#8: Urgency, boldness and patience for the long game
I’m confident that Biden won the presidential election, and that we will be able to defend that victory against the challenge Trump will inevitably mount.
Biden won by scratching out close victories in a handful of key states. Every single part of the anti-Trump front, it turns out, was absolutely indispensable. Those of us on the left who identified the necessity of defeating Trump and then decided to throw our energy into that fight rather than watch from the sidelines were correct to do so.
Progressives and the left played a particularly important role in this election. The members of UniteHere – hospitality workers whose livelihoods have been decimated by the pandemic – led the way in showing all of us that we ought to be on the ground knocking doors. Efforts like Seed the Vote and Water for Grassroots provided a way for progressives and leftists to contribute to Biden’s victory by supporting grassroots organizations rooted in communities of color and the working class. Seed the Vote volunteers alone knocked over 70,000 doors in Arizona, as part of a much larger effort driven by UniteHere’s Local 11. The formation of The Frontline in late September brought racial justice activists into the movement to oust Trump.
The overall result of the election poses a number of challenges for the left. This electorate has been through a once-in-a-generation experience: a raging pandemic combined with a crushing economic collapse and an extraordinarily broad uprising for racial justice. Yet this has, even with enormous turnout levels, barely shaken up the electorate, swinging it perhaps a couple percentage points Biden’s way. Many of us expected that the past four years, especially the last 8 months, would thoroughly discredit the President. To the contrary, Trump’s takeover of the GOP has actually established Trumpism as a legitimate form of opposition to the Democrats and liberalism, for half the electorate. This is how we should understand Trump’s gains compared to 2016 among white women and men of color. Those results are only surprising because they are entirely banal, well within the normal range of GOP support among those demographics in presidential contests over the last two decades.
Our best shot at weakening Trumpism is a massive struggle for policies that will materially improve the lives of workers, women, and people of color. Here, too, we have an uphill battle. The Republicans have probably held onto the Senate; there is a slim chance the Democrats may win a 50-50 split. That outcome, however, will likely leave the most conservative elements of the Democratic caucus – Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema – with outsized power. Democrats may end up losing seats in the house, with few (if any) of the progressive challengers in red districts picking up victories. There are certainly bright spots, like the victories of Cori Bush and Jamal Bowman, but those of us who hoped that the election would provide a significantly more favorable political terrain for winning even the policies that Biden campaigned on, who understand that at a minimum this society is in for a pitched struggle over who will pay for the reconstruction of society in COVID’s aftermath, must admit we have a tough road ahead.
The results from Tuesday thus suggest that the left ought to prioritize the patient work of building our social base and core institutions – whether those are labor unions, member-led community organizations, state-level independent political organizations, or electoral projects like Durham For All – with the understanding that the project of defeating Trumpism and cohering an alternative social bloc will be a generation-long process. Yet what the moment demands of us is something different, and this is clear every time we witness a police murder, or smell the forests burning, or flee the hurricanes pummeling our coastal towns, or look at the COVID-19 statistics, or talk to those who have been thrown out of work or crushed by medical debt.
Urgency and boldness and patience, with a view to the long game – this is what we’ve got to unknot in our theory and practice.
Calvin Cheung-Miaw is an Advisory Editor of Organizing Upgrade.
#9: White women, polling predictions and the vote
Although Joe Biden still has a good chance to win the election, there is no doubt that he, and the Democrats generally, underperformed relative to the pre-election polls which predicted an 8-9 point Biden victory and a significant Electoral College majority (as well as a Senate majority, an increased House majority and improvement in State legislatures).
Apparently the main cause of this underperformance was the white women vote. Prior to the election most pollsters and surveys suggested that white women would either favor Biden or break even for the first time since the 2000 election, contributing greatly to a significant Biden win.
However, as of this writing, Biden is beating Trump by about 2.4 points and will be very lucky to squeak out the bare minimum of 270 Electoral votes.
This difference is significantly accounted for by the fact that, according to the Exit Poll, white women gave Trump 55% of their votes and Biden 43%. In fact, Trump did better among white women in this election than in 2016 when he carried white women by 52-43.
The Exit Poll also shows that predicted Biden margins among seniors, suburbs and young voters also did not materialize.
Bob Wing is a longtime social justice organizer, activist and writer.