A lot has been said about this off-year election and the incredible sweep in Virginia. It’s important, because something is in the works. But what, exactly? Can Democrats capitalize on it nationally and apply a formula for sure victory in 2018 and beyond?
The short answer is “No.” There is no formula. If you look at who won and why, at least in the key swing elections, there is only one thing which is consistent. Good, hard-working people who were genuine and decent won consistently. Politics? Whatever.
There’s no doubt that turnout elevated the Democrats to a key win, at least in Virginia. In the more urban Northern Virginia, basically DC suburbs, Democratic governor candidate Northam won by more than 260k votes in a region that outgoing governor McAuliffe won by only 127k in 2013. That’s a big difference.
But turnout is a result, not a tactic. What really made the difference?
Three things were immediately trumpeted by people with causes of their own. Science did indeed win big, with candidates promoted by pro-science 314 Action winning across the nation. This is definitely something Democrats need to pay attention to.
Unapologetic Socialist Lee Carter has also been noticed, running on a platform of serious social change and knocking off the Majority Whip with nothing but disdain from the state party. He might well have a platform for change, and the Sanders wing has found a new hero.
Danica Roem, a transgender woman and metal head-banger, defeated “Chief Homophobe” Bob Marshall in one of the most celebrated wins of the night. Was this all about transgender people? No one is claiming that, sadly, but this might be much closer to the truth.
Roem is definitely the best example of the way forward even if she is seen as an anomaly. The most public example of who she is came when asked about her opponent’s dismissal of her win by saying, “He is now my constituent, and my job is to represent him and all of the people of the district.”
This is more than just class, this is genuine. I’m sure that when knocking on every door in the district, as Roem did, her genuine nature and commitment came across. She’s much more than a transgender person – she is a person who focused on who she really is, what she wants out of life, and is willing to work hard for what has to be.
If you pay far too much attention to CNN and other punditry outlets, you may well think that elections are won “in the air.” Advertising and message are considered paramount to defining how an election turns as voters weigh the issues and ideas and come to a conclusion.
This is pure bullshit.
Every election comes down to the ground, just as every war does. The people who are knocking on every door and actually listening to people have to be decent, earnest, and hard working. Yes, having a solid backstory can get you more attention, which is where being trans is actually an advantage, but that’s all it gets you. Voters want good people who work hard. Period.
That was also the case for Carter, the unapologetic socialist. He has ideas, sure, but he’s very earnest and wants to make a difference. The yin and yang of leadership and listening probably came out strongly in him, too. Those candidates who ran on science? They seemed smart and hard working. People liked them.
Pigeonholing candidates like Roem and Carter doesn’t do us any good. They both had good stories that got people to pay attention, yes, but they are not one dimensional. Roem, in particular, is intelligent and decent. She cares. She has a great life story that happens to include being trans but there is a lot more to her than that.
Good people win elections.
Now, in the case of a big race like Governor or President, no one can knock on every door. But the people running for state house can, and must. And if they are all good people and do a good job representing Northam or Clinton or whoever a good impression will be made. Science is far from a political issue, but it shows intelligence and sincerity, a strong plan without a rigid ideology.
What does it take to win elections? Good people running as candidates. What makes a good candidate? The short answer is “No.” If you have to ask, you’re just plain missing the point.
Voters know. Listen to them. It’s actually really obvious.