Democracy Alliance Blog / From The President / October 14, 2020

Gearing Up to Win – and To Be Ready for What Comes Afterward

by Gara LaMarche

We are going all out for victory – and within reach of an historic one – on November 3.  But at the same time, we have to think and plan about what happens AFTER Election Day.

If you’re not already doing everything you can to bring about a smashing victory that will boot Donald Trump and his enablers from Washington, stop here, ratchet up your electoral activities – giving money, making calls and sending texts, registering voters, turning out the vote and working at the polls – and come back to this article when you’re ready. 

In the world in which we live, with a lawless President and his Republican Party enablers desperately trying to rig an election they know they are losing, and ride roughshod over democratic norms about the peaceful transition of power, that also means fighting voter suppression and intimidation and making sure every ballot is counted.

After Trump – whose defeat must engage our wallets and our energies for the next 20 days – there may be an understandable impulse on the part of many who have been battered and exhausted by the last four years to take a victory lap, or even a pause.  But that would be fatal, and if we are to avoid the reversals that we experienced in 1994 and 2010, the first midterms after the last two Democratic Presidents, we need to start planning now and stay focused long after what we hope will be a decisive victory. 

To do that, we need to think about the next phases of our post-November 3 agenda: transition, accountability, and staying the course to keep and expand our hard-won gains.  A transition that brings us a government that looks like America and is prepared to move effectively to repair the damage of the last four years and enact bold progressive reforms. Accountability because we cannot build the country we need on a foundation of lies and impunity.  And staying power, as progressive donors and activists, to make sure we can deliver on the increasingly ambitious and far-reaching agenda set forth by the Biden Unity Teams and the Democratic platform.

If Trump is ousted from the White House, it is a given that his corrupt and failed administration will do its best to sabotage the transition and leave land mines for the incoming Biden Administration.  We can’t control what he does, even as we work to counteract, it, but we can control what WE do.  

First is resource the transition fully.  Federal law sets strict limits of $5,000 on how much any donor can give to the Biden Transition Office, so millions of dollars need to be raised in relatively small chunks.  The progressive donor community is also stepping up to make sure that the enormous and diverse pool talent of the progressive world is tapped by a new administration.   The Roosevelt Institute, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and other groups areas are working to get the best names to the Biden team, since having the right people to work the levers of government on behalf of progressive goals is a crucial part of the success we must have in making our government work for everyone.

Groups across the spectrum of the progressive movement are preparing legislative proposals and identifying executive actions on economic recovery and structural reform, democracy reform, climate change, and a host of other key issues.  One promising effort, spearheaded by the Social and Economic Justice Project (a collaboration of six progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood, Color of Change and SEIU), is cataloguing actions a new administration can take using a sharp lens that has been more typically been employed by the right — what reforms will not only improve the lives of people but enhance and cement progressive power at the same time?  

One key post-election issue that I feel strongly about but has received little attention so far is the need to ensure accountability, once Trump is out of office, for the many abuses of his administration. The failure to do so after Nixon, after the human rights abuses of the war on terror, and after the 2008 financial crisis, when the banks went scot-free, has been corrosive to our democracy, and we can’t make the same mistake when we turn the page from the horrors of the Trump years.  The Center for American Progress recently issued a very good report, available here, on ways to hold the Trump Administration accountable.

Finally, not just in the transition period, not just in the all-important first hundred days, but in the years to come, as we emerge from the most corrupt, cruel and destructive Presidential administration in American history, all of us, and particularly progressive donors, who have been called upon to do more in this election than ever before, need to stay the course. I’m old enough to have lived through the end of the Nixon administration and the funding shortfalls experienced by progressive organizations and civil liberties groups when donors felt the crisis had passed. We all lived through the Obama years, when, flush with the success of donor organizing that flipped the House and Senate in 2006 and won the White House two years later, many donors took their foot off the gas pedal and we lost the midterms (just as we did after the first two years of the first Clinton term) and with it, our ability to make truly significant progressive gains.

The stakes are too high this time to repeat those mistakes. Let’s do all we can in the next  20 days — to win this election, and then let’s stay focused on what it will truly take to repair the damage, make real, lasting structural change, and consolidate and expand our gains in the coming decade and beyond.