Yeah, Ok, Biden Won. So What Next?
People of color & intersected communities must activate strategies on everything from overhauling the Democratic Party leadership to thinking like a coalition
|the b|e note||Nov 16|
Dr. G.S. Potter | Contributing Editor
Like it or not, we are strategically placed within the parameters of a two-party system. White nationalists occupy the Republican Party. The rest of us sit at the table of the Democrats (even as some of us call ourselves “Independents” … all the time using or expecting to use Democratic Party resources). If people of color, especially intersected people of color, want power within the party, it isn’t enough to focus on electing officials and passing policy. We must have a solid stronghold on the leadership structure withing the party. There is no power to the people if there is no power within the party.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) coordinates the party’s campaign strategies. It commissions polls. It fund-raises for Presidential candidates and the party at large. The DNC is the vehicle through which most major party decisions are filtered. If we want to be at the wheel, we need to occupy positions of power within the party itself. This process of leadership can vary from state to state, as each state's party establishes its own rules for selecting DNC members. For example, as the DNC describes, some members are elected as part of state Democratic primaries, while others are elected through State Democratic Committees or State Conventions.
The organization's website also mentions that its at-large members are elected by the fellow National Committee members, since they aren't attached to a particular state. Finally, elected official DNC members are typically selected by their colleagues. As the DNC points out, politicians from every level of government in the United States are "elected by their peers" as members of the DNC. Moreover, representatives “… from a few nationwide Democratic organizations, like College Democrats and Young Democrats, are also typically selected by their organizations to serve as DNC members,” the organization's website notes.
Strategically, this means that communities of color must revolutionize the way that we approach Democratic Party primaries. We must leverage authority to ensure that organizations that are allowed to supply delegates to the convention come from peer-owned and operated communities of struggle, and where necessary we need to launch and win campaigns to overhaul the rule book of the DNC to ensure that power is given to the people through the party.
2022 Has Already Started … & Democrats Are Losing
The Democrats have lost five seats in the House and the Republicans have gained five.
In the Senate, the Republicans have lost one seat and the Democrats have gained one.
The Democrats didn’t defeat the Republicans. They didn’t defeat white nationalism, the destruction of democracy, or the end of science in the midst of a pandemic. They just narrowly defeated Donald Trump. They lost in the House and they barely broke even in the Senate despite McConnell’s stronghold on the legislative pathway of the nation – or maybe because of it. Over 73 million “Americans” voted for Trump. The nation’s first defense against white nationalism and authoritarianism, the Democratic Party, has proven to be an abysmal failure in terms of strategy.
The key error being made over and over again by the party is its refusal – in the face of a political opponent fueled by white supremacy – to properly incorporate and defend the needs of target minority groups into their platform at the state and local levels, in addition to the federal level. Relying on nods to issues that manage to breakthrough into the mainstream media instead of the necessary policies and practices needed to create true reform, they have also failed to tangibly create an infrastructure for low income communities of color to participate both in the political process and at the polls.
If the Democrats continue to ignore low-income communities of color and refuse to build the infrastructures needed to bring them to the polls, they could very well lose the Congress altogether in 2022. The next two years will not see an end to the divisiveness in America, it will see more sugar coated and crab-barreled versions of racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia designed to maintain the new social order in the name of returning to calm and compromise.
White people in the center and on the left want to go back to sleep. We can’t let them.
This doesn’t mean that they should buy into the narratives of the White working-class Berners and AOC’ers. Those are also strategically faulty, designed to facilitate the needs of a very White “working class,” and all to easy for the GOP to counter. It means that the Democratic Party should put energy into lifting up true leaders from low-income communities of color and putting them in the positions of leadership necessary to authentically mobilize their participation. It means they should fund the hell out of them without cooptive ties. It also means that the party needs to actively defend these communities and the organizations unapologetically in the streets and at the ballot box.
Voter Suppression & Voting Rights
Despite the increases in voter turnout, suppression was blatantly a leading strategy of the Republican Party. We understand now that every state without no-excuse mail in ballots is in a state of suppression. Voter purges, voter ID laws, felony disenfranchisement, polling place closures, ballot box limitations, misinformation campaigns, and woefully corruptible voting machines and tabulation processes are still actively preventing people from exercising their right to vote. And the only things that are clear are that we haven’t put enough effort into ending these practices or gauging their effect on elections thus far.
Voter suppression must be quantified. We have enough information and data to know what forms of suppression were implemented and where they were applied. We also have enough data from prior election to analyze and compare states with and without suppression and the turnout rates of target communities. We even have data that can be used to sus out the degree of effectiveness of suppression tactics on target communities. What we need are consistent conceptual frameworks and methodologies through which to filter this data and properly assess how it has and will affect the outcome of any given election. The inaccuracy of the 2016 and 2020 polling methods have shown the need for more accurate polling measures. If we continue to ignore voter suppression in our calculations, we will never meet that need.
We also need to have an organizational equivalent of the NRA, but for voting rights. People can’t fight voter suppression on their own. That takes lawyers, organizations, and funding. Democrats need to dedicate time and resources to prioritizing the fight against voter suppression and for expanded enfranchisement. Every vote counts, and the party needs to start acting like it – with money, strategists and lawyers.
Protest is Dead
We need to think of protest as a form of technology. At one time, landlines were the most amazing things ever. Rotary phones? C’mon. The coolest. Now we have cell phones. Once upon a time, dial-up internet was practically magic. If you haven’t waited for hours for a song to download only to have it interrupted because your grandma called, you haven’t lived.
At one time, protest might have been the most powerful force for change that we people outside of the national power structure could apply. Now it’s a landline. It’s a pager. It’s a relic from a different time and place. And it’s not going to work today. It’s going to hold us back when we are up against the most well-funded of enemies that are operating with the most cutting edge technology – both literally and figuratively. We need to start thinking more strategically about how to approach disrupting the political, social and economic fabric of this nation – especially during a pandemic – if we want to do more than participate in political theater. If we want to win, we have to acknowledge that the game has changed. And we need to change accordingly.
There’s a thing called community journalism. The best community journalism outlets are traditionally peer-owned and operated. This means that they are news outlets directed and fueled by people from the communities they claim to represent. I spent well over a decade as a community journalist in a network of homeless and low-income people of color with a focus on people with disabilities, homeless single mothers and immigrants of color. To occupy my position, I had to be a member of the community. I had to be trained in community journalism. I had to be a political organizer and peer advocate. There were a number of skills that I needed to do my job properly, because doing work in the most targeted communities means that when you do your job wrong, you put lives at risk.
Not one time was “rapper” a requirement for any of the positions I held. While I participated in street theater projects, “actress” wasn’t considered a pre-requisite for my work. It is only through abject otherization that a member of a political community would be represented in the media by a member of the entertainment community. It’s like asking Kid Rock to replace Dr. Faucci cuz they both White.
But it’s the status quo in the mainstream media. They replace our leaders with people that will say what they want to hear. There are actual leaders of color that haven’t starred in Snow Dogs or made millions selling shoes that look like busted potatoes. But no one’s really making sure resumes line up with the areas of expertise people of color are being consulted for.
The media ushered in Donald Trump. Just as they ushered in the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. And while they hypocritically act aghast at the Trump administration’s anti-Black Lives Matter stance, they refuse to acknowledge that it was them that shaped and pushed the narratives when they were disparaging the reputations of victims, ignoring or shitting on the demands of community advocates, or protecting the perpetrators of police brutality. And as the protests fade and White folks frantically race for a sense of calm and normalcy that will include the silence of the communities of color still surrounded by 73 million white nationalists, the media will dole out their warm milk and blankets. They will interview rappers and actors that will say the things White people want them to say. And they will continue to play their part in the “#FakeNews” campaign that people of color have lived under for generations – the one that nearly destroyed the minds of White people after just 4 years.
We can’t continue to allow Kanye, the Breakfast Club, and Eva Longoria to serve as “experts” in political arenas where lives are at stake. We can’t continue to ask for places at the tables of White-owned news and political organizations. We need to support people and organizations that are from the community and that have the qualifications necessary to be considered an expert in their fields. Actual leaders and peer-run news organizations need to step-up their games in demanding their expertise be honored - and we need to all collectively tear down any individual claiming not to be an expert in an area they are not, as well as those giving them platforms.
Start Thinking Like A Coalition
It’s a difficult fact: Black folks didn’t end slavery. White folks did. Black folks didn’t have the political power, the force of arms, or the sheer numbers necessary to end slavery. Would have been amazing if they could have, but they didn’t. It took a coalition of White and Black men and women to get that job done. It also took convincing White people they should die over it. All we have to do right now is convince them to vote.
But I digress. The point is, Black folks couldn’t end slavery alone. Just like Indigenous folks couldn’t stop the genocide. We can’t stop white supremacy alone.
And White people can’t enact white supremacy if we stand together.
That’s why they put so much effort into dividing us. The Trump administration made that perfectly clear. Their survival depends on our lack of unity, our inability to coordinate, and our resistance to empathize. Our survival depends on our ability to protect each other.
Black, Brown, and Indigenous folks must learn to not only work together, but to help take on each other’s challenges as allies. That work must also not only include, but center itself around the most disadvantaged subgroups within those communities including the homeless, the poor, people living with disabilities, the LGBTQ community, and non-Christians. We have to learn from each other how those attacking us are applying their strategies and tactics. We have to share winning and losing strategies to counter them. And we have to work together to better understand the totality of the enemy we are up against and how we can pull knowledge and resources to more effectively beat them back. That means applying this knowledge effectively at the local, state and federal levels in the streets, at the polls, and everywhere in between.
Together, as a coalition, we outnumber white power. And White apologists. Yes, White people are why we are here. But it is our own failure to empathize with each other and to coordinate that will keep us here.