Josh Heath | Democrats, Don’t Get Complacent After Midterm

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
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Santa Clarita Democrats have much to celebrate this holiday season. In the recent election, Katie Hill and Christy Smith were elected to the Congress and state Assembly and sent their Republican rivals, the incumbents in those positions, packing.

It was a massive sea change that happened overnight, the blue wave wiping out major sources of GOP power. However, when looking at the data, it is key for Democrats to not get complacent after these wins. This was a special election, with Trump in the White House and revulsion against his leadership at a record high. Americans were looking to cast a protest vote and as a result Democrats were able to capture seats, like the ones locally, that were safely in the Republican corner just two years ago.

Fortunately for the left, he will be on the ballot again in 2020, so we can count on our newly elected leaders to reap the same benefits they garnered this time around. But peer into the future, to the inevitable moment when Trump is out of power, and the Democrats run Washington.

Say for example, we have President Beto O’Rourke, who enacts an agenda as boldly progressive as Trump’s was conservative: comprehensive immigration reform, tuition-free college, Medicare for all, and the like.

In that hypothetical reality, you will see a red wave, a Republican resistance, just as passionate as what led to Democrats’ success in 2018.

And that’s when Hill and Smith are going to be in trouble.

The same swing in the polls that took out their Republican rivals this year, will come back the other way toward them.

In order to prepare for that moment, Santa Clarita Democrats must mobilize their connections with the state party and get resources allocated for a massive voter registration effort locally. We need enough liberals on the voter rolls to ensure that our new elected officials can survive even in years when the GOP has the momentum.

I once shared a dinner with Eric Bauman, the former chair of the California Democratic Party and noted political genius, and he informed me that Democrats typically need a seven-point registration advantage over Republicans to ensure electoral success.

That is because our party represents the low-income, the disabled, the young — folks who typically struggle to vote. Therefore, we need far more of them engaged to ensure we can be competitive politically.

Local Democrats must set Bauman’s number as a goal to ensure Hill and Smith can stay in office for the long term. I am sure this won’t be too hard. Hill, for one, was a prodigious fundraiser in 2018, raising the sort of money you typically see in a U.S Senate candidate. Surely, the donors who poured their funds into seeing her win would be willing to spend a little more to ensure she can stick around over the long haul.

Now one could argue that the Trump era has brought about a permanent realignment where suburbanites, like the ones in our area, have become so disgusted with the GOP that they become reliable Democratic voters. And therefore even in a year where Republicans have momentum, our candidates will hold onto their seats.

But that’s purely speculative, and considering the short-term nature of the public’s memory — we get upset at one party, forget about it, then rage at the other guys — not very likely.

Politics is a brutal business. Santa Clarita activists poured their blood, sweat and tears into securing this year’s victories. But if we hope to ensure those wins are meaningful, and not just short-term sugar highs, the work must continue.

Vigorous steps must be taken to make Santa Clarita not just a purple district that elects Democrats in “blue wave” years, but a real bastion of progressivism that can sustain our party even when political winds are moving against us.

Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party. Democratic Voices runs every Tuesday in The Signal and rotates among several local Democrats.

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