Two years of Trump’s complete control of Congress are coming to an end. Across the country, progressive constituencies mobilized against Trump and turned out against Trumpist candidates. The result: a Democratic-controlled House, a net gain of at least seven Democratic governors and more than 300 Democratic pickups in state legislatures. Outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan is slinking back to Janesville, Wis., to spend more time with the novels of Ayn Rand. May he live out his days in well-deserved obscurity.
According to exit polls, among those who said this was their first midterm voting, 62 percent voted Democratic and 36 percent voted Republican. Most significantly, in 2019, millennials will surpass boomers as the largest bloc of eligible voters — and according to the exit polls, 67 percent of millennials (age 18 to 29) gave their votes to Democrats. Given that party identification forms early in life, the GOP is dying.
The death throes are ugly and the moribund creature is still dangerous. At the state level, under the pretense of fighting the red herring of voter fraud, Republican legislators and state officials have made every effort to suppress the Black vote, including removing voters from the rolls under the flimsiest pretexts. And, as we see in the travesty that was the Georgia governor’s race, their scheme has been successful.
From the White House to county government, elected GOP officials, bereft of popular ideas, have also tried to gin up their base by sowing fear and reaping hate. As we went to press, thousands of troops waited for a phantom invasion at the border, props in Trump’s theater of racism and xenophobia.
As progressives fight the good fight, they must simultaneously work to pressure Democratic leaders and listen to the young left activists who have energized the party, who see climate change as an existential threat to their future. It is an issue for which centrist politics clearly have no place.
Just one week after the election, representatives-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib joined protesters demanding that House Democrats adopt an ambitious climate justice agenda; Nancy Pelosi responded by vowing to reinstate a House select committee on climate change.
Ocasio-Cortez has warned there is a vanishingly brief window to mitigate “cataclysmic climate disaster.” In 2020, Democrats will need to organize and hold the House, take the Senate and elect a new president, not to mention radically and democratically reorganize industrial society. It is not hyperbole to say this fight is for civilization’s survival — one that will require the leadership of the Left and the mobilization of popular support on a scale we have not seen since the civil rights movement.
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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.