If elected, Biden would walk into the White House at a moment unprecedented in our history. He would find himself governing in a conjunctural crisis whose templates are a deadly pandemic, a crisis-ridden national and global economy, a racial reckoning, and a worldwide climate emergency that cry out for solution. Standing still isn’t an option. Nor is a return to the pre-Trump normal, whatever that was. And I believe he, Kamala Harris, and most Democrats realize this.
Moreover, like Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Johnson, he would feel the pulls, pressures, and desires of an electorate as well as a coalition that carried him over the finish line on Election Day. No doubt, both voters and activists would expect an agenda that includes immediate relief, a science-driven plan to attack the coronavirus, the enactment of progressive reforms in line with the crises gripping the country, a reckoning with policing and systemic racism, and, not least, the democratization of voting laws and the political system.
Such an agenda would not only resonate with tens of millions feeling the crushing weight of the present times, but it might well register with some of Trump’s base too. It’s progressive policies and legislation not discourse that will begin to fracture that retrograde coalition.
Speaking of Trump, while he would be out of the White House and no longer able to employ the executive power of the office, his authoritarian movement and likely Trump himself would be squarely a part of the political landscape and up to no good. To believe otherwise would be naive. The defeated South didn’t roll over at the end of the Civil War. Nor did the anti-New-Dealers in the 1930s. And by the late 60s, a right wing backlash came quick on the heels of the civil rights revolution. In our time, the election of the first African American president triggered fierce opposition.
Thus, the democratic and progressive coalition that powered the victory would have to remained engaged and mobilized not only to bend the needle in a progressive and social democratic direction, but also to keep the right at bay. While differences and struggle over the scope and pace of reform would inevitably surface, the accent across the Democratic Party and democratic coalition should still remain on unity and united action. Any idea that the various currents in the Democratic Party and the democratic coalition should turn into warring factions on the day after the elections with each one vying for dominance over the other would amount to a self inflicted wound, while providing space for a revival of a defeated Republican Party and white nationalist authoritarianism.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The immediate challenge is, first of all, to further assemble a grand coalition of voters, stretching from Colin Powell and the Lincoln Project to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Angela Davis. We don’t need small-circle thinking at this dangerous political juncture.
Second, a special approach to the young and people of color as well as the battleground states is imperative. And no segment of voters should be taken for granted. The tent has to be as big as the answers to today’s multiple crises have to be bold.
Third, contest Trump’s core campaign message of racism and law and order.
Fourth, mobilize, protect, and prevent the suppression of the vote.
Fifth, guarantee a full count of the vote. And urge people to vote in person, if they can. But also, insist that the high volume of mail-in ballots be counted before any final results are announced.
Sixth, resist and block any attempt by Trump to claim victory before the vote is fully counted. According to most experts, it could appear on election night that Trump is the winner, even though he is actually the loser when all the votes are counted.
Finally, be ready to march. In view of Trump’s recent behavior, it isn’t out of the question that he may lose the election, but refuse (with a lot of help from his friends) to concede defeat. In this event, an aroused people peacefully marching for democracy and demanding the honoring of the election’s results is absolutely imperative. And even if he does concede the election, Trump will still hold presidential power and the Republicans a Senate majority until Inauguration Day in late January. This interregnum has the potential to be volatile, destabilizing, and dangerous. Here too millions should be prepared for any eventuality and ready to act accordingly to defend democracy, the rule of law, and the election results.