Win the Day: Volume 10 (The Day After)

Make More Possible | November 7, 2018

Dear friends, 

When we started Win The Day, we knew we’d need to play some defense.  (See our recent post after the anti-Semitic violence in Pittsburgh.)  But we also knew we’d need to go on the offense.  And while there is much celebrate after last night’s elections, there is even more work to do.  How we do that, who we talk with, who we center, what language we use — that’s what our narrative work is focused on.

Here’s What Happened

Narrative change is even more important today than it was yesterday. 

If we misinterpret the meaning of yesterday’s vote, we come to the  wrong set of assumptions about how we can make progress together as Minnesotans.  Here are a few grounding observations:

We won this battle, but we’re still losing the war. In the last two years, conservative majorities in Washington D.C. have done lasting damage to our democracy.  At a cultural and normative level, our President is still actively working to weaken our basic democratic practices and institutions.  And conservative Congressional majorities have been actively pushing an anti-democratic agenda through court-packing, tax cuts for the wealthy, and pro-corporate regulations.  At a state-level their voter suppression and gerrymandering agenda is alive and kicking.  Just look at what happened in Georgia this past week.  (That a 9% national Democratic vote advantage doesn’t equal more seats in Congress should get us all real focused on the 2020 census.)  These power-grabs will tilt the field against regular people for years.  We will not repair this without clear heads and a view toward the long game.

The GOP base appears to be becoming older, whiter, male-r, and less frequently college educated. This CNN exit poll of voters nationwide is instructive. The GOP had over 55% support with only two demographic categories of voters: white men and women without a college degree and white Americans over the age of 45.  (Two notes of caution: this is an exit poll and it is national.  It could be different in Minnesota.)

Though losing rural Congressional seats, Democrats gained rural vote share over 2016. Per the same CNN national exit polls, vote by party broke out this way by regions:

  • In urban areas, Democrats beat Republicans: 65% to 32%
  • In suburban areas, the GOP and Democratic parties tied: 49% to 49%.
  • In rural areas, the Democrats lost to the GOP: 42% to 56%

However, Democrats performed better in rural areas in 2018 than they did in 2016.  That year they lost: 34% to 56%.  This is admittedly speculation, but it seems likely that some mix of women, voters under 40, and people of color in rural areas delivered these gains.  This should be instructive, if we are willing to catch our breath and listen for a bit. 

Where Do We Go From Here?

This election kept progressives in the game.  It undoubtedly checked the Trump administration.  It featured some game-changing candidates nationally and locally, but this is never just about the candidates.  It is always at least partly about us.  What can we do?  And what should we do in our narrative work?  Here are a few ideas:

  1. We have to make the dog-whistle disqualifying. Minnesotans soundly rejected Jeff Johnson’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, Doug Wardlow’s anti-LGBTQ record, and Jim Newberger’s Islamophobic campaign tactics.  Their approach is not 100% over, but it has been pushed to the margins in Minnesota.  It’s up to all of us to push it outside of the bounds of acceptable political discourse.  If you engage in othering rhetoric, you are disqualifying yourself from holding a position of public trust.
  2. We must continue to center women, especially women of color. Democrats across the country won the suburbs because college educated women switched parties.  You can see evidence of this down ballot here in Minnesota where a number of long-standing suburban GOP women lost State House seats.  As the right-wing continues to play out its sexist impulses in rhetoric, policy, and candidate selection, voters are reevaluating their loyalties.  Progressives can’t let this opportunity pass.  We need to offer more than platitudes; we need to make the lives of women a priority in our policymaking.  And what women need is pretty much what everyone needs: improved work-life balance, lower-cost child care & elder care, better health care (including reproductive care), and an end to gun violence and sexual violence.  If progressives deliver some meaningful wins, women will stay.  And non-college educated women will come along too.
  3. We need to continue to challenge the political narrative of a ‘rural-urban divide.’ This will be the go-to piece of analysis this week.  But it’s too easy.  It’s hacky.  And, if accepted, it could drive sub-par, maybe even counter-productive, narrative and policy decisions.The hot-take version of rural-urban-divide-ism is that non-college educated white men (aka blue-collar voters or Trump Democrats) are the electoral and political prize that both parties ought to be competing for.  Cue the hunting vest photo ops, hardhat tours, and ATV footage in TV ads.  This is problematic because a) it’s patronizing to white men in Greater Minnesota and b) it overlooks almost everyone else who actually lives, works, prays, learns, starts businesses, or actually is a not-white, not-male in every part of our state.

One Minnesota

Part of what worked about One Minnesota as a campaign theme is that it spoke to a real, felt need we all have to be connected to people who aren’t like us.  We all want to believe we are open-minded and big-hearted.  And on our best days, we are. 

Our next steps, during the transition and in 2019, need to give Minnesotans tangible ways to actually live this vision out.  This should start with acknowledging that Greater Minnesota is more complex than political hacks think it is.  It should continue by lifting up – heck, even celebrating – the diverse, three-dimensional communities that are Greater Minnesota.

So, as you scroll Twitter today or listen to MPR or read some analyst’s analysis, please work to remember Jessica, Lydia, Hamdi, and Veronica.  This year we were #GreaterThanFear.  But over the next two years, after losing ‘bigly,’ a diminished, homogenous right-wing might keep pushing all fear, all the time.  It’s not that we’re a divided state. It’s that we’re a state being divided by a minority wants to cling onto power for as long as they can.

We did not win #OneMinnesota last night.  But we did win the opportunity to go to work to make it real.

That’s a wrap. 

– Kenza and Chris