The Trump-Republican stranglehold on all branches of the federal government and many state governments including Michigan and Wisconsin has been loosened. The people, determined, delivered the largest turnover in Congress since Watergate. Democrats picked up 38 seats in the House. More than 60% of the new majority are women, people of color and LGBTQ.
While the Senate majority remains in Republican hands, 12 million more people voted Democrat than Republican, reflecting the inequities of that body of Congress. The record breaking outpouring of voters old and new in all their diversity made history. All the strategizing, organizing, educating, joining with others, door knocking, phone calling and plain hard work made the difference.
The political dynamics in our country are changing
Of course all the crowds were not coming out to refute Trump’s policies. Plenty were coming to support. But the lion share of votes cast across the country in this election were on the Democratic line. Trump’s demagogic white supremacy, immigrant bashing and misogyny did not prevail overall. Although Trump and the extremist right-wing, with millions poured into dark money ads, were able to mobilize their base, it didn’t match the massive outpouring of the resistance.
The political dynamics in our country are changing.
Just four days after the devastating shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue that killed 11 neighbors, voters in Pittsburgh, in the eye of the storm, turned out in record numbers to repudiate antisemitism and the NRA and save their health care, rising against the fascist danger. They were voting in newly drawn districts after the courts declared the gerrymandered lines illegal. The Pennsylvania delegation had been 10 Republicans, 6 Democrats, all men. On election day the voters chose 9 Democrats including four women, “the fab four,” two of whom are Democratic Socialists.
The resistance that produced this election has been growing steadily, starting with the Women’s March, then the rallies opposing the Muslim Ban, to protect the Affordable Care Act, the teachers strikes, the Poor People’s Campaign, union organizing victories, protests of deportations and family separation, protests of mass shootings and killings of Black youth, the #Me Too movement, opposition to Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the endangered Mueller investigation and more. New groups like Indivisible, March for Our Lives, and the Women’s March are among those who have organized grass roots networks around the country along with Planned Parenthood, ACLU, Move On and Our Revolution.
The crisis in the country propelled many to run
The crisis in the country propelled many to run who had never considered doing that before, including many women and people of color for local, state and federal offices. They won in primaries in Democratic held districts as well as flipping Republican districts.
Of special note are the U.S. Senate victories in Nevada of Unite Here union sister Jacky Rosen who defeated anti-union zealot Dean Heller and in Arizona of Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema the first bi-sexual member of Congress who defeated Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally.
In the South, Stacey Abrams and Andrew Gillum came within razor thin margins of becoming the first African American governors of Georgia and Florida. Had every eligible person been able to cast their ballot and have it counted both would have won, as would Bill Nelson for Senate in Florida.
In Atlanta when a 90 year old civil rights worker who always voted at the same poll was told there was no record of her on the rolls, the tearful and fierce video made by her daughter went viral.
Stacey Abrams, who would have been the first Black woman Governor in our country’s history gave a powerful address concluding her historic campaign. She did not concede to the corrupt Brian Kemp, but vowed to campaign for former Rep. John Barrow for Secretary of State in the December 4 runoff election. She announced the formation of a new organization, Fair Fight Georgia, dedicated to the restoration of voting rights, a welcome contribution toward democracy in Georgia and the nation.
Since 2016 a lot has been learned about how various methods of voter suppression have been the vehicle to turn elections toward the corporate right-wing, and how Trump effectively stole the election. This is a national battle. In Florida 1.5 million people will be able to get their right to vote restored with the passage of Question 4 to restore voting rights to former felons. In Michigan two referendum questions that expand voting rights regarding redistricting and automatic registration were passed. In Maine Ranked Choice Voting in use for the first time expanded the voting process and resulted in Democrat Jared Golden defeating a Republican incumbent.
One of the first orders of business in the new Democratic controlled U.S. House of Representatives will be restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act.In Mississippi, African American former Congressman Mike Espy is in a November 27 runoff election for US Senate against a Republican opponent whose shocking remark about public hangings exposed the impact of institutionalized racism in the campaign.
The historic and inspiring diversity of candidates in this election, who won despite gerrymandering and voter suppression, includes the first two Muslim women in Congress, the first two Native American women in Congress, the first African American women from Massachusetts and Connecticut, the first Latina Governor in New Mexico to name a few. They are reshaping politics .
In counterpoint to the rise of racist terror under Trump, nine of the new Congressional Black Congress members were elected from districts where the majority of the population is white. For the first time the Congressional Black Caucus is over 50 members.
Connecting elections to mass working-class movements
Our Party understood the danger of the Trump Republican stranglehold from the start, and the need for broad unity. This is the basis of our strategic policy of connecting elections with building mass working-class movements. We also understood the significance and contributions of the core forces for social change within the working class, of which the Communist Party is a part, as key to all progress, including moving those white workers who have voted against their interests.
Union members, African American, Latino, Asian Pacific Island, Native American, women and youth, on the front line of attack, trend more progressive in their voting patterns historically. Black women have played a special leadership role.
Unions are the backbone of many of the victories we are celebrating because of their organizing, their resources and the generally higher level of consciousness that comes with being a union member.
900 union members were elected to public office in this cycle including a US Senator, two governors and at least 18 House members. This includes teacher union member Tim Walz to Governor of Minnesota, UNITE HERE leader Maria Elena Durazo to state senate in California, UAW Region 9A leader Julie Kushner to state senate in Connecticut, and teacher union member Jahana Hayes to Congress from Connecticut’s Fifth District.
In state after state millions of new voters have been registered and doors knocked and conversations held. Unions like the Steelworkers, Teachers, UNITE HERE and SEIU began mobilizing their rank and file since early summer.
Members of AFL-CIO unions knocked on more than 2.3 million doors and distributed 5 million fliers at more than 4,600 worksites. Quoting AFL CIO president Richard Trumka: “We’re also tossing out the hand-picked politicians who have dutifully served corporate interests at the expense of working families. It gave me no small pleasure waking up last Wednesday knowing that Scott Walker and Bruce Rauner will be packing their bags in the coming weeks.”
Across the country our comrades rolled up their sleeves and were part of the grass roots organizing to speak with voters about how the issues of this election affected their lives.
In the two years since Trump campaigned as anti-establishment, there has been an awakening to the results and the nature of the policies including the escalation in racism and anti immigrant attacks, attacks on health care and whole sale corruption.
Republicans were unable to achieve their first priority to repeal Obamacare. Resistance in small towns and big cities was too huge.
The next Republican “accomplishment” was a huge tax cut to the corporations which Trump sold as something that would stimulate the economy and produce millions of jobs. But despite the officially low unemployment rate, people were able to see through this as a give away to the rich while they have to work two and three jobs to survive.
Outside his base, the chilling slogan “Republicans produce jobs, Democrats produce mobs” fell flat.
A revolution in representation
Women who were low income heads of households were especially concerned about dealing with all kinds of health care responsibilities as well as gun violence for their children.
From 2016 to 2018 there is a 50% increase in women candidates. Women of color candidates increased nearly 75% since 2012. Fifty years after Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman elected to Congress, this year over 400 Black women ran in the midterm elections,
This reflects longer term efforts and leadership building to promote women candidates, people of color candidates and young candidates by a host of progressive organizations and coalitions national, state-wide and local.
Groups like Vote-Run-Lead, Black Women Vote and Black Girls Vote. Emily’s List and Emerge have been training women for a number of years. The group She Should Run has announced their goal of 250,000 women in elected office by 2030. In polls, 90% of voters say there should be more women in office.
Georgia Congresswoman-elect Lucy McBath, who is African American, got involved when her teen aged son was killed. She will now represent the district once held by Newt Gingrich. McBath says of her election: “We’ve sent a strong message to the entire country. Absolutely nothing – no politician and no special interest – is more powerful tan a mother on a mission.”
She is one of several who openly took on the NRA and got elected, which is a significant breakthrough won in part by the Parkland High School students who said loud and clear, “we call B.S.”
The revolutionary process and building broad unity against the right and for peoples needs is more relevant than ever
Trump’s mission to demonize and dehumanize immigrants and create fear was meant to break that unity, while revving up his base. Many voters were repelled by that. Some of the most virulent anti-immigrant, anti union Republicans went down to defeat including Kris Kobach in Kansas, Lew Barletta in Pennsylvania, Dana Rhorbacher in California, and Corey Stewart and Barbara Comstock in Virginia. The list at the end of this report shows the enormity of this development.
In addition, deep red Orange County went blue with the defeat of four Republicans who support Trump’s immigration and other policies, and in Staten Island, New York, a decades old Republican stronghold was broken with the election of Max Rose.
But we know that the use of anti-immigrant hate, racism and misogyny are the main tools in the Trump Republican toolbox. In this new post-election climate What approaches and experiences have we found most successful in countering these influences? What materials do we need to produce? How can the union movement reach out to rural areas?
For example, comrades report that the immigrant bashing did not have an effect on the elections in Minnesota but it was devastating in neighboring North Dakota. They also observe that Democratic Senate candidates who embraced Trump were less likely to win.
Noteworthy is that a combination of both Democrats and Republicans in the red led states of Missouri and Arkansas passed measures increasing the minimum wage for one million workers.
A lot of the fight going forward will be at the state level where Attorneys General and Governors can be the firewall against Trump and also advance needs like healthcare and sanctuary legislation to protect the immigrant community and to expand voting rights.
Trump’s actions since the elections, firing Sessions and sending troops to the border among other anti immigrant measures, underscore what a dangerous time this is. Trump and the Republicans are still in power. They will use the next two years to stack the judiciary and the government bureaucracy with hard right corporate agents to loot and to steal.
The election results create a stronger position to resist but while pushing progressive issues we have to keep our eye on the main enemy,
For example we shouldn’t get side tracked by the competition for House leadership. The issue is not Nancy Pelosi. The issue is keeping unity while fighting to win victories for the people.
Even with the Republican Senate and White House as barriers to passing needed legislation, if the Democratic House puts up a fight it is an opportunity to keep the grass roots momentum going. The rallies to save the ACA last year helped expand the resistance movement.
In addition to saving pre-existing coverage in the ACA, there will be a big push by the 77 co-sponsors of Medicare for All in this session. A number of incoming members campaigned on Medicare for All, and there is wide public support. Preserving and expanding Social Security and Medicaid will also be on the agenda.
Also on the House agenda is an infrastructure and jobs program. It will be a fight to make sure that priorities for construction are in working class communities with neighborhood input and that good union jobs and local hiring on green projects are created.
Here the demand to move the money from the military budget is integral to meeting the needs of cities and rural areas alike.
Rep Raul Grijalva will be chairing the Natural Resources Committee where issues around climate change can be brought forward. Rosa DeLauro will be chairing the Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittee of Appropriations. Here the battles for food stamps, WIC and other basic needs will be fought through. Soon we will have a more complete picture.
Grassroots mobilizing may be the best way
The alternative People’s Budgets put forward by the enlarged Congressional Progressive Caucus and largest ever Congressional Black Caucus will be in position to gain more traction with public, grass roots support.
These fights will help set the climate for the 2020 presidential election. Grassroots mobilizing may be the best way to push the Democratic Party in a progressive direction. Discussion is needed on this.
Can we develop a Communist Party action agenda in time for our convention that includes immediate demands and also bigger steps forward for more structural change?
The word socialism is much more in the political mainstream, uplifted by Bernie Sanders presidential run and the election of DSA members and other socialist minded candidates to Congress and local office. More people are looking for an alternative to capitalism.
Our concept of the revolutionary process and building broad unity against the right and for peoples needs is more relevant than ever, as is the importance of a larger Communist Party.
In 2020 Tony Pecinovsky will be on the ballot for Alderman in St. Louis. Perhaps there are coalition tickets forming in other cities where we can put forward one of our own.
In Texas we had five candidates in the primaries who got a quarter million votes for US Senate and plans to run again. In the general election Penny Morales Shaw ran for county commissioner in a Republican area and got 45% of the vote in a great campaign with union support.
In Arizona, in addition to races at every level, in Tempe Patrick Morales came in first for re-election to the School Board.
In Connecticut, two candidates are seeking re-election next year to the Board of Alders and close working relations with a state representative re-elected this year.
In Oregon a young woman ran for city council identifying as a Marxist-Leninist and associating with us. She got 37% of the vote. The experience is an indication of the potential in some areas but also points to the need for a collective approach to political campaigns.
In this election year, we put effort in to building the Communist Party.
Special recognition should be paid to the People’s World for the outstanding coverage of the priority races we identified and of the overall issues and movements. This includes local coverage from many members of the National Committee.
In Baltimore a report card of the Republican Governor’s record was issued by the Communist Party club with great response that showed up in the win that Ben Jealous had in Baltimore City, although he did not get elected. Margaret echoed what many districts said in assessing their work this year – street heat and grass roots organizing are essential.
In Connecticut an extensive get out the vote effort reached out to club members and families who receive he CT people’s World each week. This was one part of the successful coalition effort to get a massive vote turnout that elected a Democratic Governor.
Our national staff traveled to several states with battleground races to work with the local Party organization and help build the Party. We issued a brochure Your Vote Is Your Power. A special national effort to get comrades signed up to work on election day was held
The stranglehold of Trump has been loosened but the danger is still grave. The need for unity against the extreme right fascist danger and for pushing a bold people’s agenda and a vision of socialism are on the order of the day.
Editor’s Note: This article is based on a report to the CPUSA National Committee on November 17th 2018.