Forcing the retirement of a 16-term, alt-right committee chairman like Lamar Smith is the most powerful sign yet that the progressive wave is building in Central Texas. If we seize this opportunity for change, we can strike a major blow against corporate power in Texas' 21st District.
Credit where credit is due: this big win is almost certainly the result of the dogged, extraordinary efforts by folks from local Indivisible and Our Revolution groups, among others, to apply constant public pressure to Lamar Smith in every forum, all the time. Smith had to make a decision: retire and play with grandchildren, or face the #resistance headache every week for at least a year, and then face uncertain reelection prospects.
As someone who has worked on Capitol Hill, I can tell you without hesitation that facing well-organized, vocal resistance, day in and day out, is an experience no Member of Congress wants to deal with. It's exhausting. We simply wore him out.
I'm proud to have been a part of that fight from the beginning, even before the 2016 elections. Here's a photo of a protest I organized (I'm not in the photo--I'm the one taking the photo) outside of Smith's office on the night Trump won the Republican nomination.
The lesson from this week is that you should never, ever listen to people when they say that you're wasting your time in a "red" district or against a powerful incumbent. Never let them tell you that fossil fuel companies are too big to take on. Never let anyone tell you that a moment of your fight against ugliness and injustice is wasted. Never let up.
You never know how long it will be until the dam breaks, but it won't break without you.
Where do we go from here?
By wearing Smith out, we've changed the game in Congress. Already, there's talk of a better atmosphere in which Republicans can talk about climate change after Smith's announcement.
That's a big deal. But there's so much more we can do if we seize the opportunity in front of us.
Now we get to pivot from resistance to revolution.
We know we won't be facing a 16-term incumbent committee chairman. Suddenly, every national group and movement will see a pickup opportunity in this district. That means on the other side of the Democratic primary, resources will be available to the nominee that have never, ever been accessible before to flip this seat.
The real question is, what are we going to do with those resources?
Will we replace one corporate-backed candidate with another? Or will we say in no uncertain terms that we reject Wall Street and corporate control of our politics?
Will we rummage around in the rubble of failed centrist and finance-friendly strategies, or will we light a fire with our progressive, populist values that can flip this district?
Ed Espinoza at Progress Texas has been doing excellent work charting the effective way forward for Democrats in Texas in this midterm. Here's his advice:
Democrats have an opportunity to pave a path with a bold and progressive message that speaks to the activism we've seen over the past year. But simply being against the other guys isn't enough, we need candidates that truly connect with our progressive values and aren't afraid to say so. And if we've learned anything from 2016 it's that voters on all parts of the political spectrum want candidates who are not afraid to be bold and authentic.
The best way to motivate the base and create an incentive to bring out presidential year Democratic voters, such as Millennials and Generation X, is to give them a reason to show up in the first place.
I've said from the beginning of this race that the only way to win is to stop taking our base for granted and run on a true, unapologetic progressive platform. That's how you win a midterm. People want to see you fight. They don't have time for incrementalist or centrist candidates who won't take a stand.
Furthermore, when we're facing uncompromising alt-right ugliness and a ticking clock on climate change, half-measures won't do. Progressive policies like climate change action, Medicare for All, College for All, and real action on income inequality are the only ways to ensure a future of shared prosperity. It's time to demand the progressive future the people want.
My roots are in the activism that brought us to this moment. That's why you're as likely to run into me at a climate change protest, a DACA rally, or getting arrested in protest of the horrific GOP attempts to repeal health care for 22 million people.
My experience on Capitol Hill will make me an effective legislator.
If you accept my offer to use my campaign as a vehicle for change, we can take this district back and use this congressional seat to help save the future from the fire.
Crowe is a former Democratic congressional staffer, small business owner, and nonprofit professional endorsed by Democracy for America and Blue America. His platform includes support for real climate change action, Medicare For All, a $15/hour minimum wage, and College for All. Learn more: https://electcrowe.com.