Skip to main content
what can progressives do

Rep. Darrell Issa, left, greets Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally last year in San Diego. (John Gastaldo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

For those of us who wanted Bernie Sanders in the Presidential election, we want a better world, and we don’t want Donald Trump or the Republican Party. So what can we do? We can join “Our Revolution” (started by the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016) and maybe even do some phone banking for progressive candidates around the country (see below for this). If you really want Bernie for President, you might want to joint the movement to draft him for a People’s Party. This is pretty far out since the People’s Party isn’t even established, and who knows whether Bernie would even want to run in 2020.

But there are other things to do. For example, we can try to reclaim democracy from the claws of Citizens United. But the whole idea that there should be three organizations independently going against Citizens United tells you something about how fractured left wing efforts can be. In fact, Move To Amend claims that End Citizens United is a phony organization. . And others have agreed with this assessment. So we need to be careful about whom we support.

There are organizations that hope to change the Congress entirely. For instance, Brave New Congress wants to run a united group of 400 or more candidates to change the face of the Congress. The group claims to have almost 214,000 supporters. I wonder why I’ve never heard of it? But there’s an entirely separate organization called “Swing Left,” designed to take back the House of Representatives from the Republicans. There are lots and lots of organizations, each going in a slightly different direction. All of these are laudable ideas, but unless their organizers can find some way of becoming unified, it’s hard to see how they are going to succeed.

Personally, and having experienced the Bernie Sanders movement (2015-16), my own take is that the next target for progressives should be the Congress. Since I live in California, and since California is strongly progressive, I believe that progressives should try to capitalize on this reality. The Democratic Party is targeting 61 Republican representatives in 2018, and 7 are in California. But there are actually 14 Republican representatives from California.

One of the greatest things about our modern political world is that you and other progressives can have an impact on elections even if you live thousands of miles away.

The seven whom the DCCC has targeted were all in districts which Hillary Clinton carried against Donald Trump, so it stands to reason that they might have weaker support.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

Here are the 2016 election results in the 14 districts with Republican incumbents:

  • CA-1: D. La Malfa (59.5%-40.5%)
  • CA-4: T. McClintock (62.8%-37.2%)
  • CA-8: P. Cook (62.7%-37.3%)
  • CA-10: J. Denham (52.4%-47.6%)
  • CA-21: D. Valadao (58.0%-42.0%)
  • CA-22: D. Nunes (68.2%-31.8%)
  • CA-23: K. McCarthy (70.0%-30.0%)
  • CA-25: S. Knight (54.2%-45.8%)
  • CA-39: E. Royce (57.7%-42.3%)
  • CA-42: K. Calvert (59.0%-41.0%)
  • CA-45: M. Walters (59.0%-41.0%)
  • CA-48: D. Rohrabacker (58.5%-41.5%)
  • CA-49: D. Issa (51.0%-49.0%)
  • CA-50: D. Hunter (63.9%-36.1%)

Note that the Republicans won in the 45th District by 59-41 and did the same in the 42nd District and nearly the same in the 1st District. The fact that Clinton did not beat Trump in the latter districts doesn’t mean that those representatives have no flaws. Those districts would be difficult but not impossible wins for Democrats.

For those progressives who don’t want to wait until 2017, there are special elections going on around the country which may have meaning. There are 6 coming up, and 5 of the 6 were held by Republicans. California’s 34th District went vacant when Xavier Becerra became California’s attorney general, but in the April 4, 2017 election Robert Lee Ahn and Jimmy Gomez, both Democrats, secured the two runoff positions, so it is a safe Democrat district.

Montana’s at-large representative was a Republican. Rob Quist is the Democratic candidate, running against a Republican and a Libertarian. Even if you live outside Montana, you can volunteer and do phone banking from home..The Republicans are running scared and are pouring money into this race, which is a clear indicator that the district may flip if progressives make an effort. “Our Revolution” is backing Quist.

Probably the best strategy would be to work in the special elections in 2017 and, when those are over, start to work in the 2018 elections. If you had a strong Bernie Sanders organization in 2016, try to keep that group going by working, either locally or from afar, for progressive candidates. One of the greatest things about our modern political world is that you and other progressives can have an impact on elections even if you live thousands of miles away. Phone banking and social media both help. So get out there and make a difference.

michael hertz

Michael T. Hertz