Alex: One of the questions I want to put to you is why it has taken a while for liberals and left-of-center organizations to catch up. We’ve been talking about the nationalization of local politics, and it has a lot of different ways it manifests itself. What’s interesting is that, from my perspective, the nationalization of politics on the right has meant these well-funded, well-organized national organizations consolidating power in state legislative races. And if you want to talk about the electoral movement, the media being nationalized, local institutions being hollowed out, local newspapers being hollowed out, Sinclair, Fox News, talk radio, all these things, social media having an effect on what local voters do—but it does seem to me that, for the last decade, the nationalization of politics for liberals has not translated the same way. People get excited about these national figures that are challenging hated Republicans, but that energy has not been funneled—except by groups like yours, which is trying to do it—that energy has not been funneled to these smaller races in the same way that the right has managed to channel their money and energy.
Aaron: That’s something I think about a lot. It was the new right that really developed all these organizations that built power at the same time that the new left was developing. If you look at the new left and the organizations on our side that were being founded around that time, they had a view that the next battle was through litigation, the next battle was through very D.C.-centered fights. A big problem with focusing activist energy on litigation is that there’s not a lot of ways that you can build community around it, and especially if you look at the concomitant decline in organized labor. Organized labor has a big stake in who runs state government in a way that a liberal activist does not, and so you lost what you’re supposed to organize around and got basically sucked into this never-ending need for money for litigation—while the right was changing who the judges were and making the prospects for that litigation to succeed less likely.
Alex: Do you see—having been at this for a little while—is there a national left-of-center strategy? Are the big groups beginning to plan what to do about fundamentally gerrymandered states, states that are rejecting democracy, states that are increasingly restricting the franchise, and all these other things?
Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. The Dobbs decision, for people who hadn’t already woken up, that was the wake-up. It was “This is now a fight in 50 state capitals—you better have a strategy to at least minimize the fallout.” For those very, very red states, it’ll probably take a while and a real shift in the culture and the politics to make a huge difference in them. But for now, people have realized that yes, state capitals matter. I have seen a lot of groups that maybe weren’t as focused on states in the past really care a lot about them now. And it’s not just the groups, it’s also the rank and file, the activists. People know just how important these are. If you live in one of these states that has a state legislature that could go to either party or where the supermajority means a lot, going door-to-door and talking to your neighbors is a huge deal, and it’s a thing that you can do that’s free of cost to you. But if you want to give money, visit statesproject.org. We have a lot of different ways for you to get involved.
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