The 50-State Strategy Manifesto


Yep. And if you believe in progressivism, you shouldn't be confused. You should be angry. After all, we are the party of the people, not them. We know that. We're just not trying.

There are Democrats running for state-level office without websites. There are tens of thousands of Republicans around the United States taking uncontested seats for the cost of the filing fee. The rest of their money is reallocated to other Republican candidates. One Democratic state party chair told us, “If we could’ve just entered the race, the Republicans would have spent fifty to one-hundred thousand dollars protecting the seat. Instead, they sat down with no message, virtually free of charge.” 

No more. Part of the reason the battle is so difficult for Democrats across this country is because we’re letting them establish the front lines of the fight. To use a war metaphor, we’ve allowing Republicans to send troops and all their resources right up to the gates of our castle, instead of making them fight for every inch of territory leading up to the castle. 

Here’s the problem: we oversimplify the American people. We think of people’s political leanings as one-dimensional and linear. We paint the country red or blue, in our minds and during our strategy discussions. And it’s costing us dearly. 

People’s politics are not linear. They are three-dimensional. Different regions of the United States have vastly different cultures, values and preferences. And values are not transfixed or singular. They’re complicated. 

As an example, pundits and politicians often assume black voters are of one mind. That sentiment originates from when black men were first enfranchised in 1870, and political scientists began referring to “the negro vote,” now referred to as “the black vote.”

But if you view the state-by-state numbers for Bernie vs. Hillary, it’s far more complicated. Turns out that there is no "black vote" because African-Americans don't vote monolithically. Sanders did far better with black voters in Midwestern states and with younger black voters. In the South, black voters overwhelmingly went for Clinton. 

That comes in part from the fact that partisan politics in the South have a strong racial element, and therefore African-Americans in the South are more likely to identify with the establishment of the Democratic party. On the other hand, the Midwestern Democratic Party of the early 1900s was less wedded to segregationist sentiments, which means that black voters from the midwest were and remain more flexible in their allegiances.

Extrapolate: Geography matters. Regional history of party matters. Culture, race, and class, in an intersectional context, matter. Age matters. There’s endless factors that all must be taken into account in order to understand political trends. 

That of course applies to red states too. There are large swaths of America that we’ve given up on because they’re painted red on maps. It’s a huge mistake for Democrats. The opportunity cost resulting from this assumption is incalculable.

To top it off, we're giving up votes that would help up-ballot candidates. Anecdotally: In Georgia, Republicans ran unopposed in over half of the 180 state house elections in 2016. 98 unopposed seats for Republicans. That's not democracy. Hundreds of thousands of Democrats aren't given a candidate at all. That means Democrats don't show up to the polls, because they're not given any local choice. Had we ran a candidate in those 98 elections in Georgia, and turned out a modest 2,000 more voters in each of those districts, the state would have flipped for Hillary. 

And here's the kicker: Even if we’re wrong and we cannot win any seats in these states we’ve assumed to be forever red, it’s still worth it to put pressure on Republicans in every corner and make them spend their money to retain seats. It still means they’ll have less resources to spare in purple and blue states.

We at The Resurgent Left are big believers in #50StateStrategy. We can win seats, we can help candidates up the ballot, and we can put full-court pressure on Republicans. And there's principle here: if the Republicans want any seat, at any level of government, anywhere in the United States, they should have to fight for it. That's what democracy is about. It is incumbent upon us to make them fight for it. Make them scratch and claw for county clerk seats. For school board seats. Mayor and city council. State representative.

We cannot afford to hand over seats at any level of government. No more of that. From now on, it’s full court pressure. Win or lose, it's time to give it our all.