Discover more from Conviction by Jason Hicks
The Biden Coalition Is Winning
An anti-racist New Deal is coming
Biden is set to win in November and take power in January to begin the most significant phase of national renewal since the end of Reconstruction in 1877. The pandemic is a crisis that Trump can’t tweet through or bully, and the social movement galvanized by the video of the police murder of George Flyod further cemented a shift in national opinion that makes Trump unelectable. In particular, Trump’s call to use the military to suppress civilian protests both proved that the military will not do his bidding (this term at least) and will drive yet more Republicans from voting for him (see Sarah Longwell of Republicans for the Rule of Law on the latter point here.)
This is certainty not a call for complacency. A second Trump term is a threat that cannot be overestimated, and as such, however low the chances are, it requires the utmost effort to prevent. More importantly though, every vote still counts, however certain victory is. Remember the chants about the popular vote in 2016? It would’ve felt worse and he would’ve had more political capital if he had won the popular vote as well. Similarly, the largest possible Electoral College vote and popular vote count will drive the stake deeper into the heart of Trumpism. The higher the vote the more the remaining Republicans in the Senate will be afraid to filibuster or otherwise obstruct legislation. It will flip more states so that gerrymandering and voter suppression strategies can be overturned. So every vote counts. Register yourself and your social circles. Make a plan to vote and encourage everyone else to. Find a group to donate time or money to. It all matters.
The fundamentals for winning are in place
While the polls—including of battleground states—are strong and steady, most important in my opinion is looking at this in the context of the 2018 midterm elections. In 2018, Democrats turned out 60.5 million voters, as compared to 35.6 million in the 2014 midterms and only 2.4 million short of Trump’s 2016 turnout. Crucially, as I wrote in my first newsletter, Democratic voters flipped half the counties that had voted for Obama then switched to Trump, indicating their ability to flip the Electoral College, not just run up the popular vote.
Democratic Party voters are motivated and focused on the goal of defeating Trump—not to to turn back the clock, but so that we are able to move toward justice. And importantly, these are the voters that surged the 2020 primaries to vote for Biden (link). Leaving aside a full autopsy of the Sanders campaign for now, his strategy required bringing new voters to the polls, but Biden was the one to increase primary turnout. As the NY Times wrote in the linked article, “The key demographics that helped Democrats flip congressional seats in 2018 — suburban college graduates and black voters — went for Mr. Biden.”
Trump only won by less than 80 thousand votes spread over three states. That’s it. Yes, his core base will stick with him, but he can’t win an election just with them and he’s given up on trying to appeal beyond his base.
A stolen election?
However, Trump was, after all, impeached for trying to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into making up dirt on Biden. If not for the whistleblower, who put integrity ahead of their personal interests, it might have worked. While that ploy didn’t, Trump is clearly willing to do anything to win and has called on foreign governments to interfere in the election. And given his conciliation of such dictatorial regimes—and his weakening of US power, they certainly have every reason to. So the question isn’t whether he will try, but will it work?
If this were going to be a close election—close in terms of number of states won or the vote by which they are won, I would be more concerned. But if someone were to hack voting systems, every precinct touched increases the chances of getting caught. And if Biden’s win were as close as Trump’s was, cries of “rigged” and legal challenges from the White House would be more worrisome. But when the Republicans have to worry about Texas flipping, such charges will not stick beyond his core base.
Not a return to the status quo
There’s a common misconception that Biden represents to a return to normalcy before Trump. Given the danger of Trump, I’m disturbed if anyone is dismissive of that, but at the same time, it’s critical to dispel this misconception—one shared, as my first newsletter pointed out, by both the mainstream New York Times and leftists like those around Jacobin magazine.
A key part of this myth was reinforced by irresponsible writers and publishers wrenching Biden saying “No one's standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change”completely out of context. Media outlets and commentators presented this as if Biden was saying his plans for the country as a whole were for nothing to change. To the contrary, at the same meeting he said that “people feel like they’re being completely left out and they are” and that income inequality has to be addressed.
His message was addressed to the wealthy at that fundraiser. He said they had so much money he could increase their taxes to implement social programs and they wouldn’t feel it. Referring to taxes exemptions for the rich being about $1.6 trillion, he said that “I could take about $400 [billion] away, and it wouldn’t change your standard of living one tiny little bit.” So the headlines just as easily could’ve been “VP Biden promises to close 25% of tax exemptions for wealthy to combat inequality” but instead they were “Biden promises nothing will change.”
More fundamentally though, people accepted this spin because of the perception that he’s “pale, male, and stale”—part of the “establishment.” On an episode of The Shop, Hasan Minhaj contrasted the new “woke” generation to the establishment. Whoopi responded strongly, saying, “stop listening to the media” and “don’t down the people whose shoulders you’re standing on” (clip). She refers specifically to the fight against apartheid, and here’s a clip of Biden angrily denouncing Reagan’s veto of an anti-apartheid bill.
But it’s likely the only thing many people know about Biden and apartheid is that he mistakenly referred to being arrested in South Africa. This was presented as him being forgetful or trying to claim credit for something he didn’t do. On a visit, he refused to use the whites-only entrance at an airport and was stopped by police and taken to a room against his will. Technically a “detention,” not “arrest,” but not a distinction typically enforced so strongly. Did anyone worry so much about whether Sander’s one civil rights arrest was actually an “arrest” or not?
Many would have you think media bias was solely against Sanders and perhaps the only reason he lost. That needs a more thorough analysis but ask yourself if your opinion of Biden is shaped by a media slant and your own information bubbles to such a degree that it’s out of touch with what his record actually is. Whoopi’s anger at Hasan’s flippant position is information that should encourage us to rethink our positions.
An Anti-Racist New Deal
This jaundiced view of Biden has caught much of the left out of step with the truly massive changes coming. Instead of being part of a coalition to enact them and perhaps strengthen them, much of the left is busy grousing or threatening to sit out the election.
While Biden always represented more potential progress than he was given credit for—and more ability to get actual progress done than Sander’s promises ever could have, the pandemic and the George Flyod protests have both made more necessary and more politically possible even larger changes. He and Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign talked about that on Biden’s podcast, explicitly invoking the example of FDR and the New Deal. In other words, Biden isn’t being dragged to the left, he’s stepping with consideration into every available space opportunity presents him.
The New Deal of the 1930’s was limited by the power of segregationist Democrats, yet it was still the most significant change in this nation since the end of Reconstruction. One can see the Great Society initiatives of the 1960’s and the civil rights bills as an attempt to address those deficits, but those steps forward were immediately hit with a wave of reaction and in significant ways, we have not moved forward since.
I boldly claimed at the beginning of the article that Biden and his coalition will oversee the most significant changes since Reconstruction, and I will expand on that in future newsletters. For now I’ll just note that we have a unique opening to take bold steps toward redressing racial, social, economic, and other forms of injustice. Biden and the coalition around him are committed to doing so and are capable of doing so. I encourage you to volunteer at https://joebiden.com/ or with whatever group you prefer. Democracy must be defended, the basic functioning of government restored—and the opportunity to move toward justice seized. We can do it. We must do it. And I believe we will do it, for ourselves and for future generations.