This was not an easy year. In many ways, it was tragic. But 2018 can be a historically great year — if we work to make it happen.
As we have seen in recent special elections, and as polls continue to show, we have the opportunity to ensure that 2017 was a turning point in American history, when the systemic inequities in our democracy were finally exposed to the mass public and the many wrongs began to be righted.
A recent CNN poll gave Democrats a whopping 18 point lead in the generic congressional ballot for the midterm election. Even if that’s an outlier, FiveThirtyEight finds that the Democrats have an average advantage of 12 points in the generic ballot, which would be the largest advantage held by any party since 1938.
At this rate, Democrats are favorites to take back the House of Representatives, and with strong candidates, the Senate. That would stop Trump’s agenda — the awful laws, the unqualified judges, the agencies stocked with lobbyists and idealogues — dead in its tracks.
Sure, gerrymandering, local politics, and the power of incumbency often give entrenched candidates an advantage that helps them overcome some level of national sentiment. But Doug Jones proved that no district is impossible for a Democrat to win when the base is motivated and the GOP candidate is exposed as a fraud. And it’s unlikely that the GOP — with its unpopular policies, the Mueller investigation, and Trump’s itchy Twitter finger — is going to see its position improve over the next 10 months.
So it’s up to us to keep the momentum going, and power great progressive candidates to victory. Not just on the national level, but as the Working Families Party has shown — and as was highlighted in the New York Times this week — on the most local levels, as well.
Congressional Candidate: Lauren Underwood for Illinois’s 14th District
Lauren Underwood is the sort of young, progressive, public service-oriented candidate that should be the core of a new Democratic Party.
A registered nurse, she worked as a senior advisor for President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, helping prepare the nation for outbreaks and implementing the Affordable Care Act.
Now, the 31-year-old teaches nurses in a Georgetown online course and works full-time for a Medicaid plan in Chicago, helping low-income families get the medical treatment they need. Plus, she was born with a heart condition, so any attempt to undo Obamacare is not just political to her — it’s personal.
Underwood is also focused on bringing down prescription drug costs and increasing access to health care, because as every progressive (or anyone who has used the American healthcare system) knows, Obamacare should have been just the start, not a highwater mark of universal health care.
For two decades, Illinois’s 14th Congressional district was represented by Dennis Hastert. We know how that turned out. A Democrat won the seat in a special election with help from hometown hero Barack Obama, but it’s been held since 2011 by a Republican named Randy Hultgren. The GOP’s hold on the district is no huge surprise; Obama’s 2008 election was the only time it voted for a Democrat in a presidential election this century.
But Trump only won it by four points last year, and this suburban Chicago district is the perfect example of a moderate, very flippable target. The Democratic primary for the district is in March, and Underwood is in a competitive five-way race. She gave a great quote to the Chicago Defender about why her candidacy is so important, beyond the issues she plans to pursue if elected:
- “It’s the gatekeeper’s comfort levels—by that I mean local party structures, traditional funders, their comfort levels with that kind of representation. Even in the Democratic party—that’s where I start to get angry. When you look traditionally at Democratic voters, at the core constituency of the party, what do you see? People of color, so why is there this active movement to keep our voices off the table?”
State Candidate: Ryan Torrens for Attorney General of Florida
As America continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, it’s become clear that politicians really have no clue how to discuss, let alone handle, the epidemic of addiction. Ryan Torrens, a 32-year-old consumer protection lawyer from Tampa, says he’s uniquely positioned to buck that trend — because he himself is an addict.
A sober and recovering alcoholic, Torrens understands the cycle of substance abuse, and is putting that experience — married with a legal career spent protecting citizens from big corporations — front and center in his campaign. If elected Attorney General, he promises to sue big pharmaceutical companies, which have made record profits off of pain drugs, and has already put together a task force on the addiction crisis.
As an attorney, he’s also been focused on battling foreclosures, which makes him the rare politician willing to stand up to both drug companies and banks.
Winning this race would be even sweeter, considering that he’s running against Pam Bondi. Why does that name sound familiar?
Back in 2013, Bondi solicited illegal campaign contributions from Trump’s “charity,” and got a sweetheart deal on office space at Mar-a-Lago. The payoff? She dropped Florida’s investigation into “Trump University,” which was sued by kids across the country for swindling them with a fraudulent “education.”
Other Attorneys General were not as openly corrupt as Bondi, and Trump wound up agreeing to pay a $25 million fine shortly before the election.
There could be no greater contrast between candidates than there is between Torrens and Bondi.