By 2020 Arizona Congressional Eight District Democratic Candidate Michael Muscato
A friend of mine likes to say, “Democrats don’t shoot themselves in the foot; they aim higher.” Much like Will Rogers’ “I’m not a member of an organized party, I’m a Democrat,” or Pogo’s famous Earth Day cartoon quote, “We have met the enemy and he is us,” his point is our own infighting and positional intransigence contributes as much to our losing elections than just about anything our candidates can do. As a candidate, this is frustrating because we can win red districts in Arizona, but only if we pull together.
If you admire the Republicans for anything, it’s their ability to stay on message and stay glued to their nominees no matter what before, during and after an election. They seem to understand unity is what helps them hold on to seats and therefore hold on to power. Their party, platforms, and policies have gone off the rails, but getting into that would be a distraction from the issue here: teamwork.
So what do we have to do to win around here?
To see what I’m talking about, all you have to do is look at the 2004 election and Howard Dean’s campaign. Anyone who has been involved in Democratic politics at that time recalls how devoted Dean supporters were. They were fervent. When Dean dropped out, so did many of his supporters. They were so upset, they couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Kerry. Academics who have studied the 2004 election say it contributed to GW Bush being reelected.
In the 2016 general election, some people were so upset that Bernie Sanders didn’t get the nomination, they stayed home and publicly criticized Hilary Clinton. Some argued Hilary wasn’t “progressive enough” or that she “was too ‘establishment’.” Conspiracy theories were hatched (some of the Russian origin) and people didn’t bother to vote or left the presidential race blank.
Whatever the justification for not voting for their own party’s nominee, the one thing you can’t call Dean, Sanders, Kerry or Hilary is “Mister or Madam President.” We got GW Bush and Donald Trump, instead.
Let that sink in for a minute.
This problem is exacerbated by those looking for political purity or adherence to specific positions on important issues as they see them. These are not just “single-issue” voters, these are voters who have specific views on abortion, guns, immigration, climate, the debt, the military, and on and on and expect 100% agreement on each of them. Unless a candidate can check off the “right” position, meaning theirs, on every one of these issues, they can’t support them.
While I understand the sentiment, it’s important for people to remember that the job of any member of the state legislature or Congress is to represent all of the voters, not just you. That means that a candidate’s position must, in some respects, reflect the district. If they don’t, they won’t win. If they don’t win, they have no voice in Congress. If they have no voice in Congress, they not going to see the changes they want to be made. It means Democrats are in the minority and if you want to see how that works, look at Mitch McConnell’s Senate.
I’m not saying anyone has to compromise on their principles. I’m not saying they have to agree to any position they can’t support. I am saying that our voters must recognize that unless our candidates are elected, none of what they want to be done gets done. It means two YEARS before the next chance to change a member of Congress. It means two years of no action on climate change. It means two years of no action on strengthening our health care system. It means two more years of trillion-dollar deficits. It means two more years of extremist Supreme Court nominees.
As we have seen over the last two decades, a lot of bad things can be done every two years—longer if you include the White House. Is holding candidates to pure policy litmus tests really worth risking fixing or avoiding economic, social or environmental disasters? It shouldn’t be.
I’m running in one of the most conservative districts in the country. I was born and raised here by two public-school-teaching parents. I know this community as well as anyone who has run for this office. I welcome people’s ideas. I welcome their criticism. I’m happy to sit down with anyone or any group to discuss positions and unlike the incumbent, I am willing to change my mind. That’s why I can win.
If Democrats are to win, we have to be open to other perspectives. We have to agree to disagree because so long as we’re divided, we’re right where Republicans want us. I’m in this race because my hometown is worth fighting for. We’ll have much better chances of winning if we’re fighting together.
Part One of Mr. Muscato’s article can be accessed by clicking here.
Mr. Muscato’s campaign website can be accessed by clicking here.
His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Featured Image of Congressional District Eight Democratic Candidate Michael Muscato and his wife, Alicia, and their sons Cooper and Canton