United States politics is centered around and obsessed with elections. After the 2016 election, many are hoping for a viable challenge to the Trump administration and are looking to the Democratic Party for that challenger.
But should they?
This week, in a special election for Georgia Congressional District 6, an area just north of Atlanta, Democrat Jon Ossof attempted to rally the Democratic base to take back a historically Republican seat that had been represented by Tom Price, the new Health and Human Services Secretary.
Ossof won 48.1% of the vote and Karen Handel came in second with 19.8% of the vote in a crowded field of 18 candidates. Republicans were determined to keep Ossof’s vote share below 50% and ran a slew of campaign ads against him. Yet, Ossof did well in this election, and he will face Handel in a runoff in June.
What is interesting about this election is the dogged determination to topple Trump with electoral politics. Ossof rallied voters with a “Make Trump Furious!” message. Of course, we should use every avenue available to us certainly to resist this administration and its damaging policies. Ossof’s work turning out Democrats in Georgia is important and notable.
My concern is the discourse around this election. Are we still so dependent on electoral politics to enact change in our country, to push back and resist against tyrants like Trump? I am also curious about the hope in the Democratic Party’s ability to make real inroads, while, more or less, offering up the same formula, the same platforms.
It is not that Ossof is not a good candidate, he seems qualified and has an incredible record. However, I wonder what those pushing for his election know about Georgia District 6, what else they recommend for a deeply red state with precarious access to the social safety net. What else could we do for a state, my home state, that needs better transportation options and better access to healthcare? We must complicate these conversations about Congressional districts and not focus solely on the up or down possibilities of elections. We must vote…and organize.
I am not saying that electoral politics is unimportant; we know they are because elected politicians make policy. We also know, however, that elections and political candidates often over-promise and under-deliver. It is simply the nature of the political structure of the United States.
I am hopeful that Ossof will flip the district. I also hope that we do not simply rely on progressive candidates to promote change in our communities. This election will perhaps energize Georgia Democrats and encourage them to fight the Republican power structure, but, more importantly, I hope that the Trump era signals a return to real civics for the entire Democratic Party, to talking to people and trying to meet their needs no matter who is in office.
We need to expand our political imaginary and not rely solely on Democratic candidates to change our political realities.