By Hannah Moulthrop
Last week’s presidential election left Cook County Democrats shocked at Hillary Clinton’s loss, but ready to fight for their agenda in Congress and at home.
And new volunteers are signing up “by the minute” to ready the party for the 2018 midterm elections, a party leader said. And party winners are calling for action.
“I’m not about to quit now and, hopefully, we will find that not everybody who voted for Donald Trump is against what Democrats are for. They just have the sense that Donald Trump would be able to deliver more for them,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9th) , who won her 10th congressional term. “ I’ll be looking for allies among Trump supporters in my district and also even in Congress who might want to get something done instead of returning to gridlock.”
The Democratic agenda is unchanged, Schakowsky said. Although Democrats lost the White House and didn’t regain a congressional majority, they did gain 60 seats in the House and important wins in Illinois, she said, pointing to Tammy Duckworth taking Mark Kirk’s Senate seat and Raja Krishnamoorthi winning Duckworth’s 8th Congressional District seat from Republican Pete DiCianni.
“Nobody’s cowering in fear and people are ready to stand up and fight for their rights and values, which also happen to mean American values,” she said.
Democrats plan to protect President Obama’s legacy and stop Obamacare from being repealed while trying to improve it, she said. Raising minimum wage and safeguarding Wall Street regulations, Social Security and Medicare are other issues Schakowsky said she would fight for.
Some of her constituents are already lining up to turn their distress into action, with an eye on the future. Typically after an election, the trickle of new volunteers dries up, according to Jacob Kaplan, executive director of the Cook County Democratic Party.
“I’ve never seen it where literally the day after the election, we had like a hundred people contacting us to say, I want to get involved. I’m so depressed about the results, but I want to get involved,” Kaplan said.
While Schakowsky and her colleagues returned to Congress this week, local Democrats are still studying the election results and determining their next step in Cook County.
At the local and state levels, the Democrats were successful, Kaplan said, echoing Schakowsky. Going forward their plan is to utilize the new volunteers to focus on the upcoming 2018 races, particularly the gubernatorial race.
In comparison to the main counties and cities in swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan, Democrat voter turnout in the Chicago area was as high or possibly higher than in the 2012 and 2008 elections, Kaplan said.
“That’s how we helped carry our statewide candidates, [including] Tammy Duckworth for U.S. Senate. Particularly for Susana Mendoza, the Cook County votes won it for her [as state comptroller]. We had a good turnout and that helped our statewide ticket,” he said.
The challenge ahead is keeping voters engaged and retaining that high level of turnout for the 2018 midterm elections when turnout traditionally drops off, he said.
“I do think there is going to be a sense at parties at all levels – state, local, national – that we have to engage with Democratic voters better and we can’t take anything for granted,” Kaplan said. “We have to go back to our roots as a party of the working and middle class and economic issues have to be stressed, not to say that all the other issues aren’t important, but we have to get back to economic issues. I think that was shown in this election.”