Newly Elected L.A. Congressman Jimmy Gomez Has Some Advice For The Democratic Party

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(Photo courtesy of Jimmy Gomez, via Facebook)

L.A.'s seemingly endless election season continued on June 6th with the race for California's vacant 34th Congressional seat, which Democratic candidate Jimmy Gomez won with 60.9 percent of the vote. Gomez is the first Democrat to be elected to Congress since the 2016 general election, and in a first-person piece for the Washington Post on Tuesday, he laid out what he sees as the Democratic party's keys to victory in the 2018 midterms and 2020 general election; or, at least, the direction in which the party should be moving in to climb out of its current slump.

Get over the 2016 primary.
Yes, incessantly debating Bernie vs. Hillary was fun while it lasted, but now it's time to put the past aside and focus on the issues uniting Democrats, Gomez argues. "The voters I talk to aren’t interested in a Bernie-or-Hillary litmus test—if they did, I never would’ve been elected to Congress," the congressman writes. In his own Congressional election, Gomez was widely viewed as more progressive than his opponent Robert Lee Ahn, a fellow Democrat who first registered to vote as a Republican. Nevertheless, the two candidates—who both came from immigrant families— agreed on many issues, including the importance of focusing on health care; Gomez stresses the importance of this kind of message unity within the Democratic party.

Come up with a positive message.
It's not enough to be against the GOP; the Democratic party needs to figure out what it's for, Gomez argues. "If, after two years, all we can say to voters is that we’re the anti-Trump party, there’s no reason to think we’ll win enough congressional seats to change the calculus in Congress," Gomez says. In the piece, he praises congressional Democrats for opposing Republican policies like the rollback of coverage for preexisting medical conditions and gutting of the Dodd-Frank banking law, but makes sure to add, "Resisting isn't enough."

Ditch the "elite-speak."
Democrats in office are alienating potential sympathizers in the fight against climate change, Gomez continues; apparently, "publicly debating the impact of fractional increases in temperature," instead of describing the problem in everyday terms, is giving Republicans the upper hand in the climate-change debate.

Don't rely on old-school strategies to build support.
Town hall meetings have long been a staple of grassroots organizing, but Gomez notes that they're not always effective in engaging new voters, or reaching working people who can't necessarily give up a Saturday for the cause. In the piece, Gomez describes attending nontraditional events, "from bird-watchings to tree giveaways, neighborhood cleanups to self-defense clinics for women," to meet constituents where they are instead of relying on them to seek him out.

Gomez's ideas for revitalizing the Democratic party are similar to those put forth by Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and other Democrat firebrands who are currently generating buzz about potential 2020 presidential runs; if Gomez plans to practice what he preaches while in office, he could put California's 34th District on the map as a home base for the new and improved Democratic party.