That does not mean that we lost — or even that we should be discouraged. As I survey the landscape the morning after, and as millions of votes are still being counted, I see five points of optimism:
1) President-elect Joe Biden is still a real possibility
. The former vice president is currently leading in Arizona and Nevada. CNN has projected Biden victories in Michigan and Wisconsin. And I believe he still has a shot at Pennsylvania as well. That means Biden could be the next president of the United States. He also racked up
a historic win in the popular vote, breaking President Barack Obama’s 2008 record
for total votes cast. Though the Electoral College determines whether a candidate wins, the popular vote determines the winner’s political mandate.
2) Leading Republicans are breaking with Trump on a critical issue
. The nightmare scenario was always a close and contested election where a sitting president refused to concede — and one party refused to leave office. While Trump has made outright false claims and demanded that states stop counting votes, many in this party is not backing him. So far — and this could change — prominent Republicans from former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
put country first and are demanding we count every vote, even if that means their standard bearer might lose.
3) The election could produce both an administration and introspection for the Democrats.
Normally parties get one or the other. Either they win the election and get to govern the executive branch. Or they lose, and benefit from a deep, hard look at where they went wrong. Ironically, because Democrats’ landslide did not materialize and yet they still appear well-poised to win the White House, we may benefit from both. We may get to show the country how we would respond to major challenges, while still learning from Trump’s significant inroads
among Black and brown communities.
4) Organizing people of color works. Arizona and Georgia stick out as potential surprising places of strength for Joe Biden.
What do they have in common? Long-term organizing in communities of color. In Arizona, Latinos started organizing in the 2000s and massively mobilized
after 2010. They threw out
Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2016 even as Trump won, and they may well help win the state for Biden in 2020. In Georgia, the New Georgia Project and others registered countless Black voters for years, producing Stacey Abrams’ near win in 2018 and a still too-close-to-call election in 2020. These groups and others like them did it with a tiny fraction
of the budget wasted on ads for high-profile Democratic candidates who lost.
5) Finding common ground is a winning strategy.
The day before the election, TED released a stunning talk
from my friend Nisha Anand about the radical act of choosing common ground. This is not only the right thing to do; the elections showed it works. Biden improved with suburban Whites, in part, thanks to his decency and calls for unity. Trump improved with African Americans and Hispanic Americans after offering policies
where they could agree even if they are not his biggest fans. At our best, progressives deeply value finding common ground. This election was a reminder of its importance.
There were also a historic number of historic firsts, including the first transgender state senator
in Delaware, the first formerly incarcerated person
to become a state senator in Washington, the first two Black members
to identify as gay in Congress, and state and local support for criminal justice reform
Progressives are tired after a long election. But there are major points of optimism that show the road forward in the months to come.