Community Activism · Elections · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare

Read “How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required)”

Read How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required), a Politico Magazine cover story on how a small, dedicated group of Alaskans are turning their state blue.


The long story details how a handful of left-leaning, highly motivated young Alaskans studied the political landscape of their state and have managed to reshape it, as this passage explains:


“In the five years since [Jonathan] Kreiss-Tomkins’s upset victory, a most unusual thing has happened: Alaska—which elected Sarah Palin governor and has not supported a Democratic presidential candidate since Lyndon B. Johnson—has turned from red to a bluish hue of purple. Throughout the state, unknown progressives, like the kind Kreiss-Tomkins once was, have been winning. Before the elections of 2012, conservatives controlled all the major seats of power in Alaska: the governorship, both houses of the Legislature, and the mayoralty and city assembly of Anchorage, where 40 percent of the state’s 740,000 residents live; now, progressives and moderates control all of those offices but the state Senate, which has been gerrymandered beyond their control. More than half of the 40-member Alaska House of Representatives has been newly elected since 2012, most of them Democrats or independents; together with three moderate Republicans, they have remade the Democratic-independent caucus into a 22-18 majority.


Not all of these newcomer state legislators are typical progressives—’the NPR-listening liberals hunt, fish or camp here,’ says Joelle Hall, political director of the Alaska AFL-CIO—but in defeating more conservative candidates, they accomplished something that didn’t happen anywhere else in November 2016: In a state that went for Trump by 15 points, they flipped a red legislative chamber to blue…


…Their emerging coalition has been a boon for the Democratic Party, of course, but what’s remarkable is how little of this transformation has depended on the party. To the extent that the Democratic Party has helped in its own revival—and in transforming Alaska from deep red to a blue-ish purple—it was in part by getting out of the way. As progressives across the country try to pry Republicans out of power, they have important lessons to learn from a state where they are wrongly thought to have no power at all.”


It’s worth setting aside 15 minutes or more to read the whole story and mull it over. Then  read it again and think about whether and how its lessons apply to your state.


A few tactics jump out: the Alaskans sometimes ran Independents in areas where progressives could win if they didn’t have a “D” next to their names; they actively recruited candidates for office rather than waiting for them to volunteer themselves; and they created Ship Creek Group, an entity that provided support, key staff, and campaign advice, which made it easier for reluctant recruits to say yes.


Read How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required):


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