Great Candidates, with One Glaring Ommission
Donald Trump’s election has Democratic candidates lining up like there’s a new Star Wars movie coming out. People who have never considered a run for office are passing petitions around and setting up websites.
Democrats hold an enormous advantage in early candidate filings for the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, if we limit the analysis to the number of challengers to House incumbents who have filed for next year and have raised at least $5,000 — in an effort to narrow our sample to truly viable candidates — we see a record advantage for Democrats right now.
The quality of candidates, state officials report, is high. The level of enthusiasm is off the charts. The base of financial support seems to be stronger at the local level than for the national party.
Which is great, really. But a deeper dive into candidates’ backgrounds shows that Democrats need to actively recruit more candidates from economic groups the party purports to serve.
Take, for example, Michigan. It’s the heart of the industrial Midwest, a survivor battered by international competition, automation, and Republican scorn for unions. It went for Trump by a small margin. If there were a state in the country you’d bet would be overrun with working- and middle-class candidates, you’d think it would be Michigan.
There are nine Republican-held Congressional districts in Michigan. Seven of those districts already have Democratic challengers; 13 candidates have filed to run, and several more have announced their candidacies but not filed papers. It’s an impressive group, people with deep life experience clearly motivated by public concern.
What the group isn’t is representative of is the people of Michigan. More than 60% of Michigan’s employed adults work in blue collar jobs. Despite that, there’s not a single Democratic Congressional candidate who spent time on a factory floor, and only one with experience on a construction site. Instead, there are college professors, former Obama Administration officials, and a couple of medical doctors. Again: it’s an outstanding group. We need more doctors in the healthcare debate and there’s nothing wrong with holders of advanced degrees putting their intellectual powers to work on real-world problems. And, if the Trump Administration has taught us anything, it’s the value of experience in government.
But even in industrial Michigan, there aren’t working men and women registering to be on the ballot. It’s the same in other states.
Literally thousands of Democrats who’ve never run for office have stepped up at every level of government, but if the Democrats are going to be the party of working men and women they need to recruit and elevate a more working men and women to the ballot. And then, when that’s done, it’s up to Democrats to donate, support, and vote for the kind of candidates American politics lacks.