NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, July 16th, 2015

A new fifty state strategy: Reversing the Democratic collapse in the states

Wel­come to our con­tin­u­ing live cov­er­age of Net­roots Nation in Phoenix, Ari­zona.

This after­noon, NPI Pres­i­dent Robert Cruick­shank is lead­ing a pan­el dis­cus­sion about the col­lapse of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty in the states and the need for a new fifty-state strat­e­gy to rebuild the par­ty’s strength in state­hous­es from Alas­ka to Flori­da. Here’s the premise of the pan­el as sub­mit­ted to Net­roots Nation:

The 2014 elec­tion was cat­a­stroph­ic for the pro­gres­sive move­ment and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty. Repub­li­cans gained a record num­ber of seats in state leg­is­la­tures and seized the gov­er­nor­ships of sev­er­al more blue states. Since Pres­i­dent Oba­ma took office, Democ­rats have lost near­ly 1,000 state leg­isla­tive seats. There are only sev­en states where Democ­rats con­trol the governor’s office and both hous­es of the leg­is­la­ture. Until we reverse the slide in the states, Democ­rats will have a near­ly impos­si­ble time retak­ing Con­gress and being able to gov­ern the coun­try again. Of course, GOP con­trol of states is caus­ing seri­ous dam­age in and of itself, as they impose extrem­ist poli­cies and under­mine pro­gres­sive vic­to­ries. This pan­el brings togeth­er lead­ers from across Amer­i­ca to ana­lyze the rea­sons for this disaster—and to chart the course back to pow­er.

Pan­elists include: Mona Perez, E.J. Juárez, Michael Sargeant, Nina Turn­er


  • Elec­tion focus was only on the guber­na­to­r­i­al lev­el and the fed­er­al lev­el. There was not enough focus on down­bal­lot races.
  • Don’t build the roof, build the foun­da­tion. Focus­ing just on top of the tick­et races at the expense of down­bal­lot races is coun­ter­pro­duce.
  • In Wash­ing­ton state, we had an elec­tion con­sul­tant prob­lem. Con­sul­tants advised to talk to the mid­dle instead of talk­ing to pro­gres­sive caus­es.
  • Turnout had dropped from 2010 to the 2014 elec­tions. Caus­es could include Democ­rats not speak­ing to their base.
  • Redis­trict­ing by right wing-dom­i­nat­ed redis­trict­ing com­mis­sions hurt Democ­rats’ abil­i­ty to com­pete in sub­se­qent elec­tions.
  • Ari­zona is run by the “Boys’ Club”. There has real­ly been no turnover in who is con­trol of Ari­zona.
  • Peo­ple, espe­cial­ly in poor and minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties, don’t feel that elect­ed offi­cials care about them, so they lose the moti­va­tion to vote.


  • Build the foun­da­tion. Focus on get­ting pro­gres­sive peo­ple elect­ed to the low­er lev­el offices. This will feed up the chain to push more pro­gres­sive ideas and can­di­dates with­in the high­er offices.
  • In Wash­ing­ton State, cam­paign con­sul­tants were not speak­ing the right lan­guage. Can­di­dates need to speak to pro­gres­sive issues that res­onate with vot­ers.
  • Democ­rats need to dri­ve their base on issues they care about. This is nec­es­sary to get them moti­vat­ed to vote.
  • More val­ue needs to be placed on can­di­dates who run for offices like local water dis­trict com­mis­sion­ers.
  • State Sec­re­tary office is very impor­tant because they are instru­men­tal in mak­ing it easy for cit­i­zens to vote.
  • It’s impor­tant to improve our mes­sag­ing to reach out to peo­ple hearts. Vot­ers don’t vote for a can­di­date just because they are intel­lec­tu­al. The vot­er needs to feel that the can­di­date is run­ning to do some­thing to lift them up.
  • The is no such thing as an off-year elec­tion. Focus on all elec­tions because it helps build the foun­da­tion for bet­ter suc­cess in future elec­tions.
  • Can­di­dates need to knock on doors and be con­nect­ed to the peo­ple. You can’t run a cam­paign on Face­book Ads.
  • Reach out to the poor, sin­gle moth­ers, and minori­ties. Reach­ing out to the base is impor­tant. Cam­paign con­sul­tants that claim that this is a waste of time are wrong.
  • Minori­ties need to be includ­ed in all lev­els of the elec­tion process and in can­di­date train­ing. Ads and names should not be “white washed”. Ads need to be made by the can­di­dates and the peo­ple who sup­port them.
  • Have a long-term plan as well as a short-term plan in elec­tions.
  • Repub­li­cans are aware and are afraid of the vot­ing pop­u­la­tion chang­ing. We as pro­gres­sives need to reach out to the new evolv­ing vot­ing pop­u­la­tion to grow our base.
  • Redis­trict­ing com­mis­sions are usu­al­ly elect­ed in secret. It is impor­tant to shed light on the redis­trict­ing com­mis­sions and get pro­gres­sive peo­ple appointed/elected to those redis­trict­ing com­mis­sions.
  • In Ari­zona, and else­where, we need to advo­cate for new lead­er­ship.
  • To keep peo­ple ener­gized, one must be authen­tic. This helps restore trust in elect­ed politi­cians.
  • Vot­ing rights is a very impor­tant issue. Access to the bal­lot box is very impor­tant in get­ting the right can­di­dates elect­ed that work for the peo­ple.

This was a great pan­el; Robert may have addi­tion­al thoughts to share on how it went here on the Cas­ca­dia Advo­cate some­time dur­ing the next few days.

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