How acting on local issues can empower voters.
In her debut book, journalist Winter makes a compelling case for the importance of state and local races in promoting progressive politics. Too often, Democrats have focused on federal elections, overlooking statehouses, while Republicans invest money and strategy in local races. The result, writes the author, is that Republicans “continue to have outsize power on the state level across the country,” affecting crucial issues such as gun laws, health care, and voting rights. Focusing on state politics in the swing states of Missouri, Colorado, and Florida, Winter argues persuasively that “seemingly disparate local laws in fact have broad national consequences.” She chose those states “because they each have something to tell us about how Democrats and progressives lost, and how they might win again—not within a single campaign cycle but over the long haul.” Of the three states, Colorado stands as a model of success, with organizers who worked energetically for nearly two decades “to keep Colorado Democrats and progressives in the game.” They gained control of the state Senate in 2000, and although they lost it two years later, their victory showed them that they could win. Seeing that Republicans were funded by extremely wealthy individual donors and conservative organizations (for example, the Koch brothers and Americans for Prosperity), Colorado progressives tapped local multimillionaires for contributions; their support attracted other left-leaning philanthropic and political donors. In addition, the organizers coordinated their efforts in advertising, mailings, recruiting volunteers, and in targeting key districts and races. Florida stood in sharp contrast. Although Democrats campaigned fiercely in presidential years, after they left, the state had no progressive infrastructure. Moreover, “left-leaning donors and interest groups came to consider Florida Democrats a lost cause,” leaving “a patchwork of underfunded and sometimes mismanaged organizations and volunteer chapters.” In Missouri, Republicans pounced on “charged cultural issues—guns, abortion, and race” to fragment Democratic voters. For voters frustrated with national politics, Winter sees local politics as “a venue where we can do something.”
A timely, urgent call for political engagement.