One week before the election in the United States, nothing is being taken for granted. A meaningful and enduring victory will require wins in the House and Senate. Only such a sweeping victory can provide the foundation to build back better. Underlying this endeavor is a festering debate on the vision of the country. Progressive visions for a post-crisis world must be bold and clear enough to act as a unifying force, once Trumpism is electorally defeated.
For those campaigning and voting against the sitting President of the United States, there is legitimate concern about the future of democracy in the United States. There is also the fear of a future with an unlivable climate and all the socio-economic consequences such a world brings. These fears are confounded by threats to women’s and immigrant’s rights, as well as access to healthcare, by the now conservatively enshrined Supreme Court. That is before mentioning the economic and social ramifications from the current pandemic.
Americans across the country have received a detailed glimpse of one future reality by living through Trump’s first term. And they have seen enough. The last week of campaigning is straightforward: defeat Trump and his Republican Party. Doing so would create much-needed space to begin working towards futures that people deserve.
Representing the Future: The United States Congress
Elected every two years, the House of Representatives represents the pulse of the nation. Political differences within both major parties are reflected in the Representatives and the legislation that they introduce. Progressive candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be reelected and there will be new members with Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman, all supported by the Justice Democrats and part of a next generation of progressive Representatives.
In addition to the slow rise of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, the election on November 3rd could also see the cementing of a Democratic Orange County, California – the political home to Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan which now thanks to demographic shifts sent seven Democrats to the House in 2018. Will this be repeated and can it become a trend in other pockets of the country? These victories are giving the Democratic Party a majority in the House – and the ability to introduce legislation. As progressives expand their caucus and demographic shifts are better represented, a more democratic House is emerging.
The United States Senate is also up for grabs. After voting in line with the President the past four years, Senate Republicans running for office are tied to President Trump. From Maine to Iowa to Colorado, this is proving to be a barrier to their reelection. This could ultimately result in a Democratic controlled Senate. The Democratic majority, if won, will be slim – but is a necessary basis to support a Democratic House and the Biden Presidency, as well as political reform to build a more democratic United States.
Making the Case for Political Reform
The institutional shortcomings of the US democratic system have been pushed to the forefront during this election. In 2018, the Democrats won more than 12 million more votes than the Republicans across all Senate races. This however did not translate into winning a majority in the Senate. In 2016, the Electoral College also once again did not award the presidency to the candidate with the most votes. Districts like Washington D.C. and the territory of Puerto Rico have no voting representation in the House of Representatives nor the Senate. And the Supreme Court, the third branch of government, has in its current form become hyper-politicized and is used to settle partisan debates.
As Democrats and their allies form a coalition against Trump, it has become clear that institutional and political reform is needed to prevent political actors like Trump from taking office in the first place and to have institutions that better represent the will of the people. Reforming institutions to make them more democratic can be done across partisan lines, with the goal of a political system that accurately reflects the visions of voters.
Beyond the United States – Transatlantic Relations
Treaties have been broken and bonds between old friends damaged during the past four years. Yet, as the President has scorned relations with Europe and opened his arms to illiberal leaders, the importance of transatlantic relations has been made aware to voters. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord and World Health Organization have given people tangible examples of what a unilateral world looks like, and one that exists within a functioning multilateral system that excludes the United States.
In complete opposite to the philosophy of ‘America First’, now is the opportunity for the people of the United States to demand that their Congress and President do not only rejoin international cooperations but also transition more broadly to a collaborative world. This can be strengthened by listening to old friends with the goal of becoming equal partners while establishing more transatlantic ties between cities and regions to bolster the fight against everything from climate change to the current pandemic.
Finding Meaning through Political Organizing
Through organizing and campaigning for a world without Trump, many are learning what world they actually want to live in. Whether or not Trump is defeated next week, the next step will be to resiliently go to the root of the issue: making our political system more representative and democratic.
Finally, a vision of a world without Trump as President only works up until the election. Democratic transformation needs more visions of what comes after this week – when defeating Trump is no longer the only unifying factor. These visions can instil meaning into political life and build coalitions that get things done. Instituting a more representative Congress, reforming political institutions and rethinking the United States’ place in the world are good places to start.