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Stay Angry and Other Lessons of the Midterms

Don Rose 13 November 2018 One Comment

The most potent organizing force for Democrats’ success in the midterms was obviously Donald Trump, who inspired hundreds of thousands of previously uninvolved people to organize and vote–against him via his congressional stooges.

    Granted there was much to mourn last Tuesday, but, on balance, the glass is more than half full.  A good deal  of the credit goes to the largely unsung newly organized groups of the Resistance.  Operating under the rubrics of Indivisible, Women’s March, Blue Beginnings and a host of others here in Illinois and across the country, they made the difference in many of the evening’s many victories.


   Special kudos to Leah Greenberg, Ezra Levin, Jeremy Haile and Angelo Padilla, former congressional staffers who conceived of Indivisible as a progressive alternative to the Tea Party, and published a 23-page online handbook on how to organize locally.

   Many of the organizations sprung up spontaneously even before Indivisible emerged–some simply from groups of friends and neighbors horrified by the Orange Menace’s upset victory. They eventually  targeted their local Republican congressmen, or, in cities where the congresspeople were all Democrats, nearby Red districts deemed flippable.

   Nationwide more than 35 seats were flipped. In Illinois the volunteer groups–working with the regular Democrats and candidate organizations–played important roles in the victories of Sean Casten  (6th) and the remarkable Lauren Underwood (14th) in suburban Chicago.

  I spoke to several of those groups in their formative days and urged them above all to “stay angry” over the course of the 20 months leading up to the elections. They did–and delivered.

   Now I say “stay angry” again for the big showdown in 2020. Remember: Barack Obama lost 67 seats in the 2010 midterms and was still re-elected.

   Please note, in 2010 Republicans won the total popular congressional vote by 7 percent; this year the Dems won by a similar margin but flipped just a bit more than half the seats. That’s because of gerrymandering. That’s why gaining 7 governors and winning majorities in 7 state legislative bodies is so valuable.

    Holding governorships is helpful in presidential elections–and Blues won three important states that went to Trump. Beating Wisconsin’s Walker was especially sweet. Further, winning governorships and legislative houses guarantees Dems won’t be as badly gerrymandered in the 2020s.

    Other hopeful signs from the exit polls:

    The much sneered-at youth and millennial cohort actually came out in good numbers–becoming as much as 30 percent of the vote against less than 20 percent previously–and went overwhelmingly Democratic.

   Big surprise: the age 65-plus cohort split 50 percent GOP to 49 percent Democrat–closing a previous Republican advantage of as much as 15 percent. Old white folks like me did better than ever. Hope they stay angry.

   But the large margin of some of the Democratic senate losses and the inability to flip Ohio and (probably) Florida suggests that Trump and his message of xenophobic hate still resonate in much of America, where racism and anti-Semitism still live. Not saying that about all Republicans by any means, but our great cultural divide has not been bridged..

   Stay angry.

Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer

One Comment »

  • Maynard G. Keynes said:

    Nothing says “Many of the organizations sprung up spontaneously” like JB Pritzker spending $170 Million to get out the vote. Republican Congressional candidates in Illinois were outspent 2:1.

    Nothing even close to spontaneity here. Just Dems buying elections.

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