If you want a blue wave, you have to fight for it

If you want a blue wave, you have to fight for it
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Democrats should not assume a Blue Wave is a certainty. If we do, we can easily lose.

One of the things I have been most impressed with this cycle is how hard our candidates are working on the ground across the country to turn frustration and anger into mobilization and votes. An overwhelming energy, a yearning for change, has come from Americans feeling helpless these past two years over what Trump and his hapless, lemming-like Republicans in Congress have done to the image of this country and the values of decency, equality, diversity and rule of law.

It’s not just Democrats and progressives who are energized. It’s independents, Republican-leaning college-educated women, communities of color, and people who have never been involved in politics because they never felt they had to be.  

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Yet, assuming that energy, enthusiasm and disgust with our leadership will automatically turn into votes on Election Day is not only politically stupid but naive. It will endanger an outcome that we all hope to see and that America deserves — for Congress to become a genuine voice of the people and to cease being a rubber stamp for an unfit president who is shredding our institutions and the very democratic foundations we hold dear.

We know Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE is petrified of losing his congressional majorities in the midterms. His over-the-top fear-mongering and descent into ridiculous caricatures of Democrats as the “angry mob” — warning that, if we win, the United States will turn into Venezuela — betray his own fear of losing Congress.

Yet, sadly, fear is a powerful motivator. And no one does it better than Donald Trump. It worked for him in 2016, even when we were convinced that it wouldn’t and that our candidate would prevail. Fear, as baseless and evidence-free as it may be, has worked for decades for Republicans devoid of real ideas and sound public policy prescriptions.  

No matter how much we are convinced voters will not fall for these tactics again, we cannot assume our superior ideas — including a return to decency and civility — will motivate voters on their own. 

They won’t.  

We have to speak to voters from the heart, about issues they care about, and we have to do it often.   

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So far, great things are happening on the ground. Democrats have won in special elections across the country, even in deep-red states. Our phenomenal success in recruiting candidates who understand their districts, know their cultures, and hail from diverse backgrounds — including prosecutors, law-enforcement officers, undercover agents, military veterans and former Navy fighter pilots — have enabled the party to truly represent constituents.

Our candidates’ diversity is unmatched from cycles past. We proudly have record numbers of women, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims and LGBTQ candidates who cannot be easily painted as run-of-the-mill Washington politicians or the tired moniker of tax-and-spend Democrats, even if it has morphed into accusations of Democrats supporting open- border socialism.  

But we are not talking as aggressively nor as often as we should to all of the communities that have felt shunned, betrayed or attacked by this president and Republicans.  

In fact, one of those that has been most viciously attacked by this president is the Hispanic community. From the moment he announced his campaign, he demeaned Mexicans as rapists and criminals, and has since painted all Hispanics and immigrants as MS-13 criminal gang members.

His policies have unabashedly tried to halt immigration, legal as well as illegal, from south of the border, even stooping so low as to rip babies from the arms of their mothers as they tried to flee death in their home countries and sought asylum in ours.  

Trump’s handling of Hurricane María and the devastation it wrought on Puerto Rico and its 3 million U.S. citizens remains a shameful stain on the administration.   

In light of all this, it would be easy to assume that Hispanic voters will vote for Democrats. But we cannot assume this. No question, Democrats have an historic opportunity to get out the Hispanic vote like never before in a midterm election — but that requires resources and efforts that are historic, too.

The weekly tracking poll of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) shows that 60 percent of Latinos have yet to be contacted by a party or a candidate. And while those who have been contacted have heard more from Democrats than Republicans, the gap is not huge.

This is highly problematic and alarming. Party committees are investing record amounts of money into getting out low-propensity voters, but more must be done, especially by candidates themselves. Now is the time. 

We cannot assume anything that leaves votes on the table. We cannot simply talk about a Blue Wave if we want one to occur. We cannot allow voters to believe we have it in the bag to flip the House, because they may become over-confident before Election Day and not bother to vote.

Voters need to know the truth — that this remains very much a toss-up and that, more than any past election, their votes really do count in order to make the change that Americans want and deserve. 

Democrats want desperately to take over the House. And they want to flip the Senate. One has an easier path than the other, though both are doable. But neither will happen if we simply assume it will. 

It is time to roll up our sleeves and work like never before, to get friends, families and communities to vote. Let’s sound the alarm that our desired outcome is not written in stone until every single person who is eligible to vote registers, and then every single registered voter casts a ballot between now and Election Day.  

We cannot be complacent. We must be afraid. Fear works — Donald Trump proved it. Now, let’s use it to our advantage.   

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.