Can Democrats Learn From The Grassroots Activists Who Won Big this Year?

The Senate remains solidly in Democratic hands, and after a runoff concludes next month, the president’s party may even see a strengthened majority, despite what pundits predicted would be a stunning rebuke of President Joe Biden and the left.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives flipped to Republican control, but only by a razor-thin margin that may prove impossible for the incoming speaker, Kevin McCarthy, to effectively manage.

When the US Congress is evenly divided between two parties, very little gets done nationally. Republican demands for budget cuts or reforms to government programs like Social Security, which President Joe Biden has said is firmly off the table, have already prompted the two parties to prepare for a battle over raising the debt ceiling.

Split control of the US Congress means that little will get done at the national level

Progressive activists scored a series of victories at the state level, ensuring that millions of Americans will benefit from policy changes that would otherwise be abandoned during the next two years of likely total inaction in Washington.

Not only did Democratic candidates win several key races in this month’s midterms, including the Pennsylvania Senate race and the Arizona gubernatorial race, but progressive and Democratic activists also rallied voters with a wave of citizen-led ballot initiatives covering a wide range of issues that Democrats had hoped to address at the federal level.

Voters’ attention to issues like the minimum wage, abortion and contraceptive rights codification, and strengthening voting rights led to many victories for the left, including in some unexpected places.

Some of the successful campaigners I’ve spoken with in recent days have expressed the opinion that the policies that Democratic candidates say they support are more popular with voters than the candidates themselves.

Some activists in Maryland felt this way after a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana was approved by voters. The “Yes” vote outnumbered the “No” vote by almost 33 percentage points.

Wes Moore easily defeated his Republican opponent Dan Cox

As a top issue for those on the left, criminal justice reform barely outperformed the rest of the Democratic ticket for governor, where Wes Moore easily defeated his Republican opponent Dan Cox.

An organizer for the successful passage of Question 4, Kris Furnish, seemed relieved and frustrated by the outcome. Furnish was disappointed that the Democrats in bottomless blue Maryland had not used their veto-proof majority in the state Senate to force the issue through the legislature in the usual manner despite Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s opposition.

She told the press, “They could have passed this any time they wanted.” There are times when politicians use these issues to get people to the polls, as I believe happened this past election.


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