What Democrats need to do next

November 18, 2018 2:08 pm

In 2016, Philadelphia hosted the Democratic National Convention. To commemorate the occasion, it commissioned artists to paint a donkey sculpture for each state. Photo by 7beachbum | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Democrats have pulled off a miracle – the most seats in the Arizona House in 50 years. They even eked out a U.S. Senate seat and a few statewide offices. There are thousands of progressive activists, courageous first-time candidates and grassroots volunteers to thank.

Democratic leaders need to be careful about what they do next.

Predictably, politicos are already spewing the tired narrative that Democrats must run to the middle to win, and some of them are salivating over the possibility that Democrats will run a former Republican for McCain’s Senate seat in 2020.

That would be a mistake.

Here’s what Arizona Democrats need to do next.

Tell the truth about what matters

The truth is, Arizona is facing a moral, economic and environmental crisis.

A Republican mayor in one of Arizona’s reddest counties came to one of my campaign events. Giant corporate-owned farms are draining aquifers to grow water-thirsty crops for overseas sales. She’s heard some wells are already running dry. She said Gov. Doug Ducey refuses to listen or act. She came to me because this goes beyond politics.

Democrats need to suffocate and bury the phrase “blue wave,” not just because most Arizonans don’t identify strongly with either political party, but because this isn’t a game.

Our future is at stake.

Democrats need to understand that the goal isn’t just beating the red team. Arizona needs to have a serious conversation.

Lead it.

Share a vision

Voters need to know where you plan to take them. Without a clear vision, it’s easy to be branded as “too radical for Arizona” or “socialists,” even if you haven’t worn a pink tutu for decades.  

“Make America Great Again” is a vision. “I do what I want” and “from us – for us,” messaging from the top of the Democratic ticket this year, is not.

What will be different if Democrats are elected in Arizona?

Don’t give us canned talking points or a list of issues that poll well; don’t just show us pictures of your family and talk about your old neighborhood.

Tell us that you’re going to make sure every single one of us – from the oldest barrios to the edge of nowhere to the middle of town – matters. Tell us how your plans will give each of us the opportunity to thrive.

Inspire us.

Show some muscle

Arizona is mountains and sun-scorched deserts. We don’t do wimps.

The last Democrats standing in this election differed on policy, but they had this in common: They have a spine.

Sinema doesn’t apologize for voting with Trump; she brags about it. Hoffman ran as a progressive, who wants all our children – including LGBTQ and immigrant kids – to get a great public education; she’s also the only Democrat this year to run a negative ad against a primary opponent. Hobbs has a perfect blue record in the legislature; her supporters sued to kick her primary opponents off the ballot. Kennedy wants to make Arizona run on solar; she startled Democrats during the primary with accusations that flattened her popular challenger.

Arizona voters have a tolerance for a pretty wide range of political views. But, if given a choice, we’re going to pick the candidate we think will fight like hell for the things they believe in.

Democrats really don’t need to run to the middle to win in Arizona, as a rule. My view is that, unless Democrats want to squander this momentum by ticking off every fired-up progressive activist who just won the day, they shouldn’t.  

What Democrats need to do is toughen up, tell the truth about what matters and give us a vision as big as Arizona.

Arizonans are weary of the ideologues and scammers who have hijacked the Republican Party. We are hungry for new leadership.

Democrats, you’re up.

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Kelly Fryer
Kelly Fryer

Kelly Fryer was a candidate for governor in Arizona's 2018 Democratic primary and CEO of Southern Arizona's oldest racial justice and women's empowerment organization. During the 2012 election cycle, Kelly served as Executive Director of Arizona List, which works to elect progressive, Democratic women to public office. She has also served as a minister and seminary professor, and is the author of dozens of books and articles focused on mission and leadership.