America’s government and the Democratic Party are finally beginning to look a little more like its constituency.
First, there was the unexpected primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 27-year-old female Puerto Rican-American candidate who defeated 10-term incumbent Congressman Joe Crowley. Ocasio-Cortez is currently running virtually unopposed in New York’s 14th congressional district.
Then, there was the gubernatorial primary victory of Georgia’s very own State House leader, Stacey Abrams, who made history by becoming the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor. Abrams will face a tough uphill battle against a well-funded and well-known Republican challenger this Nov.
Former NAACP national president Ben Jealous won Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor last month. Jealous’ leadership is a breath of fresh air for Maryland’s voters; his platform merges Bernie Sanders-style economic policies with racial criminal justice reform.
If elected, Jealous would be only the fifth black governor in United States history, the first black governor of Maryland, and the first veteran of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to win statewide office.
Just last week, America’s heart skipped a beat when we witnessed Ayanna Pressley’s unforeseen triumphant win over veteran lawmaker Michael Capuano in Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District, and here in Florida, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has made history by becoming the first African-American nominee for governor, as he scored a major win for progressives in Florida and across the country.
As the only non-millionaire in his primary, Gillum prevailed and captivated his democratic base by ushering in a spirit of hope and offering voters a fresh perspective to ending 20 years of Republican rule.
There’s no doubt about it; we are living in a time of heightened tensions and inequalities: cultural, political, religious and racial. America’s free democracy is constantly being threatened by militant political figureheads. Elitism has replaced egalitarianism, negotiating the true identity of who we are as Americans.
Citizens in every corner of this great nation are rising up and saying no longer will we tolerate intolerance from those in elected office. No longer will we accept mediocre representation from those who ignore the blight and needs of our communities. No longer will we back those politicians who devalue the significance of black and brown lives.
These times demand, expect and deserve relevant leadership that is both, uncompromising and unafraid. These times demand more from our leaders and our party. With our civil rights under assault and our government under siege, what matters most is not voting Republicans out-of-office, but rather electing the right Democrats into office.
Donald Trump has become a formidable foe to every systemic inequality that our country faces. For this very reason, we must embrace leaders who will speak up and speak out against the hatred being spewed by Trump and his supporters.
Many of us registered as Democrats merely because it was what we thought we were supposed to do. Our parents did it, and we followed suit, as expected.
We voted for candidates because we knew them or because of their political party affiliation. We did not take the time to engage and educate ourselves on candidates’ platforms; instead, we disengaged and got comfortable, creating an easy pathway to victory for career politicians.
The Democratic Party has steadily begun to look more and more like its base, and that is a sign of progress and inclusion. No longer is just being “liberal” or “progressive” enough to garner the support of Democratic voters.
The wins of Ocasio-Cortez, Jealous, Pressley, Abrams and Gillum speak to that more diverse coalition within the party.
Democrat’s aspiring for political runs in 2020 can learn a lesson or two from the playbooks of those running for office today. We, the people, will only support progressive candidates who understand our everyday struggles and will work to STOP the agenda of President Trump.
Corey Givens Jr.
President, Poor People’s Campaign – St. Petersburg