On November 7, 2017, Democrats swept the nation for a huge night of wins for the party, having recently had a difficult time trying to tap into the political energy of the country. As I write this article, I remember making the realization just a year ago that Donald Trump may win the White House. But while media attention has gone to the biggest offices and clearest victories for Democrats with Northam in Virginia and Murphy in New Jersey, I want to emphasize just how important the changes in leadership in the nation’s cities will be for Democratic innovation moving forward.
Throughout history, cities have acted as hotbeds of democratic experimentation. Urban centers shine as an example of what happens when diverse groups champion progressive reforms that advocate for those most often left behind by wider national narratives. This isn’t to say cities don’t go without their own set of problems: pollution, food deserts, and gentrification all hurt cities’ poorest communities and oftentimes go unaddressed in favor of rapid economic development. Still, the idea of the city as the Democratic project persists, and the recent elections hint at more progress yet to come.
In Atlanta, my hometown, mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms came out on top of a crowded nine-candidate election. She must move on to face Mary Norwood in a runoff election in December, but numbers seem to be in her favor. Her platform was centered on revitalizing the often forgotten and overlooked neighborhood of Southwest Atlanta without displacing its residents and maintaining the $15 minimum wage for city employees instituted by Mayor Kasim Reed as his second term neared to a close.
In Philadelphia, Larry Krasner became the next District Attorney with a campaign founded on challenging the systematic racism found within the American criminal justice system. Krasner won with a whopping 78% of the vote. With a national political agenda that would love nothing more than to continue to profit off the exploitation and disproportionate criminalization of black and brown bodies, Krasner’s win comes as a beacon of hope for the families already torn apart by the system of mass incarceration.
Given the current state of the presidency, any Democratic win can be considered a good win. However, with our biggest cities at the forefront of political change, it’s safe to say that the future of the party itself lies at the busy intersections, crowded subways, and towering skyscrapers all filled with millions of people from diverse walks of life coexisting within miles of each other.