Tensions and emotions ran high as the nation prepared for an Election Day unlike any other in modern American history. President Trump and the Republican party, sensing that they were headed for defeat in the presidential election and control of the U.S. Senate, pulled out all the stops to make it more difficult for citizens to vote in the midst of the deadly coronavirus pandemic that has thus far killed more than 230,000 Americans, the largest death toll in any country in the world.
Through voter suppression tactics, disinformation and aggressive litigation, the Trump regime and the GOP attempted to block people from casting their vote, invalidate large numbers of mail-in or absentee ballots – and to recruit retired military veterans, off-duty police officers, armed right-wing extremist groups to intimidate Biden supporters at polling places. Despite these tactics and the president’s many threats to resist any election result unless he won, the nation appears to have rejected Trump and his attempts to undermine democratic constitutional norms and the imposition of his radical authoritarian agenda.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Norman Solomon, co-founder of RootsAction.org, who talks about the urgent need for progressive activists to forcefully push the incoming Biden administration to adopt popular policy proposals on universal health care, income inequality, climate change and much more.
NORMAN SOLOMON: After voting Trump out, we must challenge a Biden administration from day one, and that means that we resist first before the election, the canard, the misconception that it doesn’t much matter who wins the presidency. It matters a huge amount. All you just have to do is look at who’s on the Supreme Court now, and which party appointed those justices to the high court.
And the other fallacy that we must challenge is the idea that if a Democrat’s in the White House, that person shouldn’t be challenged by progressives. There are wide ranges of issues that must be confronted by grassroots activists and the broader progressive communities. And that includes healthcare, education, housing, climate, militarism. And if we’re lucky through the work and efforts of so many people to defeat Donald Trump, then we have the imperative to directly challenge Joe Biden as president on all of those issues and more, and to organize effectively.
And actually I was thinking about this today, Scott, that in a way, there are bookend misconceptions that you can find among some folks on the left and liberals. One misconception is, “Well, you know, Trump is bad. Biden is bad, so it’s not a big deal who’s elected.” I think that’s just out of touch with reality. As I said, the Supreme Court is a case in point in terms of who gets appointed and on climate and so many other issues we’re being gaslighted by the few on the left who claim that it doesn’t matter whether it’s Biden or Trump.
The other bookend though, is the strong tendency among many folks who might identify as liberal or progressive. Once there’s a Democrat in the White House, they sort of put their feet up and they trust that president. And that was a terrible dynamic during the eight years of the Obama presidency, where Obama brought in so many people from Wall Street into his Cabinet. He launched as many drone strikes and bombings as President George W. Bush had during his eight years. He was not willing to fight for the low-income people of this country and disproportionately of course, people of color. The approach to the climate was certainly inadequate. We could go on and on in which case, and certainly on immigration, massive deportations from the Obama administration.
So that’s the other part of the set of bookends, I think, where we need to learn from that history. And we have the opportunity and I think the left is much stronger than it was in 2009 when Obama took office. We’ve got a strong, progressive left online, offline in communities across this country. And now we have an opportunity. It’s sort of step two of step one. First is, it’s necessary, but insufficient to defeat Trump. And then step two, we’ve got to have a huge grassroots movement for a Green New Deal, for Medicare for All, for a real challenge to the climate emergency that’s ongoing, to challenge the militarism — what Dr. Martin Luther King called the Madison militarism. That also is what must be done and can be done first after we defeat Trump.
SCOTT HARRIS: Norman, I did want to ask you this. In terms of tactics and strategy to move the Biden administration to the left, if he should win office this Nov. 3rd, what are some of the most effective ways in which activists can get involved in doing all they can to make sure progressive policies are adopted?
NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, community organizing is so important and protests and public education. The Black Lives Matter movement has been a great example, the Sunrise Movement on climate, 350.org. And then the electoral component. I believe that beginning in early 2021, we should identify members of the House and Senate, including many Democrats who claim to be progressive and really examine their records. And one of the most effective ways to lobby them is to develop primary challenges to prevent their re-election, and maybe it’ll be successful, maybe It won’t. But the very action of organizing to primary Democrats in the House of Representatives who claim to be progressive and don’t vote that way can really light a fire under them and change the dynamics. So I really encourage progressives wherever we live, look into the record of your member of the U.S. House of Representatives. If it isn’t appropriate, if it isn’t acceptable, there’s no time like the present to begin to reach out, to do publicity, to organize and find an alternative candidate and get serious about it. That’s how we’re going to make change in the electoral arena.