This was a historic election in so many ways: at least 148 million people voted (and counting!), which is roughly 62 percent of eligible voters. This is the highest turnout since at least 1968, and while turnout was high for both presidential candidates, Democrats won the presidency and are working to remove the most dangerous president in modern history from the White House — despite his refusal to concede. Progressives both won and lost many other races, and we saw several battleground states either pull through for Democrats, or come within a razor-thin margin. Many of these states, including Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia, have had local and state organizers working for these victories for more than a decade.
Every single organizer I know worked on this election in some way. I am a queer, white woman from an immigrant family and I have been an organizer for almost 20 years, working exclusively in red and purple states. I witnessed the grassroots organizing behind the fight to defeat Trump as a multiracial, multigendered, intergenerational and cross-class force of people from every part of this country.
We had different strategies, different terrains and different ways we articulated this win as a priority. We owe our success to ourselves, but even more so, we owe this success to the hundreds of thousands of people in this country who were not politically active before 2016, who got involved in the last four years. We know most of them are women and so many of them are people of color. They jumped in and did all they could, learning on the go. Finally, we owe it to the millions who just went and voted: despite voter intimidation, voter suppression and an incredibly slow process. Hell, where I live in Phoenix, the right-wing had machine guns on the backs of trucks out in the streets in the past few days.
It is not rhetoric to say that it took all of us: not some shiny, polished coalition but a messy alignment of souls pointed in the same direction, united for this moment in history. We know that the right wing also has a very animated and radicalized base, convinced that the fight they are in is a war both holy and political, for the soul and the future of the nation.
Where I live there was no dancing in the streets when Biden was declared the winner. Just the silence of a city filled with enduring fighters who have won, and are bracing for the impact of backlash. Only those who have never lived in places where progressives are outnumbered make fun of the power of Trumpism.
When Trump became president in 2016, I was shocked that so many progressives were shocked. Trumpism remains a powerful threat, and that movement is built of men and women, mostly white, mostly straight, many of whom are both married and evangelical Christians. This massive reactionary force remains a threat to our very lives.
The way to safety is to out-organize them. Through my work with the Women’s March, I have spent the last three years organizing with a broad base of women who are mostly brand new to activism. I can tell you that they are ready to be organized. I can tell you they busted ass for this election, leaving everything they had on the dance floor. I can tell you they are many, and they are hungry for more.
As we move forward toward out-organizing Trumpism, we must recognize some hard realities. This includes the fact that, although a multiracial coalition of mostly women drove this victory, many white women voted for Trump, without a doubt, even if you (like me) distrust exit polls.
Black and Brown women are the champions of our democracy, organizing and voting for justice for all at every turn. Meanwhile, at roughly 33 percent of the electorate, white women are just about 1 in 3 of every voter. That means it is likely that almost 50 million white women voted in this election, and a very large portion of them voted for Trump (the exact percent is based on how much you believe exit polls). Fifty million white women is an ocean of a constituency in organizing terms. It is a constituency (like any constituency) that has a spectrum of other identities and experiences of age, sexuality, class, place, ethnicity, disability, marital status and family of origin, just to name a few.
Feminist organizing is rooted in the truth that all experiences politicize you in one way or another; and in the case of white women we have many factors that can politicize us to the right, to the left, and all over the place. When it comes to white women voters, there is so much work to do. It is part of the core work of uprooting white supremacy. It is the work that people like me must do in order to live our values. It is long work, and it is in progress. The victory is also a signal to those of us called to do that work with other white women — to sit in an ocean of a constituency, and move and mobilize as many white women as possible to the side of racial justice like our lives depend on it.
Defeating Trump took all of us that showed up. Now, I have a few very old-school organizing rules, some of which fly in the face of current trends; one is that you organize whoever shows up. You don’t make them feel like they are the wrong people in the seats. You don’t only tell them about who is not there. You work with who and what you have. That is not the same as not having to tell folks about themselves sometimes, and organizing for the long game always includes being told about yourself right back. We won because of us. That does not mean we don’t have a lot of work still to do. As a teenager, I learned firsthand that safety only comes from organized networks of solidarity and care — there is no big daddy in the sky, or with a badge coming to save us. Only each other, our courage and our commitment to hold the systems that govern our lives accountable will keep us safe. That’s what my family taught me.
The work in front of us is nothing short of imagining and fashioning a new future for this country, and it is going to take all of us who are ready to come along.
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