Op Ed

How Progressives Worked on Election Turnout

A months-long, massive volunteer program secured more than 95,000 commitments to vote.

By - Dec 6th, 2020 04:50 pm
Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. Anya van Wagtendonk / Wisconsin Watch

Angela Lang, executive director of Black Leaders Organizing for Communities. Anya van Wagtendonk / Wisconsin Watch

Wisconsin, we finally made it to the other side. We organized our friends, neighbors and communities to make our voices heard at the polls. We fought back against the hatred and white supremacist violence that Donald Trump brought to our streets. We defended our vision of a more fair Wisconsin where everyone has what they need to get well and stay well — and we did it in the middle of a global pandemic that saw Republican-engineered voter suppression at an all-time high.

We knew every vote was going to count, and it did. The sham of a recount won’t change what we already know in Wisconsin. Our victory came from every Black and brown voter in Milwaukee determined to make their voices heard, and from organizers and organizations that lifted voters up and sent them to the polls statewide. It came from a multiracial, cross-class coalition of activists and everyday people who organized across lines of difference and in cities and suburbs throughout the state, to ensure that a truly statewide movement would win the day.

Wisconsin’s progressive coalitions worked overtime this cycle. The Working Families Party led a months-long, massive volunteer program that secured more than 95,000 commitments to vote from voters across the state — nearly quadruple Trump’s margin of victory in Wisconsin for 2016. Black Leaders Organizing for Communities (BLOC) — which has been building deep-rooted, long-term political power for Black voters in Milwaukee for years — trained scores of Black activists to talk to their neighbors about how our communities can thrive, and why getting out the vote in local and national elections is so important. Voces de la Frontera registered over 20,000 new and infrequent Latinx voters, helping increase Wisconsin’s Latinx voter turnout from 46.7 to 74 percent — an increase of 62,568 voters. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The connections our coalitions built with urban and suburban voters allowed us to beat Donald Trump and got Joe Biden and Kamala Harris over the finish line. Our progressive movement came together to build a different future, and we built it on a foundation of hope and solidarity. Our message embraced the bold, structural changes we all need to recover from this pandemic, and we led with a vision of Wisconsin where people, no matter their zip code, have fair wages, great public schools, and affordable healthcare; where we address problems with proven solutions like social supports instead of ever more militarized police; where clean air and water are guaranteed for centuries to come. It was a credible and energizing antidote to chaos, fear mongering, and division. And it worked.

Now that every vote has been counted, these coalitions, especially their Black and brown leaders and organizers, deserve attention not only for securing Biden’s win but also because they will be leading us forward as we work to build a Wisconsin and a nation for the many, not the wealthy few.

This year our country exploded with multiple crises, and voters fired Donald Trump because he either ignored them or made them worse.

But though Trump is on his way out, these crises remain. The attempted murder of Jacob Blake was not addressed by this election, nor the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others. COVID-19 numbers and fatalities throughout Wisconsin are rising significantly every day and the virus has created multiple crises for working people: unemployment, housing, health care, education, child care, public safety, and more — with Black and brown people still getting hit the hardest. Our elected officials are merely playing lip service to the idea that Black lives matter, and our Republican legislators have truly proven just how much they put profit over people.

Joe Biden must now address the crises Donald Trump would not, with solutions that meet their scale.

For progressives, Biden’s election was always the door but never the destination. We’ve been clear about holding the door open for our folks and holding the administration accountable. A Biden presidency creates more opportunities for building a world where all of us can thrive, no matter what you look like, who you love, where you come from, or how much money is in your pocket. If you want a glimpse of what that world might look like, see the Working Families Party’s People’s Charter, which has been endorsed by scores of elected leaders, including a dozen members of Congress and Lt. Gov and Wisconsin WFP leader Mandela Barnes.

Over the past four years, we’ve counted on each other, shown up, and cared for one another. Now it’s time for our government to care for us. And we will keep showing up and holding our new government to account — to not merely tackle the crises the last administration created — but for the first time in our history, to truly make this a place of liberty and justice for all, no exceptions.

Priscilla Bort is an organizer with the Wisconsin Working Families Party.

Categories: Op-Ed, Politics

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