Less than a month out from Election Day, topline numbers look very good for Democrats in Virginia, as a number of exciting candidates, including several we’ve featured here, are poised to flip both houses of the legislature. Pundits will hail that as a bellwether for 2020, but to truly ensure a brighter (and bluer) future, we have to dig past the suburban seats already trending our way and listen to candidates like Beverly Harrison, who is running for Delegate in Virginia’s rural 15th district.
Progressive activists have spent the last two cycles pushing to have (good) Democratic candidates run for every office in every district in the country, a herculean task made that much more difficult by the fact that the party largely abandoned (and was driven out from) rural America over the last 40 years. The silver lining of the endless, obvious treachery of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, and their cabal of thieves is that it has inspired a record number of enthusiastic Democratic candidates, many of them first-timers. We consider these cheap local races to support, but we don’t always quite appreciate the high price paid by the candidates running in the ruby-red districts.
“The stakes are high out here. You’re going to lose friends, you’re going to be ostracized,” Harrison tells Progressives Everywhere. “You’re probably gonna get some hate mail and ridiculed if you lose. That probably happens in a lot of places, but in the country, where we all end up at the same Walmart or the Food Lion every day, it’s very personal. I have Republican supporters who will not publicly acknowledge they support me, nor will they put up a sign in their front yard. When you run for office, you’re putting your name out there.”
In Virginia, Democrats have a fantastic chance of flipping both chambers of the legislature this fall, with some excellent candidates running against the most vulnerable Republicans. But as with everywhere else, they shouldn’t be happy with narrow majorities. Good news: A handful of candidates in rural areas have teamed up to expand the map and give Democrats a real fighting chance of taking more seats, pooling their resources under the banner Rural GroundGame.
Elizabeth Alcorn is one of those candidates, running in the state House of Delegates’ 58th district. We spoke with her this week about her campaign.
Alcorn has spent her entire career, first as a dentist and now as a small farmer, involved in her community, volunteering her time and energy to addressing the problems plaguing rural America. She’s worked in endless medical clinics and advised Medicaid boards, providing services and expertise that addressed the symptoms of rapidly expanding economic and political stratification.
When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, Alcorn decided that instead of addressing the ongoing symptoms, she was going to step up and help cure the cause of the national illness head-on.
“When that happened, I understood exactly why it happened; it made perfect sense why he got elected,” Alcorn tells Progressives Everywhere. “I live in a rural area and rural America has been ignored by the Democratic Party for decades. Democrats have given up on rural America and that’s why Trump is in power. So I said, if we want to take our country back, we have to step up and be there and run for these offices.”
Right now, the holiday is frequently cast in a historic light, a day off from work to recognize the hard work and sacrifices made by steelworkers, factory grunts, railwaymen, immigrants, and other low skilled laborers who fought for their rights around the turn of the 20th century. And for much of the 1900s, that was just fine — unions had become mainstream, workers earned living wages, and the middle class flourished.
But the last four decades have shredded the lives guaranteed by those brave workers, and at this point, unless you’re a CEO or have the sort of money required to build vast underground bunkers, this Labor Day shouldn’t be a remembrance so much as a reminder of the existential fight we ‘re all in together.
Simply put: When the bosses — mostly rich conservative businessmen (like the late David Koch) — began to take over, the rest of us began to get poorer.
Income inequality has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, and the recovery from the 2008 recession has only underlined the gross disparity. The statistics are grim — even before the Trump tax scam, the top 1% of Americans took home a whopping 188 times more than the bottom 90%. This isn’t a matter of how we treat our most vulnerable so much as a horrifying reality about how hard it is for most of us to get ahead.
What do you call a group of ideologues that actively works to inflame radicals, arm them with weapons of war, and then put innocent people in the line of their hate-fueled fire?
Generally, you’d call them a terrorist organization. But at this point, even that term seems a bit too generous for Republicans and the NRA, because at least terrorists claim credit for their massacres.
Instead of showing any self-awareness or remorse, Republicans trotted out the same old “thoughts and prayers” pablum, blaming video games and politicization for the slaughters carried out by their followers.
It’s obvious that these cannot be shamed into even saying the right things, let alone doing them. So how do we end the madness? We take away their power. And while that sounds abstract and feels impossible, there are some concrete steps we can take right now to begin turning the tide against these cowardly gun nuts.
The first opportunity to make a difference is playing out in Colorado as we speak, where two brave Democrats are facing recall petitions from fringe right-wingers angry that they voted to pass several gun control laws. Democratic State Sens. Brittany Pettersen (SD-22) and Pete Lee (SD-11) are facing recall campaigns led by Republicans and groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners because they voted for a new red flag law that gives law enforcement the right to temporarily take guns away from people considered high risks to harm themselves and others.
There was a record surge of young voter turnout in 2018, in part because we have young grassroots leaders running for office across the country, providing a new wave of energy and fight. That wasn’t a fluke, either.
This spring, as I interviewed candidates running for the legislature in Virginia, I asked their staffers and other activists who else I should highlight. The answer was pretty unanimous: talk to Phil Hernandez, a young candidate from Virginia Beach running for the House of Delegates. It was a lot of hype, but he more than lived up to it.
In his early 30s, Hernandez has the sort of resume that could get him just about any high-paying corporate job he wanted. The first member of his family to graduate from college, he went on to work in the Obama White House, moving up to the Domestic Policy Council. He later went to law school at Berkeley and became a civil rights attorney, working on behalf of low-income tenants and fighting on behalf of other people facing discrimination. He used his policy know-how to develop a bill that would help tackle homelessness in the state and it was eventually signed into law by California Gov. Jerry Brown.
Instead of cashing in on his experience, Hernandez decided to move home to the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, and now he’s running to represent the 100th district in the House of Delegates. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation.