Eight years ago, my dad got sick. The doctor said it was in his lungs — Stage IV cancer — and there was nothing we could do. The family was shattered, and our faith was shaken. The thing is, my father didn’t smoke. Nor did many of his co-workers who likewise fell sick. But over the years they were all exposed to unsafe work conditions and harmful chemicals like beryllium. All those times I watched from our small farm as Dad went off to provide for us, it never hit me that the job he took pride in was slowly poisoning him.
I was thus appalled that one of the first votes House Republicans scheduled this Congress unraveled worker protections against chemicals like beryllium. Sadly, this vote foreshadowed a yearlong Republican agenda that has placed the interests of big corporations over hardworking Americans.
Too many Americans have lost faith in our political system and our economy. When my parents were growing up, hard work and a good job were all you needed. Today, we must ask if our economy can still deliver on that original American promise. This means having an honest discussion about the challenges families still face across the country.
It’s clear Americans want representatives who understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes, who realize the impact of rising costs on families and seniors, and who know that paychecks aren’t keeping up with the bills. Instead, this Republican majority still rigs the game in favor of big corporations who can buy their seat at the table, who enjoy special treatment, and who create monopolies and raise costs on everyone else.
Do you remember when Republicans promised to make healthcare more affordable? Instead, they voted to increase your premiums and deductibles, eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions, and slap you with an age tax. Remember when they promised to put the middle class first? Instead, the Republican tax package will hike taxes on millions of middle class Americans, all to line the pockets of the very rich. Hard-working Americans are still getting ripped off.
That is why next year, Democrats have an opportunity to retake the House majority and get our country back on track. From Orange County to St. Paul; from upstate New York to San Antonio, a new crop of candidates are stepping up to offer something better.
Candidates like Chrissy Houlahan in Pennsylvania, whose father survived the Holocaust and created hundreds of jobs in her community. Candidates like Brendan Kelly in Illinois, a father and veteran who has prosecuted corrupt banks, corrupt politicians, and corrupt pharmaceutical companies. And candidates like Abby Finkenauer in Iowa, whose fight for working families and labor defines her. The list goes on: veterans, entrepreneurs, prosecutors, local leaders, and millennials — men and women from all walks of life, answering the call. Within this crop of rising stars is the next generation of the Democratic Party.
To take back the House, we must win at least 24 of the roughly 80 districts that we’re targeting this cycle —our largest battlefield in a decade. Candidates must build modern campaigns equipped with robust communication and digital strategies, fundraising, and field operations. They must partner with allies and harness the grassroots energy.
History is not on Republicans’ side: midterms favor the party in the minority. And the dead weight of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s unpopular leadership, Democrat-favored generic ballot polling, President Trump’s historically low approval ratings, and recent indictments all drag Republicans down. Beyond those historic predictors for midterm results, many Republicans haven’t faced a tough reelection in a long time, if ever. Some have chosen to retire rather than endure a real campaign. Only 14 of our targeted Republicans were in office before President Obama — meaning most don’t know how to function without a Democratic president to blame. All this puts their majority at risk.
That’s why, this cycle, Democrats are taking our case directly to the American people, and putting in the hard work to restore faith in the political process. We’ll be having open conversations about how to grow our economy and deliver better jobs and wages for all Americans, while investing in skills and tools to build a better future. Ultimately, that’s what this election is about: fighting for ordinary people who want to live freely, work hard, and provide for their families, whether they’re veterans starting a business, women fighting for economic security, DREAMers who only know life in America, or iron workers who just want a safe place to work.
People are our nation’s greatest strength. With one year until the midterms, the door has opened for new leaders to step up and restore the people’s voice back to the people’s house.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, of New Mexico, is chairman of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.