Opinion: Lessons for Democrats from election

Courtesy photo

Jerry Yeargin

Americans are in dire straits because of the crippled economy and the renewed surging of the pandemic, which experts agree is due to the mistakes of anti-science Republicans like President Donald Trump.

Thankfully, a clear majority of Americans voted for the Biden-Harris ticket and a new day is coming. The problem is that Democrats also need to gain control of the Senate by winning the Georgia runoffs, or Joe Biden's presidency will be handicapped from the start.

In 2020, Democrats learned the hard way that our friends across the aisle will stop at nothing to get their way. So, the first order of business if Democrats win a Senate majority will be to end the filibuster rule to prevent Republicans from blocking President Biden at every turn, as they did to President Barack Obama.

Another lesson from this election is that Democratic strategists have not used their large war chest effectively, and key down-ballot races were lost by Democrats. In Georgia, the Democratic candidates are more likely to win the runoff elections if they refocus much of their campaign spending away from advertising and toward community organizing.

The gains that Democrats made this year weren't the result of advertising campaigns. Those gains happened in places like Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia because local progressives have been working with their neighbors for years to meet community concerns on issues like immigration, criminalization and hunger.

The longtime activists on the ground in Georgia deserve a lot of the credit for Biden's victory there. Those groups should start getting a generous share of Democratic funding right now to support their community problem-solving efforts. Investing that money in neighborhood actions and door-to-door canvassing in the coming weeks would do more to help the Georgia Democrats win than using it to buy more over-the-top advertising.

Democrats should learn from successful Republican candidates, who haven't just relied on political ads. They have been using a granular, data-driven strategy to connect with blue-collar families on their doorsteps. But so far, Democratic leaders have concentrated on a media-focused approach that appeals mainly to the Democratic middle class, the haves instead of the have-nots.

In these desperate times, the Democratic party should devote the biggest share of its resources to doubling down on the fight for working-class people. The systemic, fatal inequalities and injustice in America are calling Democrats to join the battle to protect the lives and livelihoods of tens of millions of struggling families and individuals, whose very survival is threatened by the Republican agenda.

Naturally, Biden and the Democrats will make every effort to reach bipartisan agreement on responses to our national emergency. But we can't afford to give Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his cronies a veto power over urgently needed legislation. Too many lives are at stake.

For example, a Republican Senate majority could try to force distribution of any new vaccine to be done through private insurance plans, as Trump has already suggested. Obviously, that would deny this life-saving treatment to many people of color in communities that have already been hit the hardest.

There is good reason to think that Democrats can still win control of Congress. After enduring the raging pandemic through the dark months of November and December, Georgians will probably be devastated, like the rest of the country. At that point, I believe Georgia voters will see how vital it is to send two Democrats to the Senate to help President Biden control the pandemic, heal America's divisions and put ordinary people back to work. And not a moment too soon.

Jerry Yeargin lives in Taos County.

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