• John C. Richards, Jr.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Midterm elections are over (well, for the most part). And I couldn't be more relieved. 2022 has proved to be exhausting, frustrating, and increasingly divisive. On one side, plenty of people were expecting a "red wave," while on the other side others were hoping to "hold the line" with a struggling economy playing out on their watch. At the end of the day, midterm elections had few surprises. But here's a summary of Tuesday's results:


Polarized voting in polarized communities led to polarized results.

In my own hometown, down the ballot, one party ran the table for every local elected office. Regardless of the shape or structure of the district. Regardless of the race and gender demographic. They saw polarized results in an already polarized community.


WHY I'M FRUSTRATED


And I'm frustrated. It doesn't have to be this way. In the sliding scale of political ideologies, our country has done a disservice to those of us who are part of the ignored, missing middle. Statistical data shows that the largest political group, ideologically, are moderates. In polling data collected by Gallup, 37% of voters described themselves as moderate. 36% described themselves as conservative. 25% described themselves as liberal. The Democratic and Republicans have moved further left and right to shore up the votes in the liberal and conservative categories. But neither has put together a strategy to engage moderate voters properly.


So what are moderates left to do when they enter the voting booth? Vote for a party that largely ignores their position for a more extreme position. And they do so "holding their noses" as they vote. Hoping to exercise their civic duty, while being robbed of the freedom of choice.


What am I saying? I'm saying the Republican Party has failed us. The Democratic Party has failed us. As a Black voter, this is especially true. When you look at the percentage of voters who consider themselves moderate, Black Americans top the list. Over half of Black voters in the U.S. consider themselves moderate. But there's an underlying assumption that many Black voters will vote Democrat because they have historically done so over the past several decades. And you know what they say about assumptions, right?


Can I be candid here? Do you know why Stacey Abrams faired much worse this time around than she did last time (she lost by nearly 300,000 votes)? She failed to engage moderate voters in Georgia in a way that would: 1) get them out to vote and 2) get them to vote for her. She was fighting apathy and political atrophy. And lost on both fronts. It didn't help that she mentioned in public comments that heartbeat machines are "manufactured sounds." Regardless of the scientific accuracy of the statement, it think it's safe to say that the comments did not endure her to moderates across the state. Many of whom would agree with exceptions when it comes to abortion laws. Alas, despite her great work across the state for over a decade, she lost for the second time.


A Way Forward


So is there a way forward for what is the largest voting bloc in our country? I believe there is. And it's not rocket science. I'm appalled that neither party has taken the time to figure this out. And I'm not sure things will get better in the coming years, as parties firmly entrench themselves in extreme positions. I think the path forward starts with local elections. And let me tell you exactly what it could look like.


1. Run Local Independent, Moderate Candidates


How do you stay out of partisan politics and polarizing talking points? Remove the stench of either party from your platform. Run as an independent candidate. And start at the local level. Why? Because you stand a better chance as an independent candidate at the local level.


First, you don't have to raise as much money as you would a statewide race or national race. Second, you wouldn't need the war chest of party support, financial and otherwise, to beholden you to a message you might not completely agree with. Finally, you would provide the local moderates in your community with what they have always looked for in a candidate—choice.


What's the difference between running as an independent and running as a Libertarian or Green Party candidate? Each of those parties has a very specific agenda. As an independent, you could set your own agenda based on your convictions. Trust me, that kind of platform would resonate with many more people than a third party that has its own ideological restraints.


Would that require getting signatures to get on the ballot? Yes, but it's not as hard as you think. Would that require raising money outside of party affiliation? Yes, but people give to things they believe in. And they would believe in you.


2. Engage the Moderate Base


How do you get moderates to come out to vote? Engage them in a way they have never been engaged before. Provide them with hope for a better future that isn't polarized. So many moderate voters are apathetic because they don't have candidates that move them from their couches to the polls. Once you engage them and they ask the first question that most folks ask, they will be shocked by your answer.


What party are you representing?


Neither.


How refreshing. Now you can share your platform without the assumptions that come with party affiliation. And you'd be surprised at how real conversations convert undecided voters into engaged voters (who also will volunteer with your campaign because it is something they believe can change your community).


3. Anticipate Resistance


Any time you fight against a system, you better believe you will get resistance. Those in power will do all they can to retain that power. The local party chairs will push back. The local elected officials will push back. But you aren't running for them. You are running for the people. And they need your voice.


And don't let their threats prevent you from doing what you are called to do. Especially if the party they represent has underperformed locally. In that case, it allows you to give people a meaningful, viable choice to fill a local office.


Remember, a majority of voters in our country are moderate. They are men and women who want to see things done differently. And they want to see it from candidates who don't represent a donkey or an elephant, but the people. Are you that person? I just gave you the playbook for 2023 or 2024 in your local election.


I'm looking forward to the invitation to your Election Night watch party.



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