Many Democrats in the US viewed the result of the 2016 presidential election as a sign that they should abandon whole sections of the country as unwinnable.
But having just won statewide in Kentucky and Louisiana, the two of us believe the Democratic party should move in the opposite direction. If Democrats choose to run and govern on a grounded set of issues that draw a clear line between our platform and a voter’s kitchen table, we can win even in the reddest of the red states.
The secret sauce is not really a secret. To win, we had to reach out to people across the political spectrum, including people who voted for President Donald Trump. So we campaigned everywhere, treating every voter with respect, as winnable, because showing up still matters to the people we wanted to lead.
For one of us (Edwards), it meant visiting the 53 parishes that voted for Trump. For the other (Beshear), it meant many trips to Kentucky counties that hadn’t voted for a Democrat in a decade or more. We met the voters where they are, running on greater access to health care, education and good-paying jobs. Only by talking about the issues voters care about can you earn back their trust.
The president came to each of our states to campaign for our opponents. This was not likely to change the outcome because the people we met on the campaign trail do not believe the politics of Washington are working for them
Here’s why: Voters are worried about whether getting sick means they will go bankrupt. Or whether a daughter in 2nd grade will get the education she needs and deserves. They care more about having a champion who fights for good-paying, stable jobs in the local economy than who fights about whatever is generating the latest debate on Twitter.
Politics of Washington
Our opponents attempted to nationalize our races, making them about the politics of Washington. The president came to each of our states to campaign for our opponents. This was not likely to change the outcome because the people we met on the campaign trail do not believe the politics of Washington are working for them. And they certainly don’t want their governor to follow in the footsteps of what they see coming out of the nation’s capital.
Instead, people are looking for leaders who will bring us together to make progress for their families. Neither of us could afford to speak only to loyal Democrats or people who agree with us on every issue. Engaging with people who are frustrated with the system is critical not only to winning an election but also to advancing an agenda.
Governing requires that we work with everyone, regardless of party, who comes to the table in good faith. We must all go forward together.
Families in both Kentucky and Louisiana worried that their health-care coverage and our states’ Medicaid expansions were going to be ripped away by a Republican governor. They were similarly worried about their local schools keeping the doors open and retaining quality teachers.
They want policies to provide solutions to the challenges they face in their daily lives. Voters went to the polls because they felt heard and believed we would work with members of both parties to fight for them.
We know Democrats often forget about state races until Election Day comes and then quickly move on from the lessons learned in those campaigns. We urge Democrats to focus on, care about and invest more in state races, and to look at our victories as blueprints for how to win across the country.
Talk about health care, education and jobs. Over and over. It is easy in an age of 24-hour media, when there seems to be a new political crisis every few hours, to chase the latest news cycle. That will not win you many votes. Instead, it will leave voters feeling left unheard.
But if we can remember politics is still local and deliver policies to solve problems for the families we represent, Democrats can win anywhere. Even in places that voted for the president.
— Washington Post
Andy Beshear is the governor-elect of Kentucky. John Bel Edwards is the governor of Louisiana.