I need you to vote for x or else!
They died for you to have the right to vote!
That’s just politics.
We have a better chance for our issues to be addressed!
Insert your favorite general election quote and the result is still the same. America is on a collision course with a giant meteor of craptastic proportions. There is no special force of astronauts en route to save us. This election cycle has taken so many very wrong turns, and there is no one clear way out.
We are 8 days from election night 2016 and Democrats continue to double down on the worst of the worst. There is a notion that people should be falling over themselves to “win” it for Hillary. Somehow we are supposed to believe this is about her, and what we should be doing for her versus what she needs to do for us.
Instead of finding ways to engage people on issues and building meaningful get out the vote opportunities, Democrats and their allies resort to institutionalized fear and intimidation. While there is a concert or noted celebrity appearance thrown in here and there, the focus has still been on defeating “evil.” This isn’t some Dystopian movie where if only we defeat the bad guy all will be well.
Democrats are drowning and expect us to save them. They have learned nothing from hemorrhaging seats at all levels of government the last several years. Only recently have Democrats seen the value in reaching out to their “base.” Progressive voters, previously discarded at the convention, are now bombarded with pleading emails to “help.” Whether voter turnout will be comparable to prior cycles is yet to be seen. However, these half-assed attempts to control voter behavior through fear and shame fall short.
There are those who believe that we must support Secretary Clinton and then push her from the left. Relying on the work of progressive organizations and organizers shows we are just a pawn. Not an equal partner. Regardless of whether voters chose to cast a vote for the Clinton/Kaine ticket, the many missteps of the campaign and the Democratic establishment cannot be ignored. Failing to take responsibility for the information revealed in the Podesta emails and continuing to blame Russia makes it clear Democrats are not interested in building a real alliance.
Since the primary season, establishment Democrats have focused on maintaining the status quo and driving home the message of fear of a Trump presidency. While the Democratic party was able to boast the passage of its most progressive platform, campaigning on issues that matter has been a second or even third thought in this race. We must defeat Trump so that Democrats like Senator Schumer can push for preferable tax treatment for corporate partners. Party elites and strategists alike banked on fear of Trump being a huge factor in voter turnout and engagement.
The Clinton/Kaine ticket is uninspiring and has failed to capture the energy and excitement of the majority of Americans. Neither Secretary Clinton, nor Senator Kaine, are able to move past well-crafted talking points when it comes to issues involving institutional racism, immigration, trade agreements, or even climate change. After weeks of pretending not to know about the ongoing #NoDAPL actions, Secretary Clinton released a non-statement dismissing a serious human rights issue. Yet, Democrats continue to struggle with a cohesive message beyond “Trump Bad.” Voters need a vision and the Democrats have failed to put one forward despite flowery letters promising a litany of progressive issues of importance. Right now we have brave people fighting for their right to live in peace. For the right to clean water and free enjoyment of their land.
Voter outreach and engagement (if you can call it that) post-Convention has involved highlighting “reasonable” republicans and focusing on the awful prospect of a Trump Presidency. Commercials running on Black stations such as OWN are a last ditch attempt to appease calls that the Clinton/Kaine Black outreach has been lacking.
In early August 2016, Carl Beijer was one of several who laid out the problem with using “reasonable” opposition to Trump as a recruitment strategy. As a “progressive who gets things done,” Secretary Clinton has shown that her way of accomplishing goals involves more than mere bipartisanship. Clintonian doublespeak is not surprising, but to see Democrats court “reasonable” republicans instead of building an alliance with the left is a strange tactic for the party with the most progressive platform ever!
To court “reasonable republicans” is inconsistent with the alleged progressive platform planks and outcomes the party claims to value. These “reasonable republicans” are the same ones who have stood by and watched the tea party and “alt right” grow. These same groups have provided the foundation and base for the same Trump hate we are now supposed to rebuke. They have spent nearly eight years opposing President Obama, without rhyme or reason. These same individuals stood by with the gutting of the VRA as well as many state-level efforts to suppress voter participation. Far too much effort has been placed on denouncing Trump while embracing and even celebrating individuals from the right who have paved the way for his divisive and hate-filled rise. Denouncing Trump has become a get out of jail free card for some of the right’s worst offenders. We are not moved.
We’ve talked to all the major progressive organizations. Political elites and the Grasstops have no interest in grassroots movements growing and leveraging power. Furthermore, “defeating Trump” does not end or even pave the way toward addressing ongoing issues with institutional racism and misogyny. By focusing on Trump as the end all be all, it seemingly absolves Democrats and affiliated organizations from having to do any real work. They will continue to frame issues of police violence as a “lack of respect” and never touch issues in inequity in education, employment, and housing for starters. Gun control and urban “gun violence” will be inserted into conversations to distract from the deeply seeded issues running through the veins of this country.
But the Republicans led by Trump are Bad! Bad is a relative term. And let’s be clear, I’m not advocating for people to jump ship and vote GOP. If anything, we need to develop coalitions and strengthen the existing grassroots network to build political power within our movements and organizing efforts instead of focusing on any one particular party. While the GOP may exacerbate certain issues, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to injustices that continue to happen under Democratic leadership. We are too quick to celebrate “victories.” For example, weeks after the DOJ announced it would close private prisons, another federal agency reopened a recently closed private facility. Immigration officials continue to exploit the system overrun by private corporations and subject detainees to inhumane conditions.
Furthermore, the focus on building a coalition to “defeat Trump” has come at the cost of building support for down-ballot candidates across the country. While a few candidates enjoy the support of the Democratic establishment or Senator Bernie Sanders, there are many left out to fend for themselves in a hostile election cycle. As pundits begin to declare either potential victories or very close races in states previously thought to be strong “red” states, down ballot candidates fight an uphill battle. Members of the Congressional Black Congress recently begged for money to help with down ballot races. If the most faithful Clinton supporters need to beg for support, where does that leave the so woke left that is only “with her” to defeat Trump?
It isn’t enough to have a better ground game than Donald Trump. Democrats have lost hundreds of seats at all levels of government. For weeks we have been inundated with commercials from Republicans who are voting for Hillary, with no mention of down-ballot candidates. Instead of fighting to reclaim ground and building on the growing progressive base in many states, the focus has been placed on electing Secretary Clinton. We need something more than a litany of everything wrong with Trump. We need a clear vision beyond November 8th that does not involve some misguided attempt at emotional blackmail to vote for the “lesser of two evils.”
The ones who will "hold her accountable" are already doing that now…
— #FreeBresha (@prisonculture) October 18, 2016
This notion that organizing and building out the next steps of this “progressive movement” will somehow be easier in a Clinton-led America ignores real challenges to existing work. We already exist in a world where we are already being spied on with suppression of real issues in the mainstream news. Where people are met with military grade force. There should be no delusions about a Clinton White House. Her willingness to restrict the internet and her campaign’s collusion with mainstream media outlets is a chilling look into the challenges facing progressives. We need to be strong in our resolve and not so willing to appear “agreeable” for the sake of alleged progress.
Eight days and counting, and it is clear that those who believe in waiting to push Secretary Clinton are worried more about their personal advancement than lifting up those at the margins. There needs to be a value realignment involved in our electoral advocacy. In fact, we need to move beyond just turning out voters in high-stakes election cycles. Voting is only one tool. So many stress the need for voting for president without any discussion of what is happening at the state and local level. Celebrity endorsers and the heads of organizations insist on amplifying the importance of “the vote.” Yet none of these people talk about growing power beyond casting a ballot. How do we leverage the activism and community engagement to improve communities? We need to organize and engage in off-cycle and midterm elections at all levels of government. We have to train our people to be the change needed in their community. Be brave and stand up to the status quo. Together we will rise.