Continuing the blistering pace he set during his campaign for Congress, Josh Harder has been meeting one-on-one with constituents throughout his district since Saturday. He’s also holding town hall meetings while visiting locales from Turlock to Tracy and points between.
Saturday, he hosted “office hours” at the Veterans’ Center in Modesto, participated in the Women’s March, and then held a town hall meeting in Ceres, where there was standing room only. The one constant at every event was people wanting photos with their new Congressman. Despite his hectic schedule, Harder obliged them all.
Only a year ago, Harder was seen by many as an outsider, an opportunistic pretender who was reaching far beyond his capabilities in thinking he could win in a congressional race against incumbent Jeff Denham—and that was before the highly favored Democrat Michael Eggman joined the fray.
But as the Harder campaign gained momentum, and especially after he won the June Primary, more and more people began to realize the Turlock native was made of stronger stuff than most had realized. Savvy political insiders like Tracy’s Manuel Zapata recognized early on that Harder’s commitment to Democratic principles was not only genuine, it was accompanied by an unusual capacity for work and a pragmatist’s grasp of political realities.
Democrats in the San Joaquin Valley have always believed they must veer to the right in order to win elections. That’s long been a truism, but only because most Valley elections feature low turnout—Democrats too rarely feel they have a candidate they can believe in.
But rather than follow the conventional wisdom and stake out a “moderate” platform. Harder ran as true blue Democrat. He embraced Medicare for all, supported hard-working immigrants and Dreamers, and emphasized traditional Democratic issues like jobs and education—then he took his campaign to the people.
Just as he’s doing on this weekend’s “listening tour,” Josh Harder sought out the people in his district who’ve long felt abandoned by government. He sought them out and convinced them he wanted the job of working for them—not for corporate donors, not for the wealthy one or ten percent, but for the people of the abandoned middle class who’ve learned the hard way that in America’s new plutocracy hard work and family values aren’t enough to keep from being skewered by the double cross of rising costs and diminishing incomes.
Harder’s one-on-one meetings with constituents rekindled the flame of democracy in the hearts of thousands upon thousands of voters who came out in unprecedented numbers for an off-year election. Republicans throughout the nation have cried “foul” and insisted California elections must have been rigged to produce so many Democratic wins, but the fact is candidates like Josh Harder got people out to vote because they championed the causes that made America great—equal opportunity, fair play, living wages, affordable health care, and education for all.
At Saturday’s town hall meeting in Ceres, a member of the audience entered the crowded room, looked around, and said, “What a contrast from Jeff Denham.” The contrast was obvious as well to Dr. Richard Anderson, a retired Professor of Biology from Modesto Junior College, who said,
“Josh is setting up time for individual brief in-person appointments with constituents, all over his district. Such a contrast to the disembodied telephone ‘town halls’ used by Mr. Denham. And Josh is asking for our input. What a change.”
Those who’ve met with Harder often mention that he’s a good listener. But they also notice something else, an underlying tension, an abundance of energy looking for a focus. And they realize that like a lot of successful businessmen, Josh Harder is results-oriented—he wants things to happen and he doesn’t want to wait.
Given the ongoing gridlock in Washington DC, it will take more than one Valley Congressman to bring about the reform Harder and his constituents want to see happen now—but House Democrats have already proposed legislation that would help rid our government of corruption. HR-1 would reduce the influence of big money in politics and restore essential elements of the Voting Rights Act.
Though it’s bound to be opposed by the Republican Senate, resistance to HR-1 will expose once again Republican dependency on the dark money provided by corporate donors and the one percent, while more and more people are taking notice. Change has only just begun.
Mark Miller says
My initial concern about Josh Harder is his talk about unity and his focus on adding his voice to Democratic Party attacks on Trump and Republicans.
The ONLY path to meaningful government reform will be through first reforming the Democratic Party and replacing corporate Democrats with Democrats that represent the people of America. I see Representatives like Ocasio-Cortez addressing that and helping to refocus the political dialogue on issues that really matter – issues like climate change, Medicare-for-All, and wages that are living wages.
While Rep. Harder ran with Medicare-for-All as, perhaps, his central issue, I see no indication that he is allying himself with the forces for change in Congress. Unity is about the LAST thing that we need from members of Congress. We need, instead, a commitment to positive change and to breaking the death grip that narrow special interests and corporations now have on our government.
As we see images of new Members of Congress shaking windows and rattling walls, the question is increasing, “Where is Josh Harder?”
MICHAEL L BURNS says
Looks like he Is starting by finding out what his constituents want. Give the guy a break he has only been in for 18 days
Pearl Alice Marsh says
I chose to support Josh Harder early on. When I heard him speak at the African-American Democratic club, I was impressed that he had a firm grasp of old school democratic values. He wasn’t just about a litany of policy prescriptions and legislative fixes. He was about the moral contract between citizens and the social contract between government and the people. I signed on right away. Congressman Harder is not going to disappoint us. And I will work tirelessly over the next two years to make sure that he is able to fulfill his promise to us and to his reelected in 2020.
Pearl Alice Marsh PhD,
J. Ringold says
I’m a big fan of Ocasio Cortez — AND I recognize that Harder represents a very different district. I’m glad he won and that he has the capacity to listen.
S. Hansen says
Had a 1 on 1 meeting with Rep. Josh Harder, mentioned I support Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal to raise taxes on the rich upwards of 70% after 10 million dollars; heck I suggested we could even go lower than 10 million for the 70% tax. I mentioned Amazons tax break to come to Patterson & that we should not have given a tax break to the richest man in the world. I explained unlike many of the folks in the Baby Boomers generation, rich class (bourgeois class) in general I am not scared of Socialism especially since I rose up from poverty & homelessness in a working class family. I mentioned that Rep. Nancy Pelosi said “we” meaning Democrats are Capitalist. I said if we do not implement full Socialism we can at least implement higher taxes on the rich to provide better services to the people such as universal health care, funding to end homelessness, etc. I also mentioned, as a military veteran, my support of Trumps plan to exit the wars in both Afghanistan & Syria. I explained the Democratic party should not have given Trump resistance on this policy just because the Dems dislike Trump. Pulling out of these unnecessary wars should be supported as a bipartisan issue. I appreciated Rep. Josh Harder’s time; & I explained to him I support policies for the masses of the people not just policies that benefit the rich (bourgeois) elite. I except him to implement policies to help the masses of the people.
David Froba says
Harder is such a contrast to Denham. Josh enjoys the public contact and Jeff fled it like the plague. But I believe it’s more than just style. Josh is able to have productive.and amiable meetings with his constituents, because he is on our side. Denham wasn’t. So for him town halls were just unpleasant reminders that he really represented rich people in other parts of the country, often in direct contrast to our local interests.
Brandon Renfro says
I did not support Harder. I come from a position of fluid upward mobility and opportunity for individual success and the “sky’s-the-limit” dream of America. I do not recognize the mindset of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and I have concerns about Harder. I realize that being a free-market capitalist who is socially and fiscally conservative is not as wildly popular as the “free-ride”, “large government”, “high-tax” socialist ideologies of our day so I do not expect much agreement here. Though I will say this, apply whatever policy and practice that you want to impose on others (no matter their income level) to yourself and your own situation and THEN if you still think it is a good idea, then enter the arena of meaningful dialogue (if one still exists) and dare to surround yourself with people who think different than you.