The pressure is on for Democratic progressives to win in the November elections. They have been arguing for years that they are the answer to declining turnout in the midterm elections. It is progressives that could excite young and minority voters who often stayed home. They could defeat the Republicans who relied on an older, whiter electorate to dominate in midterm elections.
The Democratic establishment, and Democratic voters, largely rejected that argument during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations. Instead, the party nominated moderate candidates designed to win over swing voters who were certain to vote.
As an example, in four straight gubernatorial elections, from 2002 to 2014, Florida Democrats picked white moderates from the Tampa area as their standard-bearers in the nation’s fourth-largest state. But all four candidates lost.
This year, with the party at historic lows at the state level and President Trump in the White House, voters in Florida have made a much different choice. They nominated 39-year-old Andrew Gillum, the African-American mayor of Tallahassee who has promised to focus as much on turning voters out as on winning them over.
This kind of choice has also happened in Georgia, where they picked state Rep. Stacey Abrams, who has built a career out of registering new voters; in Maryland, where Ben Jealous is banking on a blue wave; and in Arizona, where David Garcia is counting on the excitement of the possibility of the first Latino governor in 40 years to fire up Latino voters.
All four candidates are counting on a coalition of minority voters and white liberals as their path to victory. They also hope to win over suburban moderates turned off by Trump.
“Andrew Gillum’s massive upset victory tonight is an explosive development in the 2018 election that definitively proves that the New American Majority of people of color and progressive white voters are ready to deliver transformative results for candidates,” Charles Chamberlain, the executive director of the progressive group Democracy for America, said in a statement Tuesday night. “Tonight, Floridians made it clear that the time for fundamental progressive change in the Sunshine State is here.”