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Binders full of narratives by @BloggersRUs

Binders full of narratives

by Tom Sullivan

It is easy in the ferment over vote counts and seats counts and litigation to lose sight of what Democratic victories in 2018 mean in 2019 and beyond. Standard media narratives have yet to adjust.

Many new faces will take office bringing fresh energy to governance not just at the national level but in the states. Kathy Hoffman is one of them.

Hoffman just won election as Arizona’s new superintendent of public instruction. Incensed by the appointment of Betsy DeVos as education secretary, the 31-year-old speech therapist from a Phoenix suburb burned out her Prius campaigning for an office the first-time candidate was not supposed to win.

The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty explains Hoffman's race was one of many campaigns that offered an "antidote to cynicism":

The main thing Hoffman had going for her, however, was her own tenacity.

“Most people would have said she wouldn’t have had a chance to win, but she just kept knocking out opponent after opponent,” said Arizona Federation of Teachers President Ralph Quintana, who noted that neither his organization nor the Arizona Education Association endorsed Hoffman in the Democratic primary.

But Hoffman stuck to her narrative: "I kept talking about my students and my colleagues. I kept it very focused on my classroom experience.”

Like other Democrats this cycle, Hoffman went to bed trailing on election night and woke to find she had won. A charter-school-movement leader and former three-term congressman tasted defeat.

Power is shifting. Younger candidates are stepping forward. The media is still stuck in its rut. "Liberals should stop believing what conservatives say liberals believe," writer John Stoehr explains in a series of tweets on the green-energy "protest" outside Nancy Pelosi's office in the Capitol. The action featuring incoming progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fit easily into the Beltway's "Dems in disarray" narrative. Even some on the left bought it, Stoehr complains.

The story also fit neatly into the establishment “centrists” vs. insurgent “leftists” narrative. In some Beltway office there must be binders full of narratives.

In fact, Stoehr writes, Ocasio-Cortez told the climate activists, "Should Leader Pelosi become the next Speaker of the House, we need to tell her that we’ve got her back in showing and pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen." Ocasio-Cortez told CNN, "We're here to back her up in pushing for 100% renewable energy."

Vox examines the bold policy proposals climate activists want to see, proposals not likely to go far with Republicans in control of the Senate and White House. But shifting the narrative from controversy to policy is a necessary part of the process:
Just as the Republican House climate caucus is shrinking, the Democratic House climate caucus is growing. And as it grows, its ambitions increase. The Overton window is shifting before our eyes.

In the long term, Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats tells me, the movement will focus on “repeating the success we had in recruiting, training, and helping elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” The idea, he says, is to “build a caucus of like-minded, mission-driven legislators who will fight tirelessly for solutions that match the urgency and scale necessary to tackle the systemic crises in our country.”

Retraining the press and progressives conditioned to accepting standard narratives may be almost as challenging as advancing climate change legislation in a company town.