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Biden Won, the Work Continues
A wave of political activism delivered the win we needed, but we can't let it recede.
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won. And as the President Elect once famously said — this is a big fucking deal. When it is all said and done, Biden will have won more than 300 electoral votes and a huge popular vote margin. Biden beat an incumbent — which is very rare — and it wasn’t close. It was the ass kicking that Donald Trump deserved.
Democratic enthusiasm about this BFD has been somewhat tempered by the failure to win the Senate (yet), other down ballot losses, and the upside-down way the results rolled out on Tuesday. But while we didn’t win everything, we won the biggest prize in the most important election in American history. Donald Trump was an existential threat to democracy and we just sent him packing.
Everyone should feel free to celebrate, get some sleep, and then it’s time to get to back work. Winning the White House is the beginning, not the end.
Here’s just some of what we need to do:
Keep People Involved
Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 shocked millions of people into getting involved in politics, often for the first time. This grassroots army went to work the day after the election and began the hard labor of changing this country. Through activism, this group saved the Affordable Care Act, pushed back on the Muslim ban, flipped the House, and has now defeated Donald Trump. They changed American politics — and America forever.
If Trump’s victory created this movement, we cannot allow his loss to end it. Everyone with a platform (and a podcast) needs to use it to remind people of what President Obama said in his final address as President:
But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.
Over the last four years, Democrats have developed a culture of political activism. If it dissipates, Biden’s victory will be a hollow one. A historic missed opportunity to fix our democracy and enact an agenda consistent with our values.
Sorry, but no one gets to go back to brunch — even when President Biden makes brunch safe again (h/t Jon Lovett).
Georgia on our Mind
Control of the Senate is very likely to come down to Georgia. Because no candidate reached 50 percent in Georgia’s two Senate races, there will be two January runoff elections. Jon Ossoff will be taking on Senator David Perdue and Raphael Warnock will be running against Senator Kelly Loeffler. If Democrats win these races, they will control the Senate.
It’s impossible to overstate the importance of winning the Senate. It’s the only way to guarantee that President Biden will be able to pass his agenda, appoint his Cabinet, and confirm judges without Mitch McConnell getting in the way.
I want to be clear about a few things. These races are winnable. Biden just proved that a Democrat can win Georgia. But it’s going to be hard. Ossoff ran behind Biden on Tuesday. Warnock was in a multi-candidate field with lots of Republicans, some Democrats, and a Lieberman so it’s hard to know how easy it will be for him to get to 50.1. Luckily Ossoff and Warnock are both very good candidates that have run excellent races
Corporations are going to pour millions and millions into these races, because these two seats could literally determine whether they have to pay their fare share in taxes. It will be corporate special interests vs. grassroots activists. A tough fight, but one that we can win.
Passing the Biden Agenda
Whether we have the Senate or not, President Biden will be operating in a very challenging political environment. To pass a bill, he will need to hold onto every single Democratic Senator, maybe flip a Republican or two, and then work with a narrowed House majority. The only way to do that is by marshaling the same energy that flooded the phone lines, inboxes, and town halls to save the Affordable Care Act. Most of the time that pressure will be applied to obstinate Republicans, but sometimes it will be focused on Democrats standing in the way of progressive policies.
If Democrats fail to control the Senate, there will be a million cynical takes from professional cynics about the death of the Biden agenda at the hands of Mitch McConnell. There is no doubt that Republican control will make things exponentially harder. McConnell is a nihilist who would be more than willing to hurt the American people if it increased his chances of acquiring more political power. But 2021 is not 2009. McConnell may not have the option to just stand back and watch the world burn like he did when Obama won. Unlike 2009, McConnell is in charge of one half of Congress. He can be held responsible for the things that don’t happen. And unlike 2010, the 2022 Senate election is a very favorable Senate map for Democrats. The Republicans are defending seats in states Biden won. Political pressure only works if it is applied with strength and consistency and that can only be done with the help of millions of grassroots activists organizing in states and districts. Winning a majority in 2020 will give President Biden the ability to enact the policies we care most about and the path to winning in 2022 starts now.
A 24-7-365-50 Organizing Strategy.
Joe Biden won a massive popular vote victory against a historically unpopular President. But the fact that we still had to sweat out an electoral college victory is a reminder that America is a center-left country with a center right political system. The Electoral College, the Senate, Facebook and many of our institutions are biased towards Republicans. The only way to overcome these structural deficits is with the help of millions of activists organizing their communities.
Democrats won the House in 2018 and the White House in 2020 because volunteers spent years knocking doors, making calls, writing postcards, and registering voters. People ran for office at every level no matter how red the district. No one waited for the “campaign season” to start or marching orders from Washington. They just got to work — often without even knowing the candidate for which they were organizing.
Despite Joe Biden’s win, Democrats suffered some really tough losses down ballot. There is much work to do. The map does not favor us. We have to do work of turning more red states purple and more purple states blue.
I will have more specific thoughts about how to do that when the dust settles (and I get some sleep), but the lesson of this election is that organizing works. Democrats need to invest in a 24-7-365-50 state organizing strategy. The campaign machinery never gets turned off. The voter lists never atrophy and volunteers never go a week without an opportunity. As Barack Obama learned in 2009, it is very, very hard to keep people engaged after the election, but we have no choice. It’s the only way to ensure we have a politics that represents the views of the large majority of Americans that just elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.