Is Indiana Salvageable? It Won't Be Easy, But...

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

Indiana is more than this

Today, Indiana reported another 6,518 confirmed new COVID cases, bringing the state over the 60,000 cases per million residents mark. Over 6,600 Hoosiers have died so far. It doesn't look like voters there connected the devastation to Trump. 1,729,516 of the state's voters, cast their ballots for Trump (57.06%)-- more than 170,000 more than voted for him in 2016. Of Indiana's 92 counties, just 5 went for Biden. The state's PVI is R+ 9. The state is gerrymandered in such a way as to yield 7 Republican congressmen and 2 Democrats (although the newest Democrat just elected, Frank Mrvan is a quintessential DINO, an ALEC-legislator without a trace of progressivism in his body). The governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor and superintendent of public education are all Republicans, as are both U.S. senators. The state Senate has 39 Republicans and 11 Democrats and the state House consists of 71 Republicans and 29 Democrats (having just lost 4 more seats). The state Democratic Party has largely given up and is now shriveled and impotent outside of a few traditional power bases.

The other day I was contacted by Josh Cox who's studying for his masters degree at the O'Neill School for Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. Previously, Josh worked in non-profit consulting, was an early employee at two software startups, and managed a Democratic congressional campaign in Indiana's 8th District. He lives in Indianapolis and currently serves as a volunteer co-organizer for the No Questions Asked Food Pantry there. He can be reached via email at or on Twitter @cox_josh. I invited him to pen a guest post about a new project he's putting together, something that may turn out to be a game-changer in Indiana and a model for progressives in "red" states.

INProgress: A Progressive Contract With Red State America

-by Josh Cox

Like most Hoosiers over the past 20 years, I was raised in a staunchly Republican household. I attended Catholic school my entire childhood and went to church every Sunday. In high school, I'd listen to Rush Limbaugh on a lunch hour at a summer job and Sean Hannity's show on Fox was a nightly watch. College marked the first time I'd had a black teacher and the first time I'd met someone who was openly gay. The college experience took me from a right-wing conservative to a moderate Republican to a neoliberal. It has only been in the few years since my graduation have I gravitated toward leftist politics.

As nearby Midwestern states like Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois trend blue (or further blue), the GOP has only increased its right-wing fundamentalist stranglehold of Indiana. At the end of 2010, Indiana Democrats had a slight 52-48 majority in the General Assembly. In 2014, the Republicans gained a whopping 21 seats and haven't looked back since, their supermajority currently sitting at 71-29 going into the 2021 legislative session. For a state that had a Democratic governor from 1988-2004, Democrats have become essentially obsolete at the statewide level, their gubernatorial nominee in 2020 receiving just 32% of the vote.

A state Barack Obama won in 2008 saw Donald Trump defeat Obama's VP by 16 points in 2020. Our most prominent politician over the last 20 years is Mike Pence, who before becoming Vice President was most widely known for his "religious freedom" law that allowed private businesses to refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation. Needless to say, it doesn't feel like things can get much worse for progressives in Indiana.

All that being said, I reject the liberal notion that we should give up on red states or that all of those inhabiting them must be ignorant racists. It is my belief that every person, regardless of who they've voted for in the past or what views they hold, is deserving of basic human rights such as a living wage, stable housing, and food security. It is also my belief that many people residing within these states have given up on the electoral process entirely or simply vote Republican because the Democrats have given them little to vote for. It's time for that to change, and it's time for us to act.

I am thrilled to announce the formation of INProgress, an organization whose ambitious goal is to run a progressive candidate in every single one of Indiana's state legislative races in the 2022 midterm elections. While our candidates' views will certainly differ on certain issues, we are prepared to enter into a Contract with Indiana. A contract that guarantees human rights to all Hoosiers, one that will fight for:

  • a $15 minimum wage

  • universal healthcare, including unrestricted access to mental health services

  • increased funding for education and a higher wage for our teachers

  • legalization of recreational marijuana with immediate expungement of all marijuana-related convictions

  • expansion of voting rights, including same-day voter registration

  • a workers' bill of rights that expands union protections and paid-leave policies

  • a social safety net that protects tenants and guarantees clean, safe housing to all Hoosiers, regardless of employment status

We can no longer succumb to the temptations of incrementalism that allow for continued complacency. We can no longer allow an out-of-touch political class make the rules that only benefit the wealthy and well-connected. We understand the road ahead is an arduous one, but the fight for a better world rages on, and it starts with us. We hope you'll help us lead the way.