No matter what contribution you made to the unexpected and remarkable 2022 midterm results, everyone played an important role. Did you attend messaging meetings on Zoom, make phone calls, text bank, go door-to-door for a candidate, or write postcards and letters? Did you post about candidates on social media? If you did any of those activities, you helped Democrats keep the Senate and come much closer than expected in the House.
Gen Z was a critical part of our victory. So were older people, to whom voting is a patriotic duty. Members of the “Greatest Generation” like my 90-year-old parents, who have voted in every election since the early 1950s, played an important role in the amazing result.
Here are stories of some everyday people who had an impact on the election results.
First is a business owner, who we’ll call D. For most of his life D voted Republican. He was alarmed by some of the actions of his party and didn’t vote for Trump in 2020. During the midterm campaign a young supporter of the incumbent city council member, Priya Bhat-Patel, visited him. Bhat-Patel has a doctorate in Public Health, is of Indian American heritage, grew up in our small city, and is married with a young son. She is one of the first women of color to serve on the Carlsbad City Council and is politically liberal. (Author’s note: Priya is a personal friend.)
Her opponent was a white, conservative, male Republican, who would have previously won in this upscale district. Bhat-Patel is not the sort of candidate for whom D would normally vote. However, after this Bhat-Patel supporter visited him and told him about her accomplishments and goals, he told his wife the incumbent definitely had his vote. Ultimately, Bhat-Patel won another term.
In another instance, a woman noticed a Brian Maryott sign on a neighbor’s lawn. Maryott was the Republican candidate who opposed marriage equality and called trans people a “tragic fad.” Maryott’s opponent was the Democratic incumbent, Mike Levin, who supports equality and champions women’s rights to control our own bodies. Levin is the first Democrat to win the district in decades, so this election was of legitimate concern.
One day, while walking her dogs, the woman happened to see one of the occupants of the house, the owner’s son, and asked him why he supported Maryott. He said he didn’t really, he thought his father put the sign out because he was asked as a favor to a neighbor. The woman spent a few minutes explaining the differences between Levin and Maryott, and the next time she passed by the neighbor’s house, the Maryott sign was gone. There is no indication who the people in that home voted for, but at least they were exposed to the truth, and hopefully their votes helped in Levin’s ultimate victory.
I also want to share my own experience going door-to-door in Ohio in November, 2016. I’ve been active in almost every election since 1972, when at 16 I was canvassing for McGovern. Most of the time I’ve been campaigning in familiar locations. However in 2016 my sister-in-law and I traveled from California to Cleveland to encourage people to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton. We met many people that weekend, several of whom said they didn’t see any point in voting. I think we convinced at least a few to vote. Even though the election results weren’t what we had hoped for, we still felt like we had done something important. Hopefully these people were inspired to vote in 2020 and will work to turn Ohio blue.
If you aren’t comfortable going door-to-door you can make a difference by phone and text banking. In 2008 I spent Election Day calling voters in swing states. I spoke to both elderly and first-time Black voters who were thrilled to cast their votes for Obama. I helped to arrange rides for people who needed help getting to their polling places. Their joy made that day one I will never forget, and inspired me to keep participating, even when I felt too discouraged to continue.
These are small stories, but they are real, and they show that each of us can play an important role in the fight to save our democracy. We did really well in November, 2022, and the incredible amount of work people all over the country have done for Raphael Warnock resulted in Democrats keeping control over the U.S. Senate.
It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back and decide to take a well deserved break from politics, but the fight for American Democracy isn’t over yet, so I hope everyone reading this will return to the battle soon. Let’s make 2023 the year when we all join together to make sure that liars, grifters and traitors no longer have the opportunity to take over our country. We can save our democracy if we work together this year. What we do now can ensure we have a fair and free election in 2024.
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