Beating Trumpism in 2020
By Way to Win
Joe Biden isn’t going to defeat Trumpism. Neither is Kamala Harris, or Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, or a future Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
Beating Trump means he’s out of the White House. Beating Trumpism means fighting up and down the ballot to elect leaders who will make a progressive, multi-racial democracy real.
Trumpism is the ugliest version of our country’s dangerous obsession with race and wealth, but national politics, from both parties, have been steeped in racism and catering to the rich for generations. Republicans have certainly used louder dog whistles to promote racist policies and more overtly legislated to line their supporters’ pockets. But Democrats have also far too often chosen neo-liberal economic policies and appeals to moderate white voters when they could have been building a multi-racial party grounded in the progressive values that animate and inspire their base.
Beating Trumpism means winning big using the tactics that we know help not only win elections, but inspire transformative policies. Tactics that have been used to build lasting multiracial political and economic power in states across the country, like those in Minnesota, where Ilhan Omar protected her seat, and in Missouri, where Cori Bush propelled to victory. The playing field has shifted particularly in the south and southwest, where supporting progressives in down-ballot elections and investing in year-round organizing led by women and people of color is the future of democratic success.
This is the way to win.
Consider Texas, which NBC has officially declared a toss-up state in the Presidential race. In 2018, Harris County elected Judge Lina Hidalgo, the first woman to serve as head of Harris County’s governing body. In Texas’s most recent primary, local organizers helped shatter primary turnout records among Democratic voters. As a result, Jose Garza, a long-time civil rights and labor rights attorney who came directly from the local organizing community, was elected as Travis County’s District Attorney. Recently, Texas announced a record of 16.4 million registered voters, an increase of 2.1 million from 2016, thanks to work of groups like Texas Organizing Project, MOVE Texas, Texas Freedom Network, and others. This is an increase that could turn the election on its head.
North Carolina is experiencing a similar renaissance. State-based organizers spent years focused on down-ballot races and ballot initiatives in their effort to turn the state blue in November. Now a battleground state, organizers are fighting against an electorate who elected Democratic Governor Roy Cooper and President Trump in 2016. Advance Carolina — a statewide, independent, Black-led organization with a mission to build political and economic power in North Carolina — is seeing a coalition of eligible voters re-emerge, mobilized by the events of 2020. The base wants actionable change.
Democrats can’t reliably win the White House if they can’t turn red states like Texas and North Carolina purple and then blue, but you can’t turn a state blue without investing in leaders and organizing from the bottom up. And you can’t turn a state blue with neoliberal economic policies and appeals to moderate white voters. To defeat Trumpism, we have to build a multi-racial party grounded in the progressive values that animate and inspire the Democratic base — just like Hon. Lina Hidalgo has done in Texas, where she currently oversees the budget of one of the largest counties in Texas, and as a result, facilitated one of the swiftest responses to Covid-19 in the state.
The leaders at the top of the Democratic ticket, even after the horrors of the Trump era, are far more likely to swing back to moderation than swing for the progressive fences. Last month at the convention, DNC organizers chose to give Republicans like John Kasich a platform to speak over more progressive members of the party like former presidential candidate Julian Castro. In turn, when these leaders do backpedal, they’ll be the latest round of leaders whose words are inclusive but whose policies fail at making sure every person in America can not only survive but thrive. And that failure will provide yet another opening for a demagogue like Trump to race-bait his way into the Oval Office, and for right-wing senators like Mitch McConnell to grind Congress to a halt. Our democracy and our planet cannot survive much more of this cycle.
Joe Biden may be able to beat Trump, but he will not break this cycle alone. No one at the top of the ticket can. They’ll change when the Party changes under them. They’ll change when the movement makes it clear they have to.
Between now and November 3rd, democrats must do everything we can to defeat Trumpism by supporting the groups who can make it happen. And when we win, democrats must coalesce to hold progressive representatives accountable for doing what it takes to achieve a more just and representative society. Want to keep winning? Let’s get to work.