Over the next few days, I’m going to share the thoughts of friends and acquaintances as they process the reality of a Donald Trump presidency. Some will be from people willing to share their identity. Others will be anonymous. All will help us to understand that we’re not alone in our grief and struggle to understand “what’s next.”
Installment Three is from my friend and super-organizer Jeremy Bird. I first got to know Jeremy when he was a national grassroots organizer for the Obama campaign in 2010. Since then he’s gone on to work iVote where he’s a Board member and Battleground Texas where he’s a senior advisor in the effort to turn Texas blue. He is the co-founder of 270 Strategies where they use grassroots organizing to transform communities using the techniques and skills honed during President Obama’s first two campaigns.
It’s been one long, painful week. My heart aches as I read the stories of racism and hatred happening around the country as a result of Trump’s electoral college victory.
As a white man, I can only imagine the fear immigrants, Muslims, African Americans and so many others are living with today.
This was not a typical election. I have lost those before. It was absolutely different. This is not about losing an election. It is about losing a battle (not the war) for the soul of our country.
Yet, somehow I have come out of this week with optimism and determination.
When people asked me during the campaign if Trump could win, my answer was no – not only because almost all of the data pointed to a Trump electoral loss, but because, like Obama had said, I fundamentally believed Americans were better than this. I had this unshakable belief that we would reject his blatant racism, misogyny, Islamophobia – and, if not those things, at least his admitting to sexual assault and complete lack of preparation or judgment to hold our nuclear codes.
Ultimately, around 2 million more Americans will have voted for Hillary Clinton when all of the absentee votes are counted. So, in a sense, I was right. But, unfortunately, we don’t elect Presidents on a popular vote (topic for another post). And, so, I don’t dispute the results. I do, however, know the results should challenge any sense of a “mandate” – and I know those 61 million people will continue to fight for the soul of our country.
That is where I have been focused for the better part of the past 48 hours. Where we go from here? I know I don’t have all of the answers, but I do have some initial thoughts.
First, we need to learn from this election, to really take time to learn from it. What that doesn’t mean is to attack those good men and women who worked their hearts out for Clinton, Senate candidates or other down ballot races. I think that is especially true if you were on the sidelines this election. There needs to a sober, deep and comprehensive post mortem of the election and its results. The new DNC chair should run it (I am a fan of both Keith Ellison and Tom Perez for the job), and it needs to focus less on pointing fingers and more on pointing the way forward. In the meantime, most of the Wednesday morning quarterbacking should at the very least respect the staffers who sacrificed so much of their lives to fight for our country and be based on facts.
Second, we need a strong, loyal opposition prepared to stand up against Trump’s policy agenda on multiple fronts. I do hope I will be completely surprised by Trump’a actual agenda in the White House – and that he will totally reject his own campaign’s hateful rhetoric. Given the initial cast of characters mentioned for administration posts, I do not have a ton of faith in this. Regardless, the opposition should be prepared to fight on the various policy fronts: health care, women’s rights and especially Planned Parenthood funding, the environment, workers rights, immigration … the list is long. We need coordinated strategies on each of these fronts. We must be relentless, focused and, for the love of this country, egoless in how these efforts are formed and run. And, I believe they need new leadership. What I mean by that is the same DC-based groups who have run these coalitions in the past need to make way for new leadership that better reflects the progressive movement’s future.
Third, we need to prepare for 2018 and 2020 elections. Regardless of Trump’s policies, he ran on an agenda of division and hate. You can never erase that away. You can’t tack to the center and somehow wish that never happened. And, therefore, I am committed to working every day from now until 2020 to ensure he is a one-term president. I think there are several pieces to this, which I will get into in a later post, but the first is that I think we have to both focus on expanding the map in places like AZ, TX, GA, NC, SC with robust – and by robust I mean several-million-dollar-a-year registration and accountability campaigns – while also putting serious work into fighting for the voters we lost this election in the Upper Midwest (and across the battleground states).
Fourth, we have to double down on our efforts to protect the right to vote. This has never been more important. I, for one, will put my efforts into supporting and bolstering iVote.
Fifth, and this should maybe be first (list in no priority order), we need to showcase Americans who are every day rejecting the Trump campaign’s hateful rhetoric. We are seeing too many stories of emboldened white Supremacists trying to make people of color feel unwelcome in our country. Enough. We have to fight this with, yes, love and kindness. I think we need a #WeGoHigh campaign that tells the opposite story every day – documenting all the ways people are rejecting that vision of America.
Sixth, I know there is a lot of talk about how Democrats reach out to white working class voters. Obviously, this is a part of the post mortem, the electoral strategy and the issue accountability piece, but for me one key aspect of this is a focus on white evangelical voters. The folks I grew up with and who will pro-Trump comment on this post are a good place to start. The one key thing here, though, is that there should and can be an economic solidarity with these voters. But, this outreach has to continue to reject the racism and bigotry Trump played on.
I know this list is incomplete, and this post is inadequate. But, these have been some of my initial thoughts on what we can do to continue fighting for a more perfect union.
Perhaps more importantly, for those looking for a hopeful way forward, I would recommend holding an infant. I have found spending time with my now three month old son is the place I find the most optimism and strength.