Indiana Is Not a Lost Cause

So, one of the common responses I'm getting to my suggestion that what Indiana is needs is external progressive investment is that Indiana is a "lost cause." That there's no point to progressive investment in Indiana, because it will just be wasted on the state and its people.

Indiana is not a lost cause.

Since 1940, the only presidential election in which Indiana went blue was 1964—until 2008. We went blue for Obama.

What was the difference?

Well, not to take anything away from President Obama, who was a terrific candidate, which played a big role, but the most crucial difference was the long, extended, Democratic primary, which gave Hoosiers the opportunity to vote in a Democratic primary for the first time in my life.

Because our votes suddenly mattered, the Democratic candidates visited the state. They, and liberal orgs, ran ads in the state. There was a huge influx of liberal cash.

I saw then-candidate Barack Obama speak at night in the glow of floodlights at a park in Hammond, Indiana, surrounded by other voters from Northwest Indiana—a diverse crowd of black, white, and Latin@ Hoosiers; of LGBT and straight/cis Hoosiers; of poor and working class and middle class and wealthy Hoosiers. The deep diversity of that crowd is not what the people who write off Indiana picture when they think of our state.

I saw then-candidate Hillary Clinton speak during a sunny afternoon at a union center in Portage, Indiana, surrounded by union steelworkers who vibrated with excitement. That day, a man died at the mill. The event was started by remembering him, and talking about how difficult and dangerous steel work is, and why the union is so important. Clinton mourned him with us.

I saw Clinton a second time, in East Chicago, Indiana, in front of a mostly Latin@ crowd. She spoke about immigration, and jobs, and equal rights, and we cheered for them all.

Before 2008, the last Democratic presidential candidate who spoke in this area was Bobby Kennedy.

We were treated like we mattered, because our votes mattered. We felt like we mattered, and we did. We weren't written off, as we are every year by both the Democratic and Republican candidates—the former because we're seen as a lost cause, and the latter because we're seen as a sure thing.

Democratic politics was all the fuck over this state. And we went blue. For the first time in my life.

2008 is a case study in how progressive investment works.

I'm not suggesting that presidential candidates come to Indiana, when resources are precious. I'm using this example in how progressive investment fundamentally matters to "red states." (And maybe I am suggesting just a little that the presidential primary calendars should rotate, ahem.) That investment can come in many forms—and should. Sustainably so, for lasting transformation.

Indiana is not a lost cause. Except when we're treated like one.

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