There are a lot of reasons to support Mark Takano for Congress. As an openly-gay Asian American he’ll bring much-needed diversity to the House of Representatives. His seat represents a Democratic pick-up that will put Nancy Pelosi one step closer to reclaiming the Speakership. And speaking as someone who has known Mark for 20 years, I can attest to his character and integrity. But none of those factors are the most important reason to back Mark.
Mark’s race is strategically significant to all progressives because it will help break the back of one of the last conservative bastions in California, the Inland Empire. San Bernardino and Riverside are two of the fastest-growing counties in America, and they have long been right-wing strongholds (rumor has it that the phrase “Inland Empire” refers to the KKK’s invisible empire). And not only is the right wing strong there, but too many of the Democrats lack the passion, fire, and discipline to be strong fighters for social justice.
The conservative voting trends in the region fly in the face of the area’s changing demographics in that both counties are now a majority people of color. Still, when Kamala Harris was elected Attorney General in 2010, she got just 37% of the vote in the region. On the marriage equality ballot measure in 2008, only 34% of the voters in those counties voted for equality. And therein lies the strategic significance of this race.
The Inland Empire is unnaturally conservative as its population is both poor and extremely diverse. PAC+’s sister organization, PowerPAC, has been tilling the soil in the Inland Empire for nearly a decade now, and we are eager to see a high-profile champion and partner go to Congress. If we can build the kind of political infrastructure necessary to turn the population advantage into an electoral majority, then it will tilt the political balance of power in California decidedly in the progressive direction. Once we wipe away the obstacle of the Inland Empire, we will be able to elect legislators and pass ballot measures that are unapologetically progressive. Then California can truly be a model for America in passing policies for economic and social justice.
Mark’s race is pivotal in that regard because he will be a pillar of progressive politics in the region. His campaign has galvanized the enthusiasm of a diverse array of young people who have flocked to his campaign as volunteers. The experience they gain through volunteering will train them for future work in organizing and political battles. His stature and platform houwill enable him to identify and elevate other candidates for school board, city council and other pipeline positions. And his championing the Democratic agenda will reverberate in changing public opinion throughout the region.
Historically, California has offered hope and inspiration to the nation by promoting and passing progressive public policies from the 8 hour workday during the progressive era to universal free community colleges in the 1960s. We are on the cusp of playing that role again, and turning formerly conservative areas Blue is central to fulfilling that promise. That is the mission and strategy of PAC+ -- harness the demographic revolution to build an electoral majority for justice. Electing Mark Takano to Congress will be a big step towards realizing that dream. Please support him as generously as you can.