In the weeks leading up to Election Day, some Biden supporters began to see a Biden election landslide as a necessary outcome to rebuke Donald Trump. However, this swift rebuke of Trump did not arrive as we watched the race turn into a battle of attrition overnight.
Anti-Trumpers’ desires for a repudiation of Trump is understandable. This administration has traumatized many and people desperately want to see this president held accountable and repudiated.
However, as some activists and observers have suggested on social media and in opinion pieces, this country is deeply polarized, and defeating Trump would not marginalize Trumpism, nor eradicate the structures that his brand of politics exploited and deepened — structural racism, settler colonialism, sexism, classism and policing.
We received our marching orders on election night: We must build upon already existing organizing, campaigns and movements, create transformative projects focused on mutual aid, political education and alternative institution building, and engage in political struggle to eradicate the aforementioned oppressive structures and to build the world we would like to see.
Progressive victories in local politics on Election Day illustrate how the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) will continue to serve as an onramp toward mass radical politics in the U.S. The DSA continues to serve as a crucial vehicle for winning radical demands on a local level as the Portland, Oregon, chapter started organizing a “Tax the Rich” campaign in 2017, which developed into a movement for universal preschool. Last night, a little more than 64 percent of Multnomah County residents voted to approve a measure establishing the program that would be funded by raising taxes on those who earn more than $125,000 a year. And building on the DSA’s 2018 electoral success, DSA-backed candidate Nikil Saval won election to the Pennsylvania State Senate and DSA members Zohran Kwame Mamdani, Jabari Brisport, Phara Souffrant Forrest and Marcela Mitaynes were all elected to the New York State Assembly.
Members of a national debtors’ union known as the Debt Collective are building a national movement against one of capitalism’s most exploitive relationships — that of creditors and debtors. The Debt Collective’s campaign, “Rolling Jubilee,” liberated people from financial bondage by abolishing millions of dollars of personal debt. Its work has contributed to national conversations about student and medical debt, which has led presidential candidates to advocate for canceling student debt, in the form of forgiving $50,000 of loans, as part of COVID relief.
The COVID crisis, as historian and activist Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor argues, underscores the deep racial and class inequalities embedded in the capitalist system. In response, many have continued to develop mutual aid projects operating on varying scales. In Los Angeles, “an actions-oriented coalition of social and climate justice organizations and organizers,” formed the People’s City Council to intervene in the city’s budget process — pushing elected city councilmembers to reject Mayor Eric Garcetti’s budget proposing a larger police budget. The group raised more than $750,000 and redistributed it to Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and the National Lawyers Guild of Los Angeles and used the rest to bolster their bail fund.
With COVID overlapping with climate disasters, Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, a national grassroots network of radical activists, offered assistance to people enduring hurricanes and other natural disasters in New Orleans and Puerto Rico and inspired similar efforts in Iowa. Mutual aid work such as this has important ripple effects because it can spur further radicalization and growth of the leftist social movements needed to confront the intersections of state violence and abandonment, interpersonal violence, climate disaster and evictions. As movement lawyer Dean Spade argues in his new book on mutual aid, “Mutual aid gives people a way to plug into movements based on their immediate concerns, and it produces social spaces where people grow new solidarities.”
The COVID and climate crises inspired activists in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to bring together the abolitionist spirit of this summer’s protests and calls for greater democratic control of utilities. The Graduate Employees Organization (AFT 3550), the University of Michigan’s graduate student union, incorporated demands of “disarming, demilitarizing, and defunding,” campus police in their wildcat strike platform.
Contributing to struggles for transformative justice taking place throughout the country, members of the activist group Southerners on New Ground (SONG) are joining with the Alabama chapter of the ACLU in Montgomery, Alabama, to organize a campaign “to (re)define public safety as a means for creating alternatives to policing and ensuring our communities’ safety needs are met through housing, healthcare and education.”
We are seeing these types of demands growing around the country, as the movement to defund the police has nurtured existing abolitionist projects and planted the seeds for new ones. Organizers are calling not only for decreased police budgets, but for radically shifted priorities at every level, focusing on human needs, racial justice and new possibilities for safety and transformation.
These are just a few examples of building blocks for growing grassroots power, whether we find ourselves facing a second term from Trump or a Biden presidency. While these projects in themselves may not lead to immediate transformation, they will most likely serve as entry points into a larger struggle against capitalism, structural racism and sexism, settler colonialism and the climate crisis. And it will be critical to align all of these efforts in a two-front battle against Trumpism, which may grow more violent and repressive, and centrist neoliberalism, which offers us no solutions either.