While DC pundits have kept a reasonably close watch on congressional special elections in the districts won by Trump -- and have seen signs of political movement -- some of the clearest signals are coming from special elections for seats in the state legislative chambers that will redraw congressional district lines after the 2020 Census. Progressive Democrats running in historically Republican districts in New Hampshire and New York won breakthrough victories in May. "Republicans should absolutely be concerned: Two Republican canaries died in the coal mine yesterday," GOP political consultant William O'Reilly said after the results were announced. He explained that "Trump voters and other Republicans simply didn't show up, and voters from the left did."
The New York special-election winner, elementary-school teacher and union activist Christine Pellegrino, described her victory as a "thunderbolt of resistance." But it was also something else: Pellegrino, another 2016 Sanders delegate, wasn't the first choice of Democratic strategists and local party leaders. She gained the nomination with the crucial help of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, as well as the group Long Island Activists, which was "born out of the Bernie Sanders movement." Pellegrino ran an edgy anti-corruption campaign that recognized the mood among voters frustrated with both major parties. As observers hailed her victory in a district that gave Trump a 23-point edge last November, Pellegrino explained that her winning strategy wasn't all that complicated: "A strong progressive agenda is the way forward."
Pellegrino proved her point by taking 58 percent of the vote in one of the 710 legislative districts nationwide that have been identified by Ballotpedia as including all or part of the so-called "Pivot Counties" -- those that voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2016. As the website explains: "477 state house districts and 233 state senate districts intersected with these Pivot Counties." These [districts comprise] approximately 10 percent of all state legislative districts in the country."
For progressives, figuring out where to win and how to win -- not merely to resist, but to set the agenda -- is about more than positioning. This is the essential first step in breaking the grip of politics that imagines large parts of the country will always be red, and that says the only real fights are over an elusive middle ground where campaigns are fought with lots of money but little substance. The resistance-and-renewal politics that's now gathering momentum rejects such empty politics and embraces what Chokwe Antar Lumumba identifies as "the struggle [that] does not cease": to give people the jobs and freedom they need to shape their own destinies. That makes every election in every community matter, because the point isn't merely to resist one bad president; as Lumumba reminds us, it is "to change the order of the world."
Editor's note: This article has been updated to note the help Christine Pellegrino received from the Long Island Progressive Coalition.Copyright - 2017 thenation.com -- distributed by Agence Global