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:
- Mobilize American manufacturing to revitalize the jobs market.
- Mobilize American ingenuity and invention, especially to create much-needed innovations in green infrastructure.
- Mobilize talent in the care-giving and education industries; these industries have an essential workforce that too-often goes unappreciated.
- 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.
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.