From the moment Donald Trump announced his presidential campaign in June 2015, I’ve been a Never Trumper.
That was because he’d spent zero minutes of his life as a public servant — and virtually every minute of his life engaged in narcissistic self-promotion. He started out slapping his name onto skyscrapers and casinos, and then less grandly, he moved onto vodka, mattresses, dog collars, and fake universities. His business record was a chaotic saga of betrayed partners, conned customers, harmed shareholders, a string of bankruptcies, and then that long second-act pivot to reality TV.
What price would America pay if we elected a gameshow host as our president?
Four years later, the costs of Trump compound on a daily basis. In the face of a complex health crisis that requires focused and informed leadership, we’ve got a guy who, as Saturday Night Live recently put it, made hoping for a miracle his Plan A.
Initially, Trump bet big on his hunch that coronavirus would just magically disappear. When that didn’t happen, he started hyping get-well-quick schemes with the same conviction he once applied to Trump University seminars and mail-order meat in a box.
When new case confirmations and deaths kept climbing, he proposed cleaning internal organs with one-minute disinfectant injections that could do a “tremendous number on the lungs.” Even his loyal friends at Fox News weren’t ready to swallow that Kool-Aid.
Thanks to Trump’s indifference, failure to act quickly, and poor decision-making, he has made a bad situation cataclysmically worse.
On January 20th, both the United States and South Korea reported their first coronavirus case. In mid-March, as the Atlantic notes, “the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities — approximately 90.” As of May 9th, 2020, South Korea had 10,840 confirmed cases and 256 confirmed fatalities. (Click here for latest totals.) On the same date, the U.S. had 1.32 million confirmed cases and 78,327 deaths. (Click here for latest totals.)
More than 33.5 million people have filed for unemployment. Millions may end up losing their businesses for good. Our government and the corporate sectors have added trillions of dollars of debt to their ledgers. Fast and reliable coronavirus testing remains elusive in most areas.
Instead of taking any responsibility for the failures, setbacks, oversights, and incalculable loss that has happened under his watch, Trump blames China, the World Health Organization, state governors, the Obama Administration, Nancy Pelosi, hospitals, and the news media. Instead of presenting America with a credible plan for how to minimize further health impacts and economic damage over the long term, Trump sows discord on Twitter.
Just like he used to drive his casinos to the brink of failure and then ask for a do-over, he’s now trying to convince America that if we give him another shot at this presidenting stuff, he’ll do better.
At this point, four more years of Trump is not just a threat to rule of law, checks and balances, and the belief that in a democratic republic even the highest elected official must be held accountable for his actions. It’s a threat to our collective health, our economy, our future as a nation.
So it doesn’t really matter what your primary issue or interest is. If it’s affordable healthcare, Trump should be your main concern. If it is rule of law, Trump should be your absolute concern. And the same thing goes for climate change, good middle class jobs, equal rights for women, education for every child, criminal justice reform, and economic policies that facilitate innovation and broad-based prosperity instead of corrupt crony capitalism.
After Michael Bloomberg entered the Democratic primary race and pushed the discourse toward the question of electability and the value of a candidate who could play to the middle, the prospect clearly unnerved Trump. In fact, our Divider-in-Chief was so concerned about this resurgence of centrism that he actually tweeted about Bloomberg’s campaign more than twice as often as he did about coronavirus in January and February.
But while Trump focused on Bloomberg, Joe Biden turned out to be the candidate who could unite the widest range of constituencies. Joe dominated Super Tuesday in early March because he attracted support from white and black voters, city-dwellers, suburbanites, and blue-collar workers.
This broad-based appeal is what makes him even more compelling right now, when there is such a glaring empathy void at the top and people are looking for moments of cooperation, reassurance, and genuine emotional connection from their leaders.
But there are still six long months until Election Day, and we know that Trump will be doing everything he can to sow discord during that time, even if it means siding with armed protestors against democratically elected leaders.
Therefore, anyone who envisions a better future for America must stand united against Trump over the next six months. As we do that, here are three key factors that will be crucial to building a strong coalition that will minimize Trump’s chance of another narrow electoral victory.
1. Always put country first
True unity means being a team player from start to finish, and true team players usually end up sacrificing some personal glory for the greater good.
In this respect, I think one great person to model is Michael Bloomberg. While Mayor Bloomberg’s presidential campaign was often characterized by his opponents as personal ambition gone awry, I see it entirely differently. If Bloomberg had wanted to maximize his own best chances for personal glory, he would have run as an independent, where his deep resources and pro-business, pro-environment centrist appeal would have garnered a lot of votes.
But Bloomberg understood that a race with three major candidates would likely work in Trump’s favor. And his main goal was not winning himself, but rather beating Trump. While he felt a more centrist candidate was the best way to achieve that, he also understood the strategic importance of keeping this as a two-candidate race. So Bloomberg entered the Democratic primary — where he could push the race to the middle but not in a way that might siphon off Democratic votes in November.
Once Mayor Bloomberg made that initial decision to put the country’s interests ahead of his own, he continued to do so through the duration of his campaign. Instead of attacking other Democratic candidates in primary debates, he attacked Trump. Instead of investing all his advertising dollars and other field operation resources into states with early primary elections, where the potential payoff to his own campaign would have been more immediate, he took the fight to Trump in battleground states where Trump himself has been holding rallies, advertising heavily, and effectively running unopposed since 2017. Those early outreach efforts helped catalyze anti-Trump engagement in highly contested states where every newly registered voter, volunteer canvasser, and other grassroots participant will matter come November.
So moving forward, we should take a nod from Bloomberg’s campaign: Right now, we need team players. The battle is with Trump and Trump alone.
2. Commitment to a female Vice President
By design, Donald Trump is a polarizing figure, the Divider-in-Chief. And one of the ways Trump’s divisiveness resonates most powerfully is in how differently women and men view him. According to the Pew Research Center, women were 13 percentage points more likely than men to have voted for Hillary Clinton than Trump in 2016. This gender gap, the largest in more than 20 years, grew even more pronounced with voters younger than 50, with 63% of those women saying they voted for Clinton.
Since the 1980s, women have increasingly identified themselves as Democrats and voted for Democratic candidates. Also, as the Center for American Women and Politics documents, the “number of female voters has exceeded the number of male voters in every election since 1964.” In 2016, 9.9 million more women than men voted, and that’s likely one reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote over Trump by more than three million votes.
More women vote Democrat because they recognize the party’s commitment to policies and values that support and empower women, including electing more women to the highest levels of government. In 2020, a record 102 women are members of the House of Representatives, and a record 25 women are U.S. Senators. In both cases, the majority of these women are Democrats.
In part, these numbers have been achieved in response to Trump. In 2016, the Access Hollywood tapes graphically revealed his criminally predatory personal views of women and his own privilege. Since then, his Administration’s serial attacks on women’s reproductive rights, healthcare, and other programs and policies that women voters value have further revealed his fundamentally misogynistic mindset.
As a result, the leftward drift that has defined American politics since the 1980s has increased significantly in the age of Trump. From the Women’s March in 2017 to the “blue tsunami” of the 2018 midterms, when House Democrats won approximately 10 million more votes than House Republicans, women voters have formed the base of opposition to Trump. It’s well past time we had a woman president, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton’s substantial margin of victory at the popular vote level showed that the American electorate is more than ready for that. In 2020, a record number of women candidates participated in the Democratic primary election. While Joe Biden emerged as the presumptive nominee, Democrats should continue endorsing and supporting women candidates at the highest levels of office. This time around, that means choosing a vice president from an extremely strong field of candidates. Soon, it will mean electing our first woman president.
3. Network Effects of Grassroots Organizing
Over the next six months, Donald Trump is going to do everything he can to create doubt, confusion, and cynicism about our key civic institutions, especially the act of voting itself, because he knows that an increase in turnout of the American electorate will end in his defeat.
While political organizers have always recognized the persuasive and motivational power of door-to-door canvassing and phone-banking, a new strategy called relational organizing has started changing the way that political campaigns think about these and other kinds of peer-to-peer engagement.
Typically, campaigns have approached these outreach efforts in a top-down way, building lists through voter records, mailing addresses, and sources of bulk-purchased data, then using volunteers or paid staffers to contact the people on these lists. Now, campaigns are using tools that leverage the personal networks and connectivity that people have already created online. Instead of cold-calling strangers, campaign volunteers text or email friends, and relational organizing tools like Team by Tuesday, the Empower app, Outvote, OutreachCircle, and VoteWithMe to help them do so in strategic and measurable ways.
In our highly polarized, media-saturated political climate, trust and attention are two very scarce commodities. But people do trust and pay attention to their friends, and that’s why relational organizing is key to beating Trump in 2020.
According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study of validated voters in the 2016 presidential election, 58 percent of voters of all races aged 18–29 chose Hillary Clinton, while only 28 percent of those voters chose Donald Trump. Similarly, 91 percent of all black voters voted for Clinton, and 66 percent of all Hispanic voters chose Clinton. But older U.S. voters had a much higher turnout rate than younger U.S. voters, and as Axios notes, the U.S. older population is “whiter and more conservative than younger Americans.”
In other words, the broader the electorate, the narrower Trump’s chance for victory. By boosting their turnout rates, younger Americans can remove a President whose goal has always been to take America back to a less diverse and equitable past, where women, people of color, immigrants, and LGBTQ people were all routinely oppressed and marginalized.
In the end, of course, a vote is never just a vote for a candidate, but also a vote for the future — the country’s and the voter’s own. Young voters have the most at stake, because they’re the ones who will be around longest to experience the consequences of our leaders’ actions and inactions. So my hope is that these voters will use Team by Tuesday, the Empower app, OutVote, OutreachCircle, and VoteWithMe to mobilize friends and collectively claim a greater stake in their futures.
Like any election, the 2020 election won’t just shape what happens next year, or even what happens over the next four years. But this election is especially important. Even before coronavirus, our country was in the midst of great change, with radically competing visions about how best to move forward. Now, as bodies pile up in U-Haul trucks outside of morgues and we experience the greatest economic carnage we’ve seen since the Great Depression, who we choose to lead us for the next four years will have repercussions for decades to come.
In July 2016, when America was enjoying its 106th consecutive month of job growth and the stock market was surging, Donald Trump exclaimed in a speech at the Republican National Convention that he alone could fix America’s problems.
But clearly Trump has not fixed America’s problems. Instead, his stubborn incompetence and spectacularly misguided wishcraft has helped make America’s problems much, much worse than they should be.
That’s why we need a much different approach in 2020. Instead of Trump alone, we need all of us working together, building coalitions rather than walls, expanding the electorate through peer-to-peer engagement, and standing in unity with Joe Biden.