats before 2012? No… but it does mean I am able to see a few things that many in the bubble either cannot see or choose to keep in their blind spot.
MYTH: THE BLACK VOTE WILL ALWAYS BE DEMOCRATIC
This is a myth, and it is time that someone explained it in full detail. Last year, when Donald Trump had a room full of black supporters, the Democratic community did either one of two things. They either 1) mocked them, or 2) couldn’t believe that they were there unpaid. I took notice and was not in the least bit surprised. I am from the South Side of Chicago, where, growing up, all of my local elected officials were Democrats. My community was dilapidated. There was violence; violence so bad that in the summer I slept on the floor instead of my bed to avoid being shot by a stray bullet. There were drugs, gangs, and the worst thing was the lack of hope. For the most part, many folks in my community believed that this was simply the way it was and there was no way things were going to get better.
Cut to moving from Chicago in 2007 to the suburb of Naperville, IL. A little about Naperville: in 2010 it was ranked the wealthiest city in the Midwest by personal finance website NerdWallet, and the eleventh in the nation. It has consistently been ranked as one of the best places to live and one of the best places to raise a family by publications like USA Today and Business Insider. With that said, when I moved to Naperville it was red. Naperville is a part of DuPage County, which has long been regarded as a bastion of suburban conservatism. As the values of the Republican Party began to move quickly and rapidly to the far right, I was abandoned. I have always been socially liberal (far more socially liberal than most Democrats) and fiscally conservative (far more fiscally conservative than most Republicans). I began speaking with more local Democrats, who, in this area, tended to be well-intentioned middle-class white residents. The one phrase I heard the most was, “We have to vote Democratic because the Republicans are horrible.”
Many of these white liberals could not understand why anyone would vote Republican, especially a black person. To that I explained my community, where I had come from. The problem with this myth is that it is partially true, yes, black people will more than likely always vote for Democrats… WHEN WE VOTE. That is the glaring part of the story that many will overlook. Black voters are actively choosing not to vote. As tragic as this is, this is still not the trend that Democrats need to worry about in 2020. The trend that we need to concern ourselves with is that black voters, when they do vote, are opting to vote Republican. Despite his behavior and policies, Trump has an approval rating of about 20% among black voters, per a NAACP poll.
As you read this, you’re probably wondering how that is possible. In contrast with the past, many of the urban black voters are moving to suburbia. We are noticing the way in which things are different; not all good or bad, but different. White voters who urge, “But the Republicans are worse,” have never lived in the inner city. The message needs to be a visible showing of what the candidate can provide for the community that is not being provided currently. The “Republicans are bad” routine no longer works in many areas. Democrats like to pride themselves as the party of diversity, yet in politics, especially locally, many of the Democratic organizations are white. For a period of time, I served as the Program Director for the Democratic Party of DuPage County. I was the only person of color in the room, and eventually systemic racism and bigotry pushed me out. Many black people who have entered the realm of politics have experienced similar situations at the hands of Democrats.
Moving into 2019, when trying to get the black vote out, we need stick to the qualities and platform of the candidates instead of demonizing all Republicans. And this final warning is for those who consider themselves Progressives: there is NO NEED to completely demolish candidates of color. I have been privy to some of these chats and I have with my own ears heard the attacks on Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker alike. This is not the way to win over black voters. Let’s get out the black vote by creating an environment of inclusion. And, while we are at it, let’s continue to thank black women, the most loyal Democratic voters in the country.
MYTH: DONALD TRUMP IS DOING HORRIBLY
While many of us in the Democratic Party are astounded daily by the acts of Donald Trump, the myth that all Americans think he is doing horribly must be addressed. The myth that only “Trump Supporters” will vote for him in 2020 also needs to be addressed. For the duration of this section, let us subtract his rabid base. As of December of 2018, Trump’s approval rating is at 39%. That does indeed seem horrible, right? Here in the United States we have this tricky little thing called the Electoral College. The only way to really look at the approval rating is to break it down by state. I went to “Morning Consult” to review the approval numbers by state, and what I found was the following numbers from October of 2018:
- FL: 49% APPROVAL
- OH: 48% APPROVAL
- PA: 46% APPROVAL
- WI: 43% APPROVAL
- MI: 43% APPROVAL
Why is this important? This means, if we continue with the narrative that, due to his low approval rating, a win will be easy, we will lose. Whomever our Democratic candidate is will need to connect with the voters in these states. Not only will they need to connect with voters, but they will need to energize the non-voters. Voters want to vote FOR someone, not against anyone. We cannot rest on the fact, that per popular opinion, Trump is failing. Instead, we need to deliver a message that our new candidate is someone worthy of our vote.
MYTH: THE BLUE WAVE IS STRONG
I for one hate, literally hate, the term “Blue Wave.” To me, it feels like the Democrats are going to come in and take over, and that will lead and neglect those who are not on our side. This is wrong. When Democrats are elected to federal office, for the most part, we tend to govern for everyone. We tend to think about those who are different from ourselves. That is what I truly believe makes us Democrats. I am a big believer in the “American Wave”: the wave of candidates who put people over party, and want to govern and legislate for everyone. That is what will get more Democrats elected. Our messaging needs to stress our platforms and ideas.
I look at recently elected Dems, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as an example of this. She had a platform and used it. On her way to Washington she called out the status quo of BOTH parties. America isn’t as divided as the media would have us believe. Yes, both parties tend to want to do things a little differently, but at their core, there are a few common threads. Over 70% of Americans believe that the wealthiest Americans should pay more taxes. Over 80% believe it is critical to uphold and save Social Security. Currently, the Democratic Party is the party pushing for these goals, even though these goals appeal to voters on both sides of the aisle. In my district, we recently elected a new representative, my friend and fellow Democrat, Sean Casten. He ran his campaign as someone who, if elected, would work for the district and not just Democrats. Guess what? He won. The Blue Wave is strong to us in the Blue Bubble, but we must reach out to those who are not in the bubble.
Why am I writing this article? Leading up to the election of Donald Trump on November 9, 2016, I paid no attention to my blind spot, and ended up under a box of wine and tissues for upwards of three days. I don’t ever want to encounter that kind of defeat again. As stated earlier, I believe we are headed in the wrong direction and we will need all hands on deck to fix it. The key to winning is being able to see the political battlefield from all aspects and form good offensive and defensive strategies. Let’s get out there and give ‘em hell!