Here’s an idea from some folks who are committed to organizing a revitalized and resurgent Democratic Party in the South. Evergreen member Helen Strain is part of the brain-trust behind this formidable new effort, and I’ll let her speak for herself here:
Building and Revitalizing the Democratic South
It’s no secret that the Democratic Party and progressives are reeling in the South. The Tea Party is ascendant, and Republicans have supermajorities in many state houses. In state after state, public education, labor, women’s health and the very right to vote are under concerted – and successful – attack.
Seeing a critical need to invest resources in a long-term strategy to recruit and build a bench of Democratic candidates, provide a support system for them, and build capacity, we have created South Forward.
Why South Forward?
The South presents the largest opportunity for Democratic gains compared to any other region of the country. While Republicans have been making gains in the South for decades, their complete dominance is a fairly recent phenomenon:
- In November of 1990, all 28 legislative chambers in the South had Democratic majorities.
- As recently as three years ago, 13 southern legislative chambers had Democratic majorities and 15 were Republican-controlled, but after the 2012 election only three Southern legislative chambers are Democratic, and 25 are Republican-controlled.
- Only eight of 28 Southern US Senate seats are held by Democrats; Republicans from the South outnumber Democrats in the US House 109-42, and there are only three Democratic governors.
But it wasn’t always this way. President Lyndon Johnson famously said in 1965, as he put down his pen after signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act, that Democrats had “lost the South for a generation.” That time is over – it’s our time now.
We’re very optimistic about the medium- and long-term prospects for victory in the South. In 2008, President Obama carried only three Southern states: Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. In 2012, after historic financial investments by the President’s reelection campaign, Florida and Virginia once again voted for President Obama. The remaining 11 states received little (if any) significant investment from the President’s campaign in 2012. But In November’s election, President Obama lost Georgia by only 7%, Mississippi and South Carolina by 11% and North Carolina by only 2% — despite a complete lack of funding.
Current demographic trends suggest the ability for Democratic candidates to win up and down the ballot throughout the South within the next 10 years.
Burgeoning Hispanic populations not just in Texas and Florida but in less obvious states, like South and North Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky, will tilt the electorate toward Democrats. Mobilizing Hispanic, African-American and women voters can create strong Democratic voting blocs. The future can and should be ours.
South Forward‘s Purposes
At South Forward, we realize that our commitment to Federal candidates in 2016, 2018 and beyond depends on building a bench of future Democratic candidates for statewide and federal office — starting now. At the municipal and county levels, South Forward will provide significant direct financial support for candidates and an aggressive independent expenditure program. Our state legislative electoral activities will continuously be focused on building toward the 2018-2020 elections, to avoid redistricting debacles like we saw in 2010.
Build And Strengthen Institutional Capacity
It is in Democrats’ long-term best interest to have fully-functioning state party organizations. South Forward will invest in state Democratic parties through direct financial support and, where legally permitted, provide polling and research that can help state parties be aggressive in presenting a strong Democratic message.
Recruit, Train And Mentor Candidates And Staff
South Forward will conduct training and mentoring programs throughout the South specifically designed for women and minority candidates and campaign staff. South Forward won’t just train people and forget them. The key ingredient to the training program is building a long-term mentoring relationship with candidates and staff.