NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Netroots Nation featured panel discusses the Biden-Harris strategy for progressive victory

Atten­dees of Net­roots Nation gath­ered vir­tu­al­ly via Zoom and Socio for the sec­ond day of the con­fer­ence’s fif­teenth year on Fri­day.

One of the day’s 2 PM pan­els (streamed at 11 AM Pacif­ic Time) addressed a con­cern that many stten­dees have about the Biden cam­paign: how will Joe Biden and his team (which now includes pre­sump­tive vice pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Kamala Har­ris) col­lab­o­rate with pro­gres­sives to replace the Trump regime?

Net­roots Nation orga­niz­ers assem­bled a pan­el of lead­ers from the Biden cam­paign to field this ques­tion:

  • Ash­ley Alli­son, Direc­tor of the Biden cam­paign’s Coali­tions depart­ment
  • Chris­to­bal Alex, Senior Advi­sor to the Biden Cam­paign and found­ing pres­i­dent of the Lati­no Vic­to­ry Fund
  • Heather Booth, Direc­tor of Pro­gres­sive and Senior Engage­ment for the Biden cam­paign
  • Rachana Desai Mar­tin, Nation­al Direc­tor of Vot­er Pro­tec­tion for the Biden cam­paign

These Biden cam­paign team lead­ers demon­strat­ed that they are deter­mined to meet pro­gres­sives where they are and bring them into a broad­er move­ment, cen­tered around Joe Biden’s can­di­da­cy, to bring down Trump.

Heather Booth – a pro­gres­sive whose activism spans all the way back to the 1960s – was par­tic­u­lar­ly emphat­ic.

As some­one who has seen the social progress the U.S. has made over the past decades, and who has watched the Trump regime try to roll back that progress in every way, she called this elec­tion “a time of great inspiration…and a time of great per­il,” before warn­ing view­ers that “fail­ure should not be an option.”

Booth laid out the Biden cam­paign’s three-stage plan for engage­ment with vot­ers and activists. In stage one, the cam­paign works on the nation­al lev­el to bring a wide vari­ety of orga­ni­za­tions into the move­ment.

In stage two, the focus moves to the indi­vid­ual states, recruit­ing vol­un­teers and grass­roots sup­port­ers. The final stage uses these resources and orga­ni­za­tion­al strength to get out the vote for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, not just in Novem­ber, but even ear­li­er through vot­ing at home and ear­ly vot­ing.

Booth empha­sized the need for pro­gres­sives to take part in all these stages because the Biden team needs ideas and intel­li­gence from all quar­ters.

Chris­to­bal Alex illus­trat­ed the neces­si­ty of pro­gres­sives unit­ing with oth­er Democ­rats behind Biden by bring­ing up the mul­ti­ple crises affect­ing the U.S. right now, which Don­ald Trump has total­ly abdi­cat­ed respon­si­bil­i­ty on: the pan­dem­ic, the jobs cri­sis, the racial equal­i­ty cri­sis, and the cli­mate cri­sis. Alex laid out the four-pil­lar strat­e­gy the Biden team has com­piled to tack­le these issues:

  1. Mobi­lize Amer­i­can man­u­fac­tur­ing to revi­tal­ize the jobs mar­ket.
  2. Mobi­lize Amer­i­can inge­nu­ity and inven­tion, espe­cial­ly to cre­ate much-need­ed inno­va­tions in green infra­struc­ture.
  3. Mobi­lize tal­ent in the care-giv­ing and edu­ca­tion indus­tries; these indus­tries have an essen­tial work­force that too-often goes unap­pre­ci­at­ed.
  4. Cre­ate a racial equi­ty pro­gram that address­es issues of race and equal­i­ty as a vital part of the eco­nom­ic pro­gram.

As a leader of the Lati­no Vic­to­ry Fund, Alex also brought up Biden’s ded­i­ca­tion to invest­ing in the Lati­no com­mu­ni­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the areas of edu­ca­tion and build­ing com­mu­ni­ty wealth.

Many of the atten­dees were con­cerned, giv­en recent news sto­ries, about the risks of Don­ald Trump’s efforts to sup­press the vote.

The Biden cam­paign has been build­ing a team ded­i­cat­ed to pro­tect­ing the vote, which is led by Rachana Desai Mar­tin.

Mar­tin stressed that “vot­er pro­tec­tion is imbued in the Biden cam­paign,” and list­ed the vari­ety of ways in which the Trump team has been try­ing to under­mine the safe­ty, secu­ri­ty and legit­i­ma­cy of the vote. She defend­ed vot­ing at home, but also called for pro­gres­sives to help peo­ple, espe­cial­ly those from com­mu­ni­ties with a rich tra­di­tion of in-per­­son vot­ing, to access alter­na­tives to mail-in vot­ing safe­ly.

The Biden cam­paign is run­ning vot­er reg­is­tra­tion web­sites such as IWillVote.com, (inher­it­ed from Oba­ma’s oper­a­tion) a hot­line for vot­ing advice (833–336‑8683), and vot­ing obser­va­tion teams to go to polling places on vot­ing day. As Mar­tin put it, “we need to be every­where,” help­ing every­body to access their vot­ing rights.

One of the prob­lems with vot­ing at home is the wide array of state laws that affect whether peo­ple’s bal­lots will even be count­ed. “On the whole, these laws are ter­ri­ble,” said Rachana Desai Mar­tin, “They don’t pre­vent fraud and they dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect Asian-Amer­i­­cans, African-Americans…and Any­one-with-a-com­­pli­­cat­ed-name-Amer­i­­cans!” The Biden cam­paign is putting togeth­er efforts to con­tac and assist peo­ple at risk of their vote not being count­ed.

Many peo­ple who are deeply involved in pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics are skep­ti­cal of the for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent and not sure about giv­ing his cam­paign their time, tal­ent, and trea­sure. Biden’s team sought to address those con­cerns.

Chris­to­bal Alex described his fam­i­ly’s his­to­ry, a sto­ry of hard-scrab­ble work by his moth­er to achieve greater oppor­tu­ni­ties for Chris­to­bal and his sib­lings.

He wor­ried that his ver­sion of the Amer­i­can Dream was under threat from Trump and the Repub­li­cans. Alex want­ed Joe Biden, who “grew up fight­ing bul­lies,” to be the guy to “take down this bul­ly in the White House.“

Alex remind­ed his audi­ence of the day that Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden, say­ing that there is a “mutu­al admi­ra­tion, real­ly a friend­ship” between the two final con­tenders for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic nom­i­na­tion.

In order to achieve that vic­to­ry, the Biden team has to work with pro­gres­sives. Heather Booth was par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est­ed in encour­ag­ing for­mer staffers on the Bernie Sanders and Eliz­a­beth War­ren cam­paigns to work for Biden’s cam­paign, since they are the “folks with the expe­ri­ence and skill.”

The Biden team has a host of ways to sign up to get involved.

Once Biden is in office, the cam­paign team promised that a Pres­i­dent Biden would be open to col­lab­o­rat­ing with pro­gres­sives. As Ash­ley Alli­son put it, “it’s not just a talk­ing point when we say peo­ple have a seat at the table… we are extend­ing our hand in part­ner­ship.” Then, con­sid­er­ing the metaphor in the world of COVID-19, she added, “or maybe just an elbow bump!”

The final ques­tion to the pan­el con­cerned how to react to the irre­spon­si­ble mea­sure the Trump cam­paign is tak­ing: every­thing from send­ing out door-knock­­ers in a pan­dem­ic to encour­ag­ing armed mili­tias to stalk the polling places.

While the team seemed to have no sol­id answers (it is hard to keep up with the myr­i­ad of insane things Trump does because he thinks it will help him win), they fin­ished their dis­cus­sion on a deter­mined note: that this elec­tion is too impor­tant to sit out, or be be intim­i­dat­ed out of par­tic­i­pat­ing in.

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