By Yatish Joshi

Although we are just a few weeks beyond the 2018 midterm elections, it is imperative we begin working toward 2020 as there is so much at stake. Importantly, the federal census will be taken and legislative districts will be redrawn using the data collected. The individuals we elect at every level of government will be critical to that effort and we must work toward victory ​now​.

The midterm elections demonstrated that Democrats have a message that resonates with voters. Despite the GOP’s extreme efforts at voter suppression – gerrymandering, purging voter rolls, strict voter ID laws, etc. – Americans chose candidates who reflected their desires for affordable health care, living wages, quality education, fair taxes, vibrant neighborhoods, and compassionate immigration reform, among other issues. Democrats regained control of the House and secured more than ​330 seats​ in state legislatures. Overall, voters gave Democratic candidates in races for the House ​7 million​ more votes than Republicans. This gap widens to more than 10 million votes in Senate races. Furthermore, the campaigns of Krysten Sinema (Arizona), Stacey Abrams (Georgia), Andrew Gillum (Florida), and Beto O’Rourke (Texas) illustrated that Democrats can win or at least be very competitive in deep red states.

Here in Indiana’s Second District we also witnessed the power of progressive ideals. In the May 2018 Primary, Mel Hall won the Democratic nomination with ​15,402​ votes. Yet, 21% more votes were cast for progressive candidates – 10,429 for Pat Hackett and 8,165 for me. Democrats must embrace vibrant policies that will improve quality of life for everyone. Senator Joe Donnelly sought to take the middle ground in the midterms and was handily ​defeated​ by Mike Braun (44.8% to 50.7%). We must not be timid. Hoosiers not only want positive, issue-focused campaigns, but also desire a clear policy choice. We must be more than a party that opposes the GOP; we must boldly, passionately, and unapologetically put forward a dynamic platform and do the work of showing voters the value those ideals have for their lives.

Beyond a robust agenda, Democrats have other work to do. We must not only engage younger voters, but recruit them to run for office and actively support their efforts. We need to not only register voters, but covert the many non-voters into voters. We need to fight back against voter suppression, energize voters to the polls, and facilitate easier access to the ballot box. Oletha Jones ​won​ her seat on the South Bend School Board by 77 votes. Every vote really ​does​ count and we need to inspire our fellow Americans to vote FOR ideas rather than simply AGAINST a particular candidate or party.

To achieve these goals, we must evaluate our recent electoral successes and failures as well as hold Democratic leadership accountable – from the county to the district to the state and nation. President John F. Kennedy issued a challenge in his January 1961 inaugural address: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans … unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at

home and around the world.” We know what work must be done, but the question remains – how will our Democratic leaders respond to this challenge and assure success in 2020?

I support an urgent call amongst Democratic Party activists and organizers for John Zody, Indiana Democratic Party Chairman, to hold a public forum with progressives in St. Joseph County. Concerns have been raised around the lack of investment in party organizing within minority communities and funding for candidates of color and down-ballot candidates; around the harsh rhetoric pertaining to candidates’ support for border wall funding and ICE, which alienated many immigrant voters; and around the dismissiveness shown towards universal healthcare.

The way forward includes greater accountability, a change in party leadership from top to bottom, and a more concerted effort at engaging with and growing our base of voters–young folks, women, immigrants, workers, and people of color.

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