If Republicans recapture governorships in these states, it will mean much more than signing right-wing extremist bills. This means that MAGA supporters of the “Big Lie” will control the levers for conducting actual elections and assigning electors to the electoral college. The stage would be set for another uprising, in which Donald Trump supporters refuse to recognize or certify the actual winners of the elections and Trump returns to office regardless of whether he won.
The first test for Progressives is out next week in Virginia, which is more than just a model for political junkies. The governors’ head-to-head race is a shining beacon on the horizon that warns of the dangers and possible consequences for our democracy. At its core, Virginia is more purple than blue. It is a state that fully underlines the political divide between town and country and shows how the organizational and communication strategies of the conservatives mix for-profit scare tactics with mobilization. From protests against critical racial theory and masked mandates to the removal of Confederate symbols, the outrage machine gives its campaigns a boost by keeping the grassroots angry, engaged and triggered.
Traditional measures of political activity, such as how much one side spent on media compared to the other, do not measure the impact of messages and right-wing organization. While these online and organizing strategies spark conservative buzz, they also suppress democratic voters, tired of the struggles and personal attacks that wash from the political world into their personal space.
MAGA organizers are also more committed and motivated in the other major battlefield states that Republicans want to control. After all, Joe Biden Virginia won by 10 points, Democratic Governor Ralph Northam won by 9 points in 2017, and a progressive majority was elected to the legislature in 2019; Many on the right thought the state inaccessible a year ago, but it is now within reach.
Meanwhile, since January 6, voter suppression and electoral subversion laws in key GOP-controlled battlefield states have systematically made it difficult for poor and minority voters to vote. They have also manipulated the referees by allowing a partisan takeover of election administration to make it easier for Trump or a Trump-like candidate to install in the White House, regardless of what the actual vote says. The deck has now been stacked against majority rule in four battlefield states of Texas, Florida, Georgia and Arizona, and more states could follow without a Democratic governor’s veto pen getting in the way.
Donors now need to be active and engaged. We need investments that flow into states early so that they have time to build the infrastructure necessary for success. We need to avoid duplicating existing efforts while making sure we are funding and listening to local groups who know how to organize in their communities. We need to tell the stories of real people and how their lives will be affected by a progressive agenda across all platforms.
Progressives have a habit of waiting until just before the end of an election cycle to invest in states, which is almost always a bad strategic game, like trying to win a baseball game in the last two innings. We know that the five battlefield states essential to securing democracy were central to Biden’s victory in 2020 – and will be in 2024.
While conservatives have mastered the art of division, progressives have to take on the cloak of positive leadership – and activate it early on, before they have lost control of the state houses that are decisive for the presidential election. This goes deeper than basic messaging; There is no political campaign in the world that is powerful enough to turn the tide. What we need is real organization, deep listening, and a commitment to use the voices of ordinary Americans to tell their stories and show that by working together we can solve problems.