President Trump has officially lost the 2020 Presidential Election- but that doesn’t mean he won’t try again. The work is not done, and our fight against apathy, privilege, inequity, and inequality must continue. Let’s break it down.
Going into this election, I had little to no faith that President-Elect Biden was going to be victorious. For one, President Trump had the powerful incumbency advantage, which has allowed American presidents to keep their victory two-thirds of the time. Even more concerning was the rampant voter suppression in key states like Georgia, Biden’s reliance on white suburban female voters, the traditionally low youth voter turnout, and the discontent many Democrats, including myself, had with Biden’s platform. But I forgot that trends matter little when dealing with a president so turbulent as Donald Trump. While there was great surprise and a resounding sense of relief for Biden defeating Trump in this election, we must take precautions to ensure that President Trump will stay a one-term president and to ensure that we keep doing the work outside of elections to enact the reforms we wish to see. We voted him out- now let’s talk about how to KEEP him out.
Step One: Avoid the Complacency Trap. Biden solves one problem- the problem that is President Trump. His lack of civility has tarnished both our unity as a nation and our presentation to the entire international community, not to mention his severe desire to degrade our democracy by means of fake news, rushed Supreme Court confirmations, and Constitutional crises. But let’s not forget the amalgamation of problems which still exist in this country once power is transitioned: COVID-19 continues to produce a ravaging death toll with the assistance of poor government policies, ICE continues to exist and separate families at the border, police brutality continues to endanger and kill Black lives, the United States has pulled out of key international agreements like the Paris Agreement, and so many more. It is important to not sit back merely because we elected a democratic president who will not blatantly threaten our democracy. Our society has been mediocre at best when it comes to civic engagement, and this surge we witnessed in 2020 should not prove to be a fluke. We need to self-reflect on how to avoid falling back into laziness and complacency; when we stay informed, engage in grassroots efforts, keep ALL levels of elected and appointed leadership accountable, register to vote, and activate our communities around us, we can shift from being complacent to being civically engaged.
Step Two: Recognize the Barriers and the Heroes Working to Break Them. Stacey Abrams has been in the news recently (and rightfully so) for working on the ground through a group called Fair Fight Action to actively fight voter suppression by educating people on how to protect their right to vote. Voter suppression has impacted many of our communities, and more importantly, it comes in many forms. Our Indigenous communities have dealt with a variety of issues related to voter vulnerability and suppression, such as lacking access to nearby polling locations and mailing systems to requiring a proof of residency in North Dakota when tribal reservations lack these addresses. Imperfect practices with purging registration rolls have impacted our Black communities in places like Georgia. A failure to consider intersectionality has hindered our disabled community when it comes to accessibility of voting materials. The refusal of the USPS to locate 300,000 ballots has impacted a variety of communities. Our goal must be to ensure that every citizen gets a chance to participate in the next elections, and from dissolving disillusionment to identifying and removing these aforementioned barriers, our communities and elected officials will need to be active to achieve this goal. We need to highlight the people already doing the work, and we need to engage in that community organizing alongside them. When we think about our past, present, and future, we can start initiatives that lobby for long-term electoral and campaign finance reform, such as abolishing the Electoral College and promoting ranked-choice voting alongside organizations like RepresentWomen.
Step Three: Replace the DNC Leadership that is Embedded with Corruption. The Democratic National Committee has been accused of meddling with Democratic primaries multiple times, most recently in 2016 when Bernie Sanders was prevented from becoming the Democratic nominee due to leadership figures like Debbie Wasserman Schultz rigging the primaries. More importantly, they have been accused of doing so by prominent figures, such as Donna Brazile, the former chair of the DNC, and Senator Warren. The institutional barrier which predominantly stands in our way from making the Democratic party more reflective of our ideals as voters is the DNC. People like Debbie Wasserman Schultz have tarnished the credibility of the institution, and it’s time that we work to change that culture, whether from within the institution or by external pressure.
Step Four: Change the Approach- Improving Political Discourse. One of the biggest complaints I hear from those who are detached from politics is that the language is too complicated- whether we’re talking about proposition language, platform language, or even news discourse, it all seems inaccessible to people trying to navigate their way towards understanding politics. Furthermore, we saw a surge of dangerous rhetoric that blamed the South for being the origin of racism, and we also saw Republicans who voted for Biden feeling attacked merely for being a Republican. While it is true that many Trump supporters endorsed white supremacy and racism, which are human rights issues and NOT political issues, there is also a need to recognize that our aggressive rhetoric will not change their minds and will push them further right. We must find a way to call them out for denouncing human rights whilst keeping their minds open so they can truly see the flaws with the Trump platform. Easier said than done, but until we figure out HOW to engage with those conversations better, we can at least work to make ballot language more accessible in the meantime.
Step Five: You Vote Every TWO Years. There are many conversations about the importance of the Presidential elections, but there is an equal, and arguably an even greater, importance to the Midterm elections. It is in these Midterm elections that Congress party majorities shift, where representatives who have done a poor job can be held accountable, and where party representation can continue to become more representative of the population. Yes, we broke down many barriers in state and federal elections, from keeping and expanding the beloved Squad to flipping key seats like in Arizona, but we can do more. We must do more. More than ever, COVID-19 has made clear why voting down the ballot is important- the decisions made by your local, state, and federal officials have shaped your experience during COVID-19, and it is important to recognize the future influence which they can also hold in your experience. So, instead of spreading rhetoric about voting every four years, start spreading the word that we vote every TWO years and that we will fight just as hard in midterm elections as we did in the Presidential elections.
The Road to Societal Reform: Short-Term and Long-Term. There are many issues that exist with our current system of government, with it marginalizing our BIPOC communities and upholding harmful constructs like white supremacy, police brutality, heteronormativity, and more. We should ultimately be working to create and reform institutions that will emphasize the humanity of ALL individuals living in the United States; the approaches outlined above are short-term reforms that we can make to better our access in the current system, and we can simultaneously resist to achieve a restructured society for our future generations. The egregious four-year term of President Trump has blasted the red flags which we have ignored for so long, and we would be foolish to not take action after working so hard just to get him out of office. Let us mobilize and fight together- it’s time to take the reins of the future into our own hands.
Alisha Saxena is a senior at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Political Science-Public Law and minoring in African American Studies. She currently conducts research with RepresentWomen to advocate for ranked-choice voting and for increased women’s representation by means of alternative electoral systems. You can contact her at email@example.com.