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Est. April 5, 2002
Sept 10, 2020 - Issue 832

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Working Theory of 2020 Election

"Given this reality, it is imperative that Joe Biden
focus like a laser beam on turning out the Democratic
base and not waste any substantial resources
on persuading Trump voters to back him."

In the wake of the Democratic and Republican conventions and with a little over seven weeks to go, Biden’s national lead over Donald Trump has held steady at nearly 7 percent. However, Trump is closing in the polls of battleground states - tied in Florida and Texas and within and/or just outside the margin of error in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which put Trump over the top in 2016. To win, Trump needs to prevail in at least one of these three states and to hold on to everything else he won.

While he is aggressively targeting them, his efforts are being hampered because unlike in 2016 when Republicans controlled both legislative houses in Michigan and Wisconsin and heavily influenced the outcomes of the presidential election, these three states are now helmed by Democratic governors. In addition, Trump now faces two additional obstacles of African American Lt. Governors in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes was the key to the Democratic victory over Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who was heavily financed by the Koch Brothers and other billionaire far right benefactors in the 2018 election. Walker lost by 33,000 votes. Those votes came out of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha, and Dane Counties, which account for the overwhelming majority of the Black population in a state that is approximately 90 percent white. The state’s small Black and Latinx populations cast a lion’s share of their votes for Tony Evers, the Democrat, over Walker a two-term incumbent.

In Michigan’s 2018 gubernatorial race, Gretchen Whitmer, a Democratic former state legislator and county prosecutor, ran for an open gubernatorial seat as her predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder, was term-limited. She was able to best her Republican opponent, with her African American Lt. Gov. running mate, Garlin Gilchrist, a champion of community change organizing in Detroit who spearheaded increased turnout in Michigan’s five majority-Black cities - Detroit, Benton Harbor, Inkster, Southfield, and Highland Park.

Low African American turnout in these Democratic strongholds doomed Hillary Clinton’s chances of carrying Michigan in the 2016 presidential election in a state Trump carried by 10,000 votes.

Donald Trump’s law and order xenophobic rants have not moved the electoral needle in his direction. And he is therefore unlikely to carry either Wisconsin or Michigan in 2020. He is also trailing in Arizona, which is poised to elect another Democratic U.S. Senator along with Biden for President. While Trump is running out of time to turn the race in his favor, we cannot count him out just yet.

President Trump maintains control of the electoral apparatus in several red and blue states and has shown he will do anything to win - lie, steal, cheat, and manipulate the United States Post Office to his advantage. Given this reality, it is imperative that Joe Biden focus like a laser beam on turning out the Democratic base and not waste any substantial resources on persuading Trump voters to back him.

According to field research, there are an ample number of people: progressives, Blacks, Latinx, Generation Zers, Native and Asian Americans, Independents, and disenchanted voters who can be recruited to support Biden. He needs to make strong and ongoing appeals to these aforementioned voting groups who despise Trump. Democrats and the Biden campaign, because of their antipathy toward Trump, have largely taken these groups for granted, assuming they have no other choice.

Focus groups have revealed that many of these individuals are not willing to vote for the lesser of what they consider two evils. They have witnessed Trump’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, rabid attacks on their humanity, and promotion of white nationalism firsthand, but remain concerned about Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s past contributions to the prison-industrial complex as they have watched many of their relatives and neighbors swooped up in the system of mass incarceration.

Biden must make his case for their support as many have stated that they will sit out the election rather than vote for “… the lesser of two evils if that lesser evil will continually get more evil.” In recent weeks, the Biden campaign appears to have recognized this actuality and has begun assertive outreach to these less than enthusiastic members of the Democratic base.

Joe Biden traveled to Houston, Texas and Kenosha, Wisconsin, respectively, to meet with the families of George Floyd and Jacob Blake to show his support for racial justice in policing. Shortly after, Kamala Harris was dispatched to Milwaukee to meet with local African American civic and business leaders to make a case for their support. These actions have borne political fruit as revealed in Biden’s stasis in the Wisconsin polls, despite Trump’s fanning of racial flames and wild-eyed promise of delivering a COVID-19 vaccine before the November 3rd election. These desperate actions are not resonating among voters as he has hoped.

Trump’s only remaining strategies are suppressing the vote of people of color, cheating at the polls, and using the USPS to stall mail-in votes past the submission deadline. Consequently, the Biden-Harris ticket must monitor every aspect of the election process in the battleground states, especially in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, where the election will probably be decided.

In the interim, the Biden-Harris campaign must perpetuate a forthright solicitation of the Democratic base without pause until Election Day. Columnist, Dr. Walter C. Farrell, Jr., PhD, MSPH, is a Fellow of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) at the University of Colorado-Boulder and has written widely on vouchers, charter schools, and public school privatization. He has served as Professor of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and as Professor of Educational Policy and Community Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Contact Dr. Farrell and BC.

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David A. Love, JD
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