Take Note: A Reckoning is on the Horizon

In 2005, the country was on edge. Years of war with Iraq had not yielded an end to terrorism; lies from the Administration that got us into the quagmire had been debunked; and our economy was starting to feel the pressure at home of endless war abroad. The fear and frustration was palpable as the group I worked for at the time, MoveOn.org, escalated our campaign to end the war. Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat of Connecticut, didn’t just cheer for continuing what was now a deadly occupation in Iraq, he actively and cynically undercut those of us trying to bring our troops home. “[Democrats] undermine the president’s credibility at our nation’s peril,” Lieberman said.

To be fair, not everyone disagreed with Lieberman: “He is entirely correct,” said then Republican Vice President Dick Cheney. So, when progressive Democrat Ned Lamont, a successful business owner, decided to primary Lieberman, we saw a spark ignite a community, as thousands of progressives knew almost immediately that, with work, they could bring accountability to a man whose collusion with a corrupt administration needed to end. Ned Lamont represented to us the future we might achieve, if we worked together to embrace principles and values over incumbency, and dare to believe in a different direction for our country that represented our values.

The energy I saw knocking doors in Connecticut in 2006 is alive again, and I found it watching the determination of the people campaigning in Illinois this week. They were sending a blaring message to a so-called Democrat Dan Lipinski, who continually betrays the needs and concerns and values of his constituents. A leader of the anti-choice movement, Lipinski has legislated aggressively to limit abortion rights, opposed the Affordable Care Act, refused to endorse Obama’s re-elect, voted against the Dream Act and still, unbelievably, opposes marriage equality.

Back thirteen years ago, the pain of an unnecessary, seemingly endless war was visceral. Our national mood progressed from anxiety to outrage. Joe Lieberman either didn’t know, or, simply just didn’t care. The corrupt stench and moral bankruptcy of the Bush administration began to overwhelm national politics. By 2006, something began to happen. The nation watched as people who had never been active in politics — young people, older people, rich and poor — took the visceral disgust and horror they felt at the nation’s leaders and began to use it to empower themselves to make change. And that November, a wave election swept Democrats back in power and brought with them an unmistakable mandate to end the war. Even though he did not win in November, Lamont’s Campaign in the 2006 Democratic primary changed the course of the election and forced the Democratic establishment to reckon with the real pulse of base Democratic voters.

Today, under Trump in another midterm election year, there’s a more personal type of anxiety growing in this country, as the most powerful voices in the country are emboldened by a presidential administration to viciously attack Americans based solely on who we are: women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, Muslims, African Americans, Jews. So when Dan Lipinski espouses, through words and actions, that he is aligned with this hateful Administration, he –just like Lieberman before him — attacks his own constituents. He attacks any American who does not look like him, and undermines our values, our rights, our freedoms and the very promise of democracy that embraces diversity.

I advise our political leaders to take note: the strength of Marie Newman’s campaign, which stood true to her beliefs and loyal to the progress America is making, will bring a new reckoning.

As an elected official, when you turn your back on our shared values and our essential human rights, voters will hold you accountable — no matter how long you’ve been in office. When you turn your back on women, families, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, and people of color, you’re not serving the American people. There may be a Democratic wave coming in November, but to harness the energy of the American people and their fierce determination to protect our shared values, candidates today must stand loud and tall for issues like reproductive freedom, equality, a strong minimum wage, inclusion and immigrants rights.

Pro-choice, pro-equality and pro-immigration candidates have won shocking victories in deep red states and districts in the last few months by running on our fundamental values, not against them. Waves start like this. It was true in 2006 with the wave that started with Ned Lamont and it is true 2018.

This is the reality that Dan Lipinski refuses to see, and why his days in office are numbered. One thing is clear: the sheer energy and viability of Marie Newman’s campaign delivered the message that the recipe for victory in 2018 is to protect the rights and freedoms and opportunities of all people. A new moment of election-year accountability is upon us. In the coming months, we’ll find out if our leaders accept it.