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Special Election in Kansas Reinforces Progressive Reformers are on Their Own

Source: People for Bernie

Progressive reformers and grassroots organizers believed in the power of possibility when it came to the Kansas 4th Congressional District Special Election. Despite what was considered a “long shot,” folks were committed to giving it their best and running a race based on values people respected versus personality and toeing party lines. 

Each election reveals an opportunity not only for individual campaigns to reflect but also a chance for the party to evaluate a strategy or lack thereof. However,in the aftermath of James Thompson’s near miss in the Kansas 4th Congressional District Special Election there are a lot of excuses from Democratic leadership, pundits, and elites.

Mistakes are a fact of life. It is the response to the error that counts.”  – Nikki Giovanni

Having hemorrhaged approximately 1,000 seats at all levels of government in the last several years, it is stunning watching people justify the lackluster attitude and approach to the race in Kansas’ 4th Congressional District. Thompson’s race is a prime example of what happens when people start getting real and just talk about the issues affecting our communities and families. Voters are tired of polished non-answers and commitments to do things that have nothing to do with their lives.

According to Ballotpedia, in the recent Kansas special election, less than half of those who voted in the 2016 election came out to vote this time. Imagine what a boost to voter engagement and canvassing could have done to usher in a Thompson win. The notion that having Democrats support a Democrat in a “red state” might have “harmed” his chances is dated. Overall people care less about party and more about who is going to get things done.  

The lack of a plan for these special elections shows how stunted the Democrats have been. With the stunning reflection on the losses over the last six years, culminating with the major loss of the Presidency, the veil is off.

The Democrats are lacking in both vision and plan when it comes to winning seats that aren’t solidly or “possibly” blue. The “Kansas shift” will not happen without a meaningful investment and support of grassroots organizers and volunteers. Democrats are too afraid of infiltration by reformist that has them holding on for dear life to swiftly sinking ground.

Clearly, they do not have any skilled card players in their midst. In spades, when you are down you go big or go home. A possible book is worth the gamble. A lesson for the Dems know your cards and trust your partner.  Also, districts are not simply going to turn blue; they take nurturing and investment. It is suicide to still follow conventional wisdom and rhetoric after losing to an awful candidate in the Presidential election. The intel and spin are hit or miss. It is time for bold action not clinging to “safe” blue seats.

Democrats also have to stop playing the “who is more valuable to invest money and time in” game. Partnering with local grassroots groups to support good candidates is the wave of the future. While Thompson did not have the benefit of political royalty vouching for him (like political newbie Jon Ossoff in the Georgia 6th Congressional District race), he had the support of people who were willing to hit the pavement, phone bank, and put it on the line to help him succeed.

All over the country, everyday people and professional organizers have come together under the guise of transforming the way American Democracy is run.  People have stopped waiting for permission from the party to get behind a candidate or issue.  

Bottomline, all this talk about 50 state strategies etc, is just talk when Democrats are afraid to step into areas that are not definite wins. Rank and file voters cannot afford to wait for party elite to tell them who is worthy in a race. Bold leadership and vision on the electoral map are necessary to turn things around. Doubling down on the same problematic thinking that lost 2016 will not cut it.

Written by Anoa Changa

Mom 1st, Lawyer 2nd. Anoa Changa is Director of Political Advocacy and a Managing Editor of Progressive Army, as well as a member of its Editorial Board. She hosts The Way with Anoa, Wednesdays at 9pm ET on YouTube . Follow her on Twitter @TheWayWithAnoa. "Never tell me the odds." - Han Solo

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Special Election in Kansas Reinforces Progressive Reformers are on Their Own