For years, but especially since the George Floyd protests, Republicans have claimed to be the law-and-order party, while painting Democrats as soft on crime. They’ve tried to wrap Democrats around the Defund the Police crowd, despite Democrats’ long commitment to the public servants who make up our justice system. A new group called Democrats Serve is pushing back, recruiting and supporting candidates who have served on the front lines of our efforts to ensure public safety and provide human services that make a difference in day-to-day lives. They want to put more police officers, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, social workers and other public servants into policy making positions.
The group is following the model of Vote Vets, an organization committed to electing more Democratic veterans to office. Vote Vets was founded when the Iraq War was raging and Republicans were trying to portray Democrats as anti-military by wrapping them around anti-war protesters. Vote Vets recruited veterans who were firmly committed to supporting the military and were also questioning the flawed policy of the Bush Administration. Their patriotism was beyond reproach.
Similarly, Democrats Serve can push back against the notion that people who believe we need criminal justice and police reform are opposed to law and order. Indeed, the people who have served in the system see best how to fix the problems without breaking what’s working. Recruiting people to run who see, every day, the impact of policies on people and families strengthens our government and its institution.
Democrats Serve also indicates its ready to call out the hypocrisy of the Republican Party. The people who claim Blue Lives Matter are refusing to investigate the people who attacked our Capitol and the Capitol police on Jan. 6. It’s hard to make the case that you’re for law and order when you protect the people who assaulted both.
Following the lead of EMILY’s List, the pro-choice organization whose name is the for acronym Early Money Is Like Yeast, the group promises to offer critical early support. Often people in public service lack a network of deep-pocketed donors necessary to mount expensive campaigns. Democrats Serve can both give direct contributions and help make connections. Getting financial resources early is key to getting campaigns off the ground.
In North Carolina, Democrats Serve is already mentioning former Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley’s run for the U.S. Senate. Beasley is the type of candidate they want in office, a career public servant who can take her experience to Congress to help heal our nation instead of divide it. As the former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice said in the group’s press release, “To get better policy, we need to elect more people who have seen and felt the human impact of government.”
Finally, Democrats Serve can push back against simplistic narratives driven by both the left and the right. The can define Democrats as people who see government as a way to improve our lives, offering protection and services to address society’s ills. They are recruiting and supporting candidates who have dedicated their lives to helping others through the vehicle of public service. Putting them in public office will make us a stronger country.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Mills spent 20 years as a political and public affairs consultant.