By Mattie Kahn
In the beginning, Anna Langthorn was just another Democrat with a broken heart. True, like most progressives, she’s spent the last six months in emotional turmoil. But this—the very beginning of her political career—was before all that. Langthorn, who at 24 was recently elected to be the youngest ever Oklahoma State Democratic Chair, hadn’t lost an election or seen her candidate concede. She’d never even voted.
That was almost a decade ago, and she was only 17—still in school and recently dumped. “This isn’t a very feminist story,” she cautions, laughing. But, she explains, she’d been broken up with and was “incredibly distraught.” In desperate need of a distraction, Langthorn picked a new hobby almost at random. Sure, she figured, why not politics. “I already read the news and was politically aware—probably more than the average 17-year-old,” she says. “But I wasn’t very involved or proactive.” She immersed herself in local campaigns, places where passion, even obsession, were not only considered normal, but rewarded. Langthorn got involved with the local Democrats and volunteered, landing internships during her last two years of high school with candidates and the state party apparatus itself. She skipped most of the pomp and circumstance of her own high school graduation to attend the Oklahoma State Democratic Convention (“I couldn’t miss it!”) and worked on campaigns throughout college.
I believe, deeply, that we have to be leading on women’s issues and LGBT issues and the issues that are affecting communities of color while we drill down on that economic populist message. We need to fight for fairness, but we need people to know that we’re fighting, which isn’t happening in the state now.
But I don’t think we have to temper our message or water down progressivism to appeal to older voters. Voters want good health care and they want good housing and good education. They may say, in rural Oklahoma, that they’re less concerned with black lives, but there are black rural voters that need to be reached and engaged too. They may say they don’t care about abortion, but plenty of women are getting abortions and even more are getting access to birth control under our current laws.