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Big Issues, Core Values, and Grassroots Organizing: Taking Stock of Andrew Gillum’s Victory and Implications

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Greg Sargent Take is Essential Reading on The Democratic Party’s Future

Andrew Gillum’s upset win in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary carries with it several big lessons for the current political moment, including that candidates who unapologetically run on big issues, fundamental values, and a grassroots organizing model can energize a broad-based coalition of the electorate.

According to Matt Hildreth, Political Director of America’s Voice:

Andrew Gillum’s victory is a reminder that running an inclusive campaign focused on big issues resonates and wins. It’s a victory not just for Gillum, but for a model of politics based on grassroots organizing and people power. As organizations such as Collective PAC, NextGen, Indivisible, New Florida Vision PAC, FLIC Votes, and others demonstrated, the way to win is one vote, one door at a time. But make no mistake, this will be a general election that is ugly and divisive, with Ron DeSantis already engaged in overt race-baiting and divisive tactics. In Florida and across the country, the GOP “divide and distract” strategy is unrelenting, but candidates who are able to stand up for larger values and a cohesive vision for the country, while staying focused on the issues that matter to most voters, will strike a blow against the ugliness we are seeing.

Writing in the Washington Post, Greg Sargent reflects on the Gillum victory and its potential implications in a must-read new analysis. We excerpt Sargent’s new piece, titled, “A new way to slay Trumpism? The shocking Florida outcome sets up a big test,” below:

The stunning victory of Andrew Gillum in the Florida Democratic gubernatorial primary sets up a test for one of the left’s biggest propositions: That the most potent weapon against Trumpism lies in combining an unflinching vow to roll back President Trump’s inhumane and incompetently-executed ethno-nationalist agenda with unabashed progressive economics — including the promise of health care that is truly universal, as a matter of right.

The general election will pit Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, an African American with a working class background, against GOP nominee Ron DeSantis, one of the most slavish, worshipful and virulent Trumpists in the country, which means this race will carry important implications for the 2020 presidential race as well.

…Gillum defies lazy or simplistic categorization. Asked on “Morning Joe” by Joe Scarborough if he had a message to send to DeSantis, Gillum did not get drawn into national media narratives about Trump, and instead spoke directly to voters about their economic challenges. In so doing, Gillum didn’t back off his economic progressivism in the slightest, but he presented it as pragmatic and solutions-oriented.

…But no question, there is probably no escaping the likelihood that this race will be a racial bloodbath.

…Gillum has come out for abolishing ICE in its current form, and so the xenophobic and racist demagoguing directed at him will be something to behold. Indeed, Trump has already tweeted that Gillum is a “failed Socialist” who “allowed crime” (hint, hint) to “flourish in his city.”

But Gillum has not come out against border enforcement. In his public statements, he has stressed that ICE should be reconfigured as “a more compassionate and focused agency that actually keeps us safer,” but as part of comprehensive immigration reform. Under Trump, Gillum has said, ICE has become a “police and child separation agency,” and he has asserted that “a decision between security or compassionate immigration policy is a false choice,” insisting that “we can have them both.”

…In practice — and this will be fleshed out in coming days — this probably means Gillum favors returning to enforcement that de-prioritizes the removal of longtime residents, which Trump replaced with a reign of fear. In that sense, Gillum’s position is in line with many mainstream Dems. But the point is he sees no need to defensively back off the need to replace ICE, which suggests a willingness to take the fight on this issue to Trumpian cruelty and demagoguery — but with a strong dose of (again) pragmatism directed at the sheer folly, incompetence, and squandering of enforcement resources at the heart of Trump’s deportation regime.

…a big question for many liberals is whether a new popular majority can be built in a diversifying country by combining a refusal to back off a robust defense of minority rights in the face of Trump’s white identity politics with a kind of pragmatic progressive populist economics that promises more inclusive prosperity for all. The idea is to energize core Democratic constituencies and to win over white voters who are now alienated by both the xenophobic nationalism and the corrupt plutocracy of Trumpism.

It’s early days, but Gillum’s candidacy — which already showed a capacity to energize those Democratic constituencies, and will now play out in a big, diverse swing state — is already taking on those echoes. And if Gillum can pull it off, you can bet that 2020 Democrats will be taking some big lessons from it.