Like many recent DSA members, I’m new to socialist politics. But I’m not new to politics. From listening to the Democratic talk radio and MSNBC that my dad loved to my first job in high school, I was enveloped in political ideas, many of them at the very local level.
In high school I worked for an urban farming non-profit that educated people about changing policies, usually zoning code changes that would help migrant communities raise animals in their communities and grow their own food in their gardens or backyards. I would meet with city council members and even the mayor, learning close up about the unglamorous and necessary attention to detail and persistence needed for even the smallest changes.
After I left the nonprofit, I still cared, sort of, but not being immersed in day-to-day work, my interest waned. Like many my age, I even skipped voting in the 2014 midterm election, which was the first year in which I was eligible to vote. The presidential election of 2016 that brought us Donald Trump contributed to my disillusionment with politics. How could this have happened? I was also a young adult finding out who I was, and politics took a back seat to life. But 2020 re-ignited my passion for politics. COVID-19 showed me that our public systems were not capable of handling a public health crisis in a humane way. I saw how our for-profit systems were flawed by valuing capital over lives.The murder of George Floyd also showed the world (and me) how relevant race issues continued to be and helped reignight my passion for civil rights. With COVID-19 shutting down many of the distractions capitalism offers to keep our minds from politics, I started paying more attention. I wasn’t alone. Trump, the pandemic, and a sense of looming catastrophe drove record numbers to the polls.
We saw the highest turnout of the 21st century, with almost 70% of eligible voters participating in the 2020 election. Under normal circumstances, midterms have lower turnout and often work against the party in power. And, with unrelenting news stories about how the Republicans will regain the House and Senate, successful attempts to suppress voting rights, and no lockdowns or a loutish president to scare us to the polls, it’s unlikely we’ll see turnout that high again. The recently leaked information that Roe v. Wade will likely be overturned could drive voter turnout, but it’s not clear yet.
The stakes are just as high if not higher for the midterm elections as they were in 2020. Many commentators have called this the election that will determine whether our democracy will survive. Since the 2020 election, Trump has consistently spread the lie that the election was stolen. This has energized his base to support changes to their state leadership that can directly affect the electoral college votes cast from their state. Ruling parties almost always lose in the midterm elections, and if that happens, we face the real possibility of having the 2024 election stolen.
We can’t ignore the midterms, much as we might want to. There are still so many pandemic-related issues to deal with. Who has the energy for voter registration and the hard work of fighting redistricting? The Senate’s Democratic majority exists only because the vice president can break ties in the Senate. And it’s a majority in name only, because Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin have blocked every center-left effort Joe Biden has put forth. Currently, Democrats are stymied in efforts to abolish the filibuster, which traditionally has been used to block progressive legislation. They most likely need a supermajority of 60 senators voting with Democrats to achieve even the centrist to liberal agenda of the current administration.The recent effort to confirm an extremely well-qualified judge to the Supreme Court shows again how unwilling almost all Republicans are to follow traditional norms of a democratic state.
The midterms never get as much turnout as the general election because the presidential race is a big motivator for people to show up to the polls. People are also much less invested in their state or local politics, but that is changing, both on the Left and especially on the Right. Recently, for instance, three members of the San Francisco school board were ousted ostensibly over their handling of school closings during the pandemic. If this can happen in deeply liberal San Francisco, imagine the dominance of Republicans in lighter blue or purple areas. People who are more invested in school board politics tend to be people who have the luxury or disposition to pay attention to their communities. They’re not necessarily working two jobs and juggling child care. Rich people have more time to keep up with politics and are more invested because they want to promote policies that aid their businesses. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt believes that conservatives tend to have a large focus on the idea of community, therefore they tend to be more involved in local politics
What does this mean for young voters who came of age in one of the most cynical and corrupt times in our country’s history? What does it mean for DSA? It means that if you are in a state that has a contested seat, you need to vote. If your senator is a Democrat and isn’t pro abolishment of the filibuster, primary them. This isn’t the time for inaction. Democrats need to maintain majorities in the Senate and the House, and they need to abolish the filibuster. Our democracy is on the line.
Republicans are looking to elect people, such as state attorneys general, who will allow Donald Trump to steal the election in 2024. Democrats want to pass federal voting rights that will block any of the anti-voting bills. This can’t pass in the Senate because of the filibuster. Democrats are now in favor of abolishing the filibuster to pass the voting rights bill, but they have a huge disadvantage going into the midterms. More than ever, we must get the word out about the stakes of this election and encourage people to vote. Our future depends on it.