Michelle Deal-Zimmerman: Democrats have to vote smarter, not harder | COMMENTARY

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In the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last month and rescinding rights most Americans thought were enshrined in our societal agreement if not in our Constitution, there’s been turmoil (to say the least) among Democrats.

Is it about grassroots organizing for women’s rights or, perhaps, creating a fund to help low-income women attain abortion resources? Or maybe codifying abortion rights into federal law? Nope. Everyone agrees on the importance of a strong response to the court’s oppressive and brutal ruling, even if few can outline the best next steps.

Then what’s the dispute about?

Voting.

Apparently voting doesn’t work, is not enough and will change nothing.

Oh really?

I hate to take everyone on a trip down the orange brick road back to 2016, when good intentions and a hefty dose of stubbornness from some Democrats set us on this swift road to hell.

You know what — OK, who — would have saved us from this travesty of aggressive right wing judicial activism?

Hillary Clinton. Actually, some 78,000 more votes or so for her.

Now, just as then, many Democrats and certainly so-called “progressives” are outraged by what they see as the incompetence of their party leaders. Hillary Clinton didn’t campaign in the Midwest, and President Joe Biden had months to come up with a magical hat trick that will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Roe v. Wade. And before the midterms, Democratic candidates better figure it out because they need to “earn” our votes.

You know who had a plan in 2016? Republicans. And that plan was to pit Democrats against each other in order to depress turnout. You know what? It worked. And many in the party gave the GOP a helping hand. Yes, I’m looking at Bernie Sanders and his band of brothers. Very small numbers of his “Bernie of bust” supporters ended up voting for Donald Trump, but in close elections, every vote counts. (James Comey didn’t help, but he was a Republican. What did you expect?)

So here we are on the cusp of another pivotal election, the midterms. And already some Democrats think it’s a good idea to sit this one out. Turnout for Democrats vs Republicans for the primary elections so far this year is abysmal with Republicans making gains and Democrats falling behind. Historically this is what happens, the president’s party loses the midterms.

But this year, Democrats need to break from history just like the Supreme Court did. The midterms are winner take all and liberals can’t afford to again travel the same path that led to a high court packed with right wing radicals and a 50-50 Senate, where Republicans block any attempt to actually enact policies that Democrats prefer.

With unchecked gerrymandering aimed at the Democrats’ core minority base in states like Texas, Florida and Georgia, the GOP is in a position to pick up dozens of seats in Congress. Political strategists are forecasting a “red wave” that will wash away any substantive Democratic opposition. Liberals will be cast into the role of minority status for the foreseeable future.

It may seem hopeless, but voting is still the best answer. If you don’t vote, then you can’t enact change at any level. So don’t vote harder — vote smarter. Democrats need to vote along party lines up and down the ballot. This will not be easy. It will take discipline and sacrifice. For example, it may be tempting to vote for the other side based on inflation concerns, especially at this crucial moment. But would you trade women’s rights, civil rights, LGBTQ rights and nearly 250 years of democracy for a gallon of gas? It may still be the economy, but let’s not be stupid.

And let’s prepare to dig in for the long haul. It will likely take more than one or two election cycles to vote our way out of this mess. The GOP did not bully their way to restricting abortion rights overnight. It’s been 50 years in the making. Decades of voting party line and being disappointed in results but going back to do it again. And again. And again.

When I go to the polls, I am voting for the world I want to live in. The candidates who most represent my own point of view get my vote. I’m not doing a politician a favor by voting for them — I’m doing myself a favor. So threatening to withhold your vote from people whose values and policies align most closely to your own is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

And honestly, Democrats are excellent at this tactic. “When Republicans lose, they blame Democrats. When Democrats lose, they blame Democrats,” read a tweet I saw recently that gets to the heart of the matter.

That doesn’t mean voters shouldn’t hold elected officials accountable or that you shouldn’t pressure them to stick to the policies they represented when they were elected. You absolutely should. It also doesn’t mean we need to be silent or ignorant of ongoing voter suppression efforts that seek to diminish our voting power. That should make Democrats, especially people of color, even more defiant about casting a ballot.

The Republican Party with help from the Supreme Court have put their fists down heavily upon the scales of free and fair elections. Let’s not make it any easier for them by allowing the wave to simply wash away our commitment to and demands for a better America.

We have to fight. And for now, the battle remains at the ballot box.

Michelle Deal-Zimmerman is senior content editor for features and an advisory member of The Sun’s Editorial Board. Her column runs every fourth Wednesday. She can be reached at nzimmerman@baltsun.com.