Losing candidates can follow predictable patterns. Drop out. Regroup. Run for the next office.
Here’s a more productive use of time — improve voting access and register more voters. That way, the United States will move closer to true government of the people.
Stacey Abrams, who failed to become governor of Georgia in an election that was riddled with questionable practices, has founded Fair Fight 2020. Her effort is concentrating on protecting voter rights in 20 battleground states — no candidate should lose because voter names were stripped unfairly from the rolls or because voting access was shut down.
Wisely, the effort is not starting at the beginning of the general election cycle, but organizers are laying the groundwork now so that come election season, voters can’t be stripped of their rights. This sort of effort that will have impact beyond one election cycle, especially as movements fight laws designed to limit who can vote.
She won’t be alone, either. Beto O’Rourke, the mythic Senate candidate and failed Democratic presidential contender from Texas, is going to work at home to turn the Texas House from red to blue. He announced this week that his group, Flip the Texas House, is targeting 17 state House districts in which GOP candidates won by fewer than 10 percentage points.
Texas Democrats are but nine seats away from retaking a majority of seats in the Texas House; with the Texas Legislature starting on redistricting in 2021, the effort to add Democrats to the Texas House comes just in the nick of time. O’Rourke’s drive will focus on voter registration and other efforts to increase turnout, which generally increases Democratic successes.
Such grassroots work can change the nation. It’s a better use of money, too, than self-funded billionaires continuing to run for national office. Think of what the millions spent by presidential candidates Michael Bloomberg or Tom Steyer could do to fund voter registration drives, awareness campaigns and efforts to get people out to vote.
The more people who participate in elections, the more representative the government. It’s that simple. Instead of buying their way on stage for a presidential debate, billionaires should try something designed to lift people up, rather than engaging in ego gratification.
Register voters. Eliminate restrictive voter ID laws. Improve access to the polls. Elect candidates close to home — in state legislatures and governors’ mansions — who will control redistricting for future elections. Pass solid policy and keep promises, of course. Repeat.
Losing power at the local and state levels has repercussions.
Look at what happened in the Obama era. In 2009, the Democrats controlled both chambers of 27 state legislatures; that had dwindled to chambers in 13 states in eight years. Over Obama’s time as president, the Democratic Party lost a net total of 13 governorships and 816 state legislative seats, according to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All of this matters for the redistricting of state and federal legislative districts, which helps determines who wins elections. The nation needs to agree on a fair, nonpartisan method of drawing up districts so we can begin to eliminate politics from the process. It’s essential that politicians aren’t choosing their voters instead of the other way around.
Think of what that meant for North Carolina in 2016, where Democrats won 50 percent of the vote but took only three of 13 Congressional seats, or 23 percent. In Maryland, Democrats benefited from gerrymandering, with Republicans winning 32.5 percent of statewide vote but 12.5 percent of the seats. New Mexico has had its share of redistricting problems in the past — often to protect incumbents as much as anything — and we hope Common Cause New Mexico and others are successful in winning a more fair way of drawing districts. Voters of Senate District 39 from north of Ruidoso to Mora, which is almost 300 miles long, deserve better.
Running fair and impartial elections while increasing participation should become a cause the good people in all political parties support — former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California is a champion to reform redistricting. That ex-candidates are using their influence to improve the electoral system rather than simply notching up the next win is encouraging. Candidates could contribute greatly by focusing on improving the electoral system — even if that means stepping aside from a current contest or delaying their next campaign. Abrams and O’Rourke are leading by example.