Democrats’ mantra for #Midterms2018: No days off

If Democrats want to win, we all need to keep up the pressure. On all races, at all levels, all the time.

My take-home message from Netroots Nation in New Orleans came from the very first session I attended. The message was crystal clear: We can’t take any days off in the fight for Democrats to win elections.

A panel consisting of people from various Democratic organizations, from the Democratic National Committee to grassroots groups that sprung up after the 2016 election, stressed the need to work together, share information, and get involved at all election levels. The panel was “Navigating Partnerships with a New Democratic Party and the New Grassroots,” and panel members stressed how all groups needed to reach out to one another if we want to achieve success.

The panel was moderated by Irene Shin, political director for Crowdpac, who has worked on various campaigns and for several progressive organizations. Also on hand were Jamie Perrapato, executive director of Turn PA Blue, a group dedicated to flipping the Pennsylvania Legislature; Lala Wu, co-founder and director of engagement and partnerships at the Sister District Project, which is focused on electing more Democrats in state legislatures; and Allison Zelman, director of states and deputy political and organizing director at the DNC, who works with state parties to build up Democratic state infrastructures and elect Democrats up and down the ballot in each state.

But the line that really hit me came from the fifth member of the panel, North Carolina State Rep. Graig Meyer, a Democrat who has served in the North Carolina House of Representatives since 2013. He created and still leads a grassroots effort called Our Shot to elect Democrats to the North Carolina House. He described his message to those working on campaigns to elect Democrats as one of “tough love.”

His message? There are no days off. “It’s too important,” Meyer told the crowd.

“The people we are doing this for get no days off,” said Meyer, who worked as a social worker in North Carolina public schools for 16 years before he was elected to the North Carolina Legislature. “Children living in poverty get no days off from poverty. The people who go to work every day and don’t have health care get no days off from work because they’re sick. The people who are drinking bottled water because their water is polluted, whether that’s in Flint or the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, they get no days off of having an environment that is trying to poison them.

“And none of us get any days off right now from a horrible Republican government all over the country. And so no days off between now and Election Day. If we win, then we have work to do. Still no days off. But between now and then, no days off for the people that we care about. I do not want to be in Virginia’s position, where we lose control of a legislature by the flip of a coin.”

(Meyer was referring to the 2017 race between Democrat Shelly Simonds and incumbent Republican David Yancey in Virginia’s 94th District in the House of Delegates. Simonds led by one vote, until a three-judge panel accepted a mismarked ballot, which originally had been tossed, as a vote for Yancey, making the race a tie. Instead of a coin flip to break the tie, it was decided to pull a name out of a bowl to decide the winner. Yancey’s name was drawn from the bowl, he was declared the winner, and Republicans kept control of the Virginia House of Delegates, 51-49.)

Meyer drove home his point. “And so anybody who leaves any last sense or bit of energy on the field will feel my wrath if we lose by the flip of a coin!”

The crowd laughed and applauded. Of course, he was kidding about the “wrath” part. I think.

Taking “no days off” is a tall order. We all have lives to lead. Many of us have loved ones to care for, jobs to go to each day to pay the rent and put food on the table, classes to attend, and responsibilities that must be met just to survive. All of that is on top of the fact that the vast majority of us are putting in time on election efforts as volunteers, and also are contributing money to various candidates’ campaigns and political campaign groups.

But in the push to elect more Democrats, we can never forget that every vote counts, a message that was emphasized by every panel member. They all stressed the need for organizing and engaging volunteers, harnessing the new wave of energy that has been growing since November of 2016. It means working at state and local levels to elect Democrats in those races as well as those at national levels. Success depends on every door you knock on, every phone call you make.

How many races are coming down to razor-thin margins, such as the special election for the House seat in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District? Every vote counts.

Here’s an example of a campaign taking no time off, ready to jump from a primary win to a general election race:

Okay, so we’re not all Jason Kander. We still need to take early opportunities to get involved and for campaigns to accept help, early and often.

After the 2018 midterm elections come the 2020 elections. But that’s not just a presidential election; it also means electing state legislatures that will redraw legislative district boundaries. The main reason we’re in this gerrymandered mess is that Republicans were wildly successful in the 2010 elections with the help of their Redmap project, when Republicans flipped 19 legislative bodies to GOP control. They will keep that legislative advantage until more Democrats can take over more state legislatures to redraw those boundaries.

So let’s make that two mantras. No days off and every vote counts.

A video of this panel is available to watch online. Details about all of the events at Netroots Nation also are still available online. Videos of speeches from Netroots’ keynote sessions are available on the Netroots Facebook page.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Aug. 12, 2018.

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