By Megan Dean
n Tuesday, democratic socialist Lee Carter unseated Jackson Miller, the Republican majority whip of Virginia’s House of Delegates. Buoyed by the enthusiasm around the Bernie Sanders campaign and backed by the Washington DC chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, Carter successfully campaigned on single-payer health care, getting money out of politics, and putting the interests of working-class Virginians above those of big donors.
Running in Virginia’s 50th district, which includes the city of Manassas, Carter won with a nine-point spread, 54 to 46 percent. His Republican opponents distributed red-baiting mailers comparing him to Stalin, and the state’s Democratic Party abandoned him when he refused to tone down his message, especially his opposition to Dominion Energy’s plans for a natural gas pipeline.
This campaign showed is that it’s perhaps harder to get this kind of message across in a place that the establishment Democrats are in control of, like New York and San Francisco with their safe blue seats. But once you get into working-class communities in swing states, it becomes much easier to defeat your opponent.
Jacobin’s Meagan Day reached out to Carter to talk democratic socialism, single-payer health care, and how working-class politics can win outside the big cities.
Megan Dean: Most local campaigns are about local issues. But you made yours about big issues, like single-payer and also getting money out of politics, that cut across state lines and speak to all Americans. Why did you do that?
Lee Carter: It’s not just local conditions that you focus on, it’s material conditions. The reason I picked big transformational themes for my campaign is that these are the things I’m passionate about, and that will have the greatest long-term impact on people’s lives.
When it comes to getting money out of politics, for instance, so many politicians campaign on issues they never speak about again after election day because the donors don’t like it. That’s why I rejected corporate donors — I needed to show people that I’m actually going to fight for the voters because they’re the only people I’m accountable to.
MD: Why did you run on the Democratic Party ballot line, rather than as an independent? And how did the Democratic Party interact with your campaign?
LC: Running as an independent in Virginia would have been completely prohibitive. In a swing state, you can only really run without an established ballot line in smaller races, like city and town council, district attorney, and even mayoral races. But when you have an electorate of eighty-five thousand people and you’re trying to get their attention in an off-year, when they’re not normally inclined to pay attention to politics in the first place, that’s one hurdle that you just don’t need.
As for the Democrats, it made the most sense to me to build a coalition of groups focused on the things that the Democratic Party’s voter base and the Democratic Socialists of America have in common, such as fighting for an inclusive society, fighting for economic empowerment of working people, fighting to eliminate poverty, and transitioning away from fossil fuels.
The groups whose support I relied on included grassroots member-led Democratic organizations as well as labor unions and DSA. I did, however, end up in conflict with the state party itself, particularly its more right-wing elements, and ultimately ran without the support of the state’s party leadership. But I was only able to do so and win because I had the support of a large section of the Democratic Party’s actual base. …
- Learn More About – And Join – The Democratic Socialists of America! The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people. … Read the Rest
Meet The Progressives Elected After Trump: America’s New Emerging Political Coalition
By Jamiles Lartey
The Guardian (11/12/17)
Last Tuesday, voters seemed to reject much of the anger and polarisation that Donald Trump has brought in to US politics. Instead, voters elected a diverse range of candidates from progressive backgrounds. The elections, a year after Trump’s victory, saw Montana elect its first black mayor, New Jersey elected its first Sikh mayor and Charlotte elected its first black female mayor.
Here are some of the faces of America’s new political coalition…