By EVAN WOLF
Election day was a disastrous day for the Democratic Party and America. Hillary Clinton lost the White House to Donald Trump, and the Republican Party took over both houses of Congress. Although the Democrats secured several wins during the November, 2017 elections in Virginia, the Democratic Party is still in a time of great political weakness. The Republicans control the White House, the Senate and the House, along with the majority of governors and state legislatures. The Dems need to support more authentic, progressive candidates who can energize the party and appeal to voters. At this point, every race matters.
One up-and-coming election is California’s Senate race in 2018, in which incumbent Senator Dianne Feinstein is being challenged by CA Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon. While Feinstein is experienced and qualified (having been Senator since 1992), she is not what the Democrats need. The Democrats need new blood, something Feinstein will not be able to provide. One of the key reasons Hillary Clinton lost the election was due to her lack of skillful communication toward Bernie supporters, and an inability to unite the party behind her. Not going to Wisconsin certainly did not help. According to FiveThirtyEight, citizens age 18-29 were more likely to stay home on Election Day than they were to vote. If Clinton had done a better job at communicating her message, she could have won the election. This is an issue that has plagued the Democrats through many election cycles. The Republicans have the advantage because of their skill at playing politics: they always end up uniting behind a GOP candidate, and use the same frames and talking points to communicate their values. The truth is, Democrats need to learn to play politics better if they want to have a chance in the upcoming election cycle. This just means they have to communicate their ideals in a strong yet uplifting manner. In the event that the Democratic candidate of their choice does not win, they need to unite behind the Democratic candidate. Take Doug Jones of Alabama: by campaigning to suburban and urban residents, and focusing on “kitchen table” issues like health care and the economy, Jones was able to win one of the most right-wing states in the country. If the Democrats focus on the issues and gear their message to their voters, they can increase voter turnout and win any election they put their mind to.
De Leon is a new face, and does a better job at communicating the values of the Democratic Party. While Feinstein is experienced and a fair option for the Senate seat, de Leon is the better choice, as he is a fighter for ambitious policies that will help this state and this country. For example, according to his campaign website, de Leon wants to set California on track to use 50% renewable energy by 2030, and use 100% renewable energy by 2045. He also supported a $5.4 billion annual investment into infrastructure and transportation projects. In 2016, he supported a $2 billion funding for the construction and upkeep of shelters for homeless people with mental illness. De Leon is an authentic and progressive candidate who will be able to energize and mobilize voters with positive change.
However, he is the underdog in this race and still has a ways to go. Feinstein has a huge fundraising advantage, and her name is more recognized. Feinstein has the endorsements of Senator Kamala Harris, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. In order for de Leon to have a shot at winning, he must first raise his name ID and fundraising numbers. However, during the recent California Democratic Convention, the delegates did not choose to endorse Feinstein as they were expected to. In fact, de Leon received more votes in the convention than Feinstein. This indicates that many in the Democratic party understand that they need new people to communicate to the voters.
One big issue in the election will inevitably be Donald Trump. Recently, Feinstein said of Trump that people will “have to see if [Trump] can forget himself and his feelings about himself enough to be able to have the empathy and direction that this country needs.” De Leon correctly doubted that Trump would ever change in a positive way, saying, “it is the responsibility of Congress to hold him accountable- especially Democrats, not be complicit.” When Feinstein called for “patience,” de Leon fired back, saying, “I don’t think children who breathe dirty air can afford patience. The LGBT worker or woman losing their rights by the day or the black student who could be assaulted on the street, they can’t afford patience.” The times to “wait and see” what Trump will do has been over for a very long time. The Democrats cannot and should not count on his support, and instead should fight for the values they stand for.
The Primary election for the Senate race will occur on June 5, 2018. In California, there is a top-two primary process in place, meaning that all candidates will be on the ballot regardless of partisan affiliation. From there, the top two candidates with the most votes will face off against each other in the general election, which will take place on November 6, 2018. However, in the event that Feinstein lands in the top two slots with a Republican (which is unlikely), de Leon should immediately endorse Feinstein. If the Democrats want to have a chance of winning any election, they need to unite behind their candidates. In order to win any election, Democrats will have to put pride aside, be pragmatic, and support their own. Although Feinstein is currently defeating de Leon in the polls, de Leon still has a chance to turn this race around, and show the voters of California that he is the kind of candidate and Senator they need as there have been bigger upsets before.