Many people are now painfully aware that the United States is on the verge of falling under an iron fist of repressive rule, crushing basic democratic possibilities, if Donald Trump gets a second term as president. Yet the Democratic Party nominee is weak, uninspiring, often inarticulate and apt to be distasteful or worse when he’s intelligible.
What are progressives to make of this truly dire situation — and, most importantly, what are we to do? Right now.
At this potentially cataclysmic moment, I haven’t seen better answers anywhere than on the new website NotHimUs.org, where a basic precept is laid out in big letters on the first screen: “We’ve got our own reasons to vote for Biden, and Joe ain’t one.”
The next words are from Cornel West: “A vote for Joe Biden is . . . a way of preserving the condition for the possibility of any kind of democratic practice in the United States.”
The “Not Him Us” site goes on to ask a central question: “We wanted a political revolution. Now what?” The answers begin by reframing the current realities to include not just clear and present dangers but also great possibilities:
** “It might not feel like it right now, but our movements are starting to win. In the streets: one of the most massive uprisings in our nation’s history is unfolding, demanding racial justice and systemic change. And in the halls of power: from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, to Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush, more and more people’s champions are challenging a failed status quo — and winning.”
** “To continue to gain ground, we need to keep building our movements and elect more people’s candidates. But right now our forward trajectory depends on stopping Trump in his tracks. Our organizations, movements, and people’s candidates are engaged in an incredibly consequential contest for the future. If history is any guide, we cannot allow an authoritarian demagogue like Trump to continue to consolidate power.”
** “We must defeat Trump soundly in November. It’s up to us. Plug into a voter engagement effort in a priority state.”
Tweeting in support of the Not Him Us project last week, Naomi Klein wrote: “Vote for a more favorable terrain. Our struggle goes way beyond elections. We’re in the streets. We’re talking to our neighbors and co-workers. But who controls the presidency changes what’s politically possible for our struggles.”
In response to the launch of #NotHimUs, former Bernie Sanders senior advisor and speechwriter David Sirota tweeted: “This is good. This is the right message. It’s honest. It doesn’t try to pretend Biden is awesome. It doesn’t insult voters’ intelligence. It doesn’t try to insult or vote shame people into voting to defeat Trump. It makes a positive case. Solid.”
The project director for Not Him Us is Jonathan Smucker. The initiative draws on his 25 years as a grassroots organizer, mostly involving non-electoral social movements like Occupy Wall Street, which was heavily featured in his book Hegemony How-To: A Roadmap for Radicals. He was an active volunteer on the Bernie 2020 campaign, and some of his training curriculum was used in the campaign’s field program.
With less than six weeks till the end of voting in the presidential race, Smucker sees the peril and the promise for our lives, our country and the planet. “The bad news is that the Democratic Party’s corporate-friendly old guard won the presidential primary,” he told me. “Now we have a nominee that millions of working-class people and young people are not at all enthusiastic about, and this enthusiasm gap could spell a second term for Trump.”
Yet meanwhile, Smucker went on, “the old guard is on its way out — if we do the work. A growing wave of people’s candidates, backed by growing popular movements, can frame the terms of debate and push Biden and Congress on key policies like a Green New Deal. But if Trump wins, we’ll all be playing defense for at least four more years.”
Playing defense in years ahead is the last thing progressives need. And Trump’s increasingly obvious intentions to steal the election should be energizing instead of paralyzing. The need is now crystal clear for progressives nationwide: Organize and volunteer to boost the Biden vote against Trump in the dozen swing states.
At this ominous crossroads, Not Him Us offers vital clarity. (That’s why at RootsAction.org we eagerly accepted an invitation to partner on the project.) With so much at stake — including social justice, human rights and this planet’s climate — Autumn 2020 is a time when people have the decisive opportunity to prevent the consolidation of illegitimate power by an authoritarian regime.
“We can do this on our own terms,” Not Him Us points out. “We can lend a hand to people’s organizations that are not just working to defeat Trump, but also working to upend an unacceptable status quo, defeat an out-of-touch political establishment, take on the powerful forces arrayed against us, and win the future for the many, not the few.”