Progressive organizers in Southern Oregon face tough battles, much more challenging than winning elections. We went forward in this campaign with an understanding of the outcome and with the mindset of ‘organize, organize, organize.’ Our goals: build grassroots policy, build networks, increase turnout, engage new groups and raise working-class consciousness. I think, while not succeeding in all of these, we made inroads and learned lessons. We didn’t get the electoral win, our numbers were pretty consistent with the last 10 years; we did make connections that can begin to change that in the future.
A campaign is truly a team effort. So many have donated dollars and hours. Organizers, workers and professionals of all backgrounds worked long hours creating this campaign and helping us coordinate. I’ll respect their privacy and not mention names, though they must know that they represent the best of local politics and helped the good that came out of this endeavor. Thank you!
When asked to run, I said I would present how I was most comfortable, as openly socialist. While this was a question in some interviews, ‘what do you mean?,’ ‘what does this mean for policy?,’ it didn’t seem to inspire such a negative response, as larger social issues did, i.e. ‘Roe.’ If out of this election cycle, we can begin to have a reasonable discussion about socialism in America, that would be a small success.
The development of the policy frameworks involved numerous interviews, meetings and studies on rural development. We built off ideas from work by researchers, professionals, tribal members, farmers, workers and voters in district 56. Our policies were an attempt to blend current scholarship on economic development with the nuanced insights of the grassroots.
We made a sincere approach to reach out and have dialogue with conservative groups as well – Republicans, Braver Angels, and almost had an interview with Lars Larson. Unfortunately, the GOP today have fallen to an alarming ‘Christian Nationalism’, a nearly fascist party; this is true at the national and local level. This is less true of the reasonable, average conservative voter. I hope our new representative works to listen and moderate their own anti-democratic views.
We needed to improve in some areas: Canvassing, labor outreach, and building diverse coalitions. We need to do better in rural areas to make inroads with grassroots and neighborhood leaders. Rural labor organizing is a significant block that progressives must work intentionally to facilitate. Better coordination with volunteers can improve canvassing efforts – face-to-face dialogue with voters leaves the lasting impact we need. A way forward would be to develop a local ‘neighborhood leader program.’
A success we did have was in advocating for a debate between the candidates. The League of Women Voters made this first public and recorded debate for our district(s) in years. Making this a regular practice is necessary for democracy. Let’s demand our candidates and incumbents agree to a public debate every cycle.
Personally, I will add that a small relief comes from getting to end the social media portion of the campaign. Social media can be effective at getting word out, though fails to organize authentically; we lose so much by relying on this. For my own health and sense of community, and yours, I will happily end these social media accounts soon.
It seems the path for rural America is to focus campaign energy around coalition building for long-term power rather than strictly winning campaigns. We need the ‘political infrastructure’ to make electoral change.
This was a great team effort and meaningful learning experience. I look forward to helping build more connections for our region and around Oregon with you!
A better world is possible.
Jonathan and the team at ChenjeriD56