Election 2020: the margins and the marginalized

I

The “soccer moms” of 2020 are women of color.

The new “soccer moms” message goes beyond Biden’s VP pick and white liberal head scratching. For these ladies have seized on the American soccer mom pre-election “alter-Geist”:

“We don’t feel protected.”

Forget the American Dream. Now what we aspire to is the feeling that what we need is someone minding the store, watcher of the night, “balmer” of the suffering.

A low bar for leadership, we admit to ourselves, so pre-election we look for the political gaffe, the bad “optics,” the 1956 Adlai Stevenson hole-in-the-sole campaign moment.

To feel vindicated, our secret passion is that political candidates are just like “us.” And will deliver compassion. Human-ness.

Our new “soccer moms.” actively persevere for a safe, honest and just social order and won’t stop with just one election. Their message is not “law and order,” but “peace and justice.” Proactive, not reactive.

Unlike the early 2008 unlikeable “soccer moms,” — no surprise here — women of color are numerous and their notes highlighted with every police and pandemic atrocity. And so are their allies: Joy Reid, Tiffany Cross, Tara Dowell, Gayle King, other network contributors and commentators of color who echo the angst of outrage. The media exposure is guaranteed and so are the horrible grieving moments.

II

“Unions no longer count, do they?”

Another margin is composed of “labor,” once the exclusive domain of the Democrats, who “could count on their vote.” What some Democrats ruefully admit is that in the effort to mine the “middle,” unions got short shrift. Unions, union issues and union organizing demonstrate a healthy diversity of ideas, tactics and imagination. Too bad the Democratic Party leadership compressed the entire movement into a homogenous culture in order to posture to the right.

Once the state of Bob La Follette and the home of the Progressive Party (1), Wisconsin didn’t deserve a visit by Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential campaign. Barely three generations since La Follette , Wisconsin is ignored.

Rumor has it that ‘she could count on their vote.’

Mainstream media holds onto the notion that unions are in decline. The decreasing numbers only tell part of the story. Consider that “unions” are taking a different form these days — more ad hoc than institutional, more street protest than Saul Alinsky. The impetus behind union organizing — solidarity for justice — hasn’t left. The counting and “counting on,” has left.

The strategic lessons gained from decades of union organizing haven’t left. Lessons like, “to win an election, you need to win overwhelmingly. ‘Winning’ by a margin doesn’t really count.” (2)

In other words, Democrats, don’t bet the house on a Doug Jones type win: his election will be hard to replicate cookie cutter style across America.

III

Who then are we counting? Again?

Two scenarios: one, the snaking line of Oberlin, Ohio students locked out of voting in 2016 because ‘where there were ten voting booths, only 5 showed up.’ Another, the hapless White, privileged co-ed, female (thank you), caught by the TV camera, who can’t remember the names of the candidates or the issues they stand for.

Unpack the math and the analysis. ‘If you’re disenfranchised, you don’t count so don’t bother…(fill in the blank).’ Seniors are terminal cases, they don’t count. Students are unorganized and “unorganize-able,” they don’t count. LGBTQ… are they a party or a sub-culture?, they don’t count. Etc., etc.

IV

One takeaway from these exposures is that “we are restrained by having a binary choice.” What this perception means is not clear: voting ‘for’ ALWAYS implied voting ‘against’, last time I looked, so isn’t ALL ballot casting binary?@

Perhaps because we have a “two party system, we are restrained. Yes, but if BOTH choices are corruptible, eg. Republican AND Democrat winners, then why not vote ‘against’ — by choosing either whom you despise less, or whom you aspire to more? In the booth, it’s ALL binary.

The other takeaway from these exposures is the quietly held caveat: show up and be counted.

This makes you probably a Democrat. Or disenfranchised.

V

Strategically, for one, perhaps for both parties, though admittedly Republicans are better at this game, ‘if you can’t join ‘em, stop ‘em’.

Where we need to focus is the voting booth imbroglio.

The ‘stop ‘em before they vote’ strategy has an external and internal dimension.

The “external” strategy is to shrink the election ‘space.’ Foment negativism in ascertaining outcomes. No election night pizza parties. “We may not ‘know’ really until Inauguration Day, and that celebration may be postponed.”

Foment chaos in determining transition. So Trump is voted out? There will be riots in the streets — citizen uprisings, revolution… what our forefathers didn’t want. Patriotic drum roll here. We’ve heard this defeatist sing along before. Watch out for its refrain, “law and order.”

The “internal” strategy is to smear the process so the unseen, un-actualized, “wannabe voter” has an “out”: ignore or deny the outcome.

Long lines at the voting booth, angst at the polls? Fake news. Absentee ballots? A ploy by the Democrats to steal the election.

Electoral College? What’s protecting rural America from its urban denizens and their filth.

VI

The ultimate “play”: silence at the “abyss”

If we vote, we risk being “undercounted.”

If we don’t vote, we actually will not be counted.

Remember the census imbroglio, which flashed before the courts last year? (3) In a democracy, numbers are power. The census is stalled through states’ inaction and government foot dragging (4), and so are the country’s margins.

Ready to be cultivated or tilled under, quiet at last.

Our choice.

July 7, 2020

(1) “Fighting Bob” La Follette, was the Progressive Party Presidential candidate in 1924

(2) Union organizer speaks out on election vote getting strategy, 2018

(3)”2020 Census won’t have citizenship question as Trump administration drops effort,” NYTimes, July 2, 2019 “

(4) “A Perfect Storm…” The. Guardian , January 22, 2020

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Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.

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Rodney Clough

Rodney Clough

Refuses to nap. Septuagenarian. Cliche’ raker. Writes weekly.

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