Well, that was pretty bad. And then some. Over the next few weeks, pundits will analyze the results and offer advice to the Democratic Party.
Here’s ours: Unless and until Democrats are seen as actually improving people’s lives, the path is open for Republicans to stoke fears about declining living standards and stoke white anxiety about a racially changing America.
By contrast, where Democrats made issues like raising the minimum wage central to their campaign, they won.
In Connecticut, Governor Dan Malloy won narrowly by showcasing his actual record: raising the minimum wage and passing paid sick days for workers. Connecticut was the first state to pass the two landmark laws. The Connecticut Working Families Party and allies made both happen.
Democrat Tom Wolf walloped Republican Governor Corbett with a campaign focused on raising the minimum wage and increasing education funding, both big priorities of Pennsylvania Working Families. Republicans took the state capitol, but past is prelude — the last time Pennsylvania raised the wage was with a Democratic Governor and a Republican controlled legislature.
The lesson: Addressing income inequality by lifting up the economic standard for working class voters is good policy and good politics.
Even in states where Republicans won Senate seats, voters took matters into their own hands and voted to raise the minimum wage. Ballot initiatives passed in Arkansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Alaska. In Illinois and several Wisconsin cities and counties, voters passed non-binding referendums, telling their state government even as it lingers in Republican hands — voters want a raise.
What energizes working and middle-class voters are not lackluster candidates who avoid telling the truth because they don’t want to seem anti-business. It’s the Elizabeth Warrens, the Bill de Blasio’s — the ones who shout: The game is rigged, and its rigged against us. We need to fix it by lifting up workers and changing policies to work for people, not banks and big business.
That’s why we’re starting from the ground up to recruit, train, and elect candidates that will speak truth to power and change policies for working families in several states and cities: Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Washington, D.C.
If you’re sick and tired of seeing mediocre candidates follow the same old playbook and lose to Tea Party Republicans, join with us. Contribute $3 and help us elect the next class of progressive leaders.