Sole Strategies Director says Democrats overlooked the most impactful ways to shape the Midterms
By Amani Wells-Onyioha, Sole Strategies Director
An Opportunity Lost?
The past decade in America has been one of massive change, upheaval, and political division. Never before in recent history has our very democracy been so challenged. Many progressive voters have been left feeling as if they are screaming into the void, begging for candidates to step up and meet the litany of challenges we face as a country head-on. As the midterm elections loom and heated contests are fought in the public arena, this feeling of being left wanting is abundantly clear. Democrats have positioned themselves as the pro-gun control, pro-choice, and anti-voter suppression option. However, when the time comes for real action, they have fallen short. Unsurprisingly, progressives are not excited about their candidates or the election. A recent poll published by NBC News shows enthusiasm for candidates coming into the midterms is higher among Republicans.
Millions have already hit the polls this week as early voting opened in many states. Leaders on the front lines of the political process are urging Democrats not to overlook their best opportunities. Democrats want their chosen candidates to put their proverbial money where their mouths are and act, fulfilling promises they have touted on the campaign trail.
Lives at Stake
Democrat leaders fail to understand the need for a sense of urgency in this moment. With voting rights, abortion rights, and LGBTQIA+ rights on the chopping block in many states, lives are at stake. If black people do not have access to voting, where does that leave black citizens? If women do not have bodily autonomy, where does that leave women in the United States? Supposing the current iteration of the Republican party has its way, we will revert to the United States of the 1950s, a time when only cis white males held power, influence, or control over their own destinies.
The way Democratic leaders are currently operating, they are still walking on eggshells trying not to offend Republicans. Meanwhile, their constituents are left behind, offended at the genuine possibility that our lives as we know it could be coming to an end.
What Progressive Voters Want
Currently, poll numbers are taking a disappointing turn for the Left in many of the most hotly contested races in the country. In a recent University of Florida poll, controversial Florida Governor Ron DeSantis led Democratic opponent Charlie Crist by double digits. He has outspent and out advertised Crist at every turn. The same poll returned information that a staggering 19% of respondents felt Donald Trump won the 2020 election, showcasing the amount of disinformation and all-out blind devotion to a lie the Left has to overcome this midterm.
The problem comes with the Democrat’s history of inaction and backing down. Those who vote Democrat are urging their candidates to act and, more often than not, being met with disappointment, excuses, and unfulfilled promises. Democrat voters need to see real, concrete action and specific policies going forward. They need to know that their chosen candidates not only believe in their platforms but have actionable, step-by-step plans. For example, a candidate may espouse that they “love the gay community”, but what are they doing to stop the dozens of anti-gay and anti-trans bills being introduced across the nation? With regard to the Black vote, Democrats need to give black voters tangible, life altering benefits in exchange for their vote. The protection of voting rights, a fifteen dollar minimum wage, and police reform would be a good place to start.
The current Democratic Party messaging can be described as nothing less than milquetoast. They are currently, collectively, going into 2024 running on campaigns of Covid relief checks, the January 6th hearings, and a “Thank You for Democracy” platform. This weak approach to the historic turbulence we are currently experiencing has left voters frustrated, wondering aloud, “What are you planning to do about all of this?” as they gesture wildly at the constant barrage of turmoil.
Inaction does not scream “leadership” to voters. It is certainly not a Presidential approach. Without a strong sense of urgency and concrete, actionable plans, we stand to give the country over to an authoritarian oligarchy after November 8th. Republicans vying for coveted Senate seats are already promising to upend social security and attempt to strip marriage rights for the LGBTQ community. If their ending of Roe v. Wade is any indication, they will not hesitate to act on those threats.
Standouts Amid Inaction
While there has been a history of a lot of talk and minimal action in the Democratic Party, there have been some outliers poised to seriously change the nation’s trajectory if given the room and power to do so.
Beto O’Rourke has stepped up and shown to be a formidable force to be reckoned with in the Democratic party. After the Uvalde shootings, he took Texas Governor Greg Abbott to task for his own inaction with gun control. Everyone who saw the video of O’Rourke confronting Governor Abbott and his panel of gun-rights apologists witnessed firsthand an example of what more progressive candidates need to be doing. In a recent poll ahead of the midterm election, O’Rourke still lagged 4-points behind incumbent Abbott. However, it is a tight race, and Texan voters are motivated.
John Fetterman, current Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania and candidate for the Senate running against Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz is another example of a Democratic outlier. He bills himself as not the typical candidate and lives this day in and out as he works for the people of Pennsylvania. He was one of the first politicians to support legalizing marijuana, was at the forefront of gay marriage rights, and is a vocal proponent of single-payer healthcare. After suffering a stroke several months back, he has struggled to overcome what can only be deemed as bullying from his GOP opponent, but still holds strong favor among constituents in his state.
While there are examples of strong Democratic candidates willing to create plans and act upon them, they are not nearly plentiful enough to stand against the often loud and forceful Far Right.
Taking to the Streets
Canvassing is the most strategic and targeted method of reaching voters. Those who have pounded the pavement and put their steps in for their campaigns in the past have seen positive results. Direct conversations with voters may have a massive impact on this midterm election. But we aren’t seeing enough of that from the Left.
Many Democratic voters are rightfully fearful about the future of our democracy and our country as a whole. Large swathes of voters are terrified that their rights will be stripped away. We live in dark and disturbing times, and if there was ever a time when a country needed a hero, it is now. Democrats need to act aggressively, talk less, act more, get face-to-face, and make bold moves without fear if we hope to save our democracy and the country as we know it.
Amani Wells-Onyioha is a political expert, civil rights advocate, and thought leader. Working with Sole Strategies as their operations director, she is the engine behind progressive candidates seeking to uplift underrepresented communities.
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