The Democrats started gearing up for the 2018 midterms last week by unveiling a slogan that the well-regarded think tank, the Institute for Shouting Bad Hot Takes on the internet, didn't particularly care for -- likely because the Democrats didn't fully embrace @DapperDanMan's ideas on how to win the election. Sure, the slogan "A Better Deal" isn't the most original, and it does kind of sound like a Papa John's promotion, but I do think it sells better than some previous slogans such as Walter Mondale's 1984 tagline, "Sure, Why Not?" and George W.'s 2004 slogan, "Strategery for a New Sentry." No, the Democrats aren't coming out strong so far, but I'm not overly concerned since my political decisions aren't based on clever words. However, one thing that did draw my interest was when Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer decided to avoid the issue of "identity politics."
Now, I've shared my thoughts on identity politics before, and they haven't changed; all politics is identity politics. To blame a focus on LGBT, women's, and PoC issues as the sole reason the Democrats lost in 2016 is myopic. The only reason a lot of those issues had any traction is that they were hot topics and everyone was talking about them, but we failed to talk about how other issues such as income disparity, education, jobs, etc. related to LGBT and PoC people in a lot of cases. However, I want to make something clear -- in 2016 everyone thought the Democrats were going to get an easy win. Well, that didn't pan out, now did it? Instead we have a Republican-controlled Congress and a White House that's careening from guardrail to guardrail, and honestly, Democrats need to win in order to keep the village from burning down.
Does that mean that I'm pulling away from defending the importance of "identity politics"? Nope. But by now you might know that I'm a dirty filthy pragmatist.
What I'm calling for is a middle road, the acceptance that centering these issues isn't the best strategy for every election. Sure, make sure that the candidate you're supporting has a clear stance on reproductive rights, bathroom bills, and employment discrimination, but don't place it above all else. I know LGBT issues are important and they're important to me too, especially since I live in a deep burgundy red state, but I kind of want to get some Democrats elected to my state legislature and have some Democrats win seats in Congress.
Here in Oklahoma, we have some schools running a four-day week because state funds are so bad they can't afford the extra day. I can't really expect to make bathroom bills the center of my candidate's campaign when there are kids who may not be able to spell bathroom. Educated people are liberal people, generally, and a candidate who wants to fund the schools properly is a long-term investment in my own future. A district that went for Obama in '08 and '12 but Trump in '16 can be won back if you focus on what that district cares about, which most likely is opioids, jobs, income, and health care.
Get the Democrat to say they'll vote against anti-LGBT legislation once, and then let them focus on winning the district. You can pressure a Democrat or independent later, but a Republican won't care at all. That's just stone cold reality to politics. Once you're in, you can do what you want. This policy also works for popular nightclubs and gyms.
Democrats aren't suddenly going to abandon minorities to get elected; it's simply that not every district and constituency is the same. Crazy idea, and follow me on this one, but what can get you elected in a swing district in New England may not get you elected in North Carolina or Iowa. Sometimes openly and loudly supporting LGBT causes at every opportunity will even hurt you. Getting elected is strategic, and you've got to pander for your district. It's sad, it's hurtful to hear, but it's the truth. You might say that a loud and proud candidate would motivate you to vote, but you should be voting in midterm elections anyway, and that loud and proud candidate will motivate the opposition too, and in a lot of places, they simply outnumber us.
I'm not crapping all over the idea of supporting openly and loudly pro-LGBT candidates; I'm just saying be strategic about it. I also want to say this -- if you want to create change and get a liberal candidate in, you're gonna have to tone down some of the rhetoric. Having your organization support questionable role models, attacking other groups or candidates, requiring purity tests and pledges to support your organization when it's pushing a far-left agenda won't help either. Most of the world is moderate, and coming in with a radical super left agenda that attacks things that have nothing to do with your main cause makes people squeamish about supporting you.
Let's just say it: Attacking Israel, calling all cops murderers, making a hero out of a person who's been convicted of a major crime, calling for the end of capitalism ain't going to win friends and influence people. Sure, it gets you and your pals all hot and bothered, but it ain't getting a soccer mom to think of you guys as the heroes of the story, and there are more soccer moms than there are of you.
Sure, people want change and want things to get better. They want universal health care, an end to crime, corporate responsibility, better pay and jobs, but they don't want it if it means destroying the village to save it. Besides, with as cynical as voters are these days, they're not gonna see some so-called radical as anything more than a troublemaker, and it'll keep them home on Election Day because what do the issues of people largely seen as the fringe have to do with them getting a pay raise or better health care?
Sometimes you gotta go moderate or go home, or else the voters won't leave their homes to vote.
AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian based in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.