“This is the election of our lifetime,” says Bianca Cunningham, a Brooklyn-based New Yorker, unionist, activist and co-president of the New York Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). It’s an expression we’re hearing often. “It’s about deciding where we want to go, whether towards fascism or whether we want to change direction and go towards a government that is compassionate and dignified.”
“Our identity is at stake,” explains Ravi Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, who became famous last year as America’s first Sikh mayor. He also becoming a symbol of the Democratic resurgence in reaction to Trump’s racist policies. “The president is anti-American. The stakes have never been so high. It is time to take back our country.”
The exhortations to vote are unceasing, coming from everywhere, via social media, commercials and flyers distributed on the street—and it is not a phenomenon exclusively affecting the large cities, the coasts, and the urban centers that are traditionally more politicized.
“The midterms are a round of local elections that has an impact on Washington,” Brian from Madison, Wisconsin, tells us. “The difference is that this time we’re aware of it, and nobody wants to lose, because we know that it’s about changing the course of events, the quality of our lives. I have family and friends in Tennessee and Kentucky, and they all describe this feeling of urgency. Voting has never seemed so important.”
This sentiment comes directly from the polarization of the two parties. Until a few years ago the difference between Democrats and Republicans was not so great, given their common neoliberal policies when it came to economics. But now, with a Republican Party that refuses to distance itself from the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan and a Democratic Party that proclaims itself socialist, an ideological and pragmatic chasm has appeared between the two sides.
“When we see something that’s not right, not fair, or not just, we have a moral obligation to speak up and speak out to do something about it. … Be bold. Be courageous. Vote like you’ve never voted before. Together we can redeem the soul of America,” urges John Lewis, a former activist in the black rights movement, together with Martin Luther King. He’s now a member of the House of Representatives for the state of Georgia, where one of the most tense electoral contests is taking place: Stacey Abrams could become the first African-American woman governor in the US, and in an arch-conservative state to boot.
Other hot races are in Texas, where the mayor of El Paso, Beto O’Rourke, is running for the US Senate trying to unseat the ultra-conservative Tea Partier Ted Cruz, and has become one of the new stars of the Democratic Party, beloved far beyond the borders of Texas.
And in Florida, Andrew Gillum is running for governor. He is the African-American mayor of the state capital, Tallahassee, and is running on a revolutionary platform for Florida: he promises much stricter gun control laws, like those already enacted in the city he is running.
“There’s a lot at stake,” explains John Tarleton, the editor of The Indypendent, which has been one of the flagship newspapers of the American independent left for the past 18 years. “We could be in the very initial phase of something potentially much bigger. American socialism is essentially social democracy, but we are starting to achieve a first goal, such as putting health care in public hands, at which point many might say, ‘Hey, it works better this way. What else could work better if we socialized it?’”