Last Tuesday’s election results are real, and they mean we have a fight on our hands. Still, California remains a ray of light amid the darkness. More than ever, we need a strong offensive and defensive strategy for California and the nation. Some take-aways from the election:
1. "White-lash" and sexism are real. Too many voters simply couldn’t accept a woman as their next president. Divisive appeals to white voters by targeting people of color clearly worked. We always knew that a backlash would come as we get closer to 2044, when whites will become the minority.
2. Scapegoating only works when people feel real pain. Just as we shouldn't believe the polls, we shouldn’t believe the rosy economic reports issued by Washington. Our changing economy isn't working for most Americans. Reports claiming that unemployment is at an all-time low should come with a giant footnote stating, “African-Americans not included.” Communities of color have been the canaries in the coal mine, but unfortunately our leaders didn't listen. Will they listen now that white communities have joined us in the birdcage?
3. Let’s be proud of California. Californians passed housing bonds, rent controls, taxes on cigarettes, soda and the wealthy, and continued the path to criminal justice reform. In the Bay Area, the soda industry's massively financed attempt to use merchants of color as a shield backfired. We overturned a ban on bilingual education left over from previous years of immigrant bashing. But we didn't win it all: Big pharma still won and we didn't repeal the death penalty. But overall, our plan in California is working and we should feel proud of what we've done and where we are going. We no longer fear the initiative process as we once did. We have learned to play the game.
We need a savvy combination of offense and defense.
On offense, we need to push California to lead on issues of civil rights, economic opportunity, and racial justice. Now is NOT the time to stop. We need to keep pushing to show the country that we have proven solutions – and they work. Let’s be bolder with our ideas. Too many Californians still live in poverty and we still lock up too many people in our prisons.
But we also have to play defense. Millions of Americans are rightfully living in fear. Draconian budget cuts could further exacerbate poverty and inequality. Women’s rights will be attacked and as women they will simply be told to “move to another state.” A Giuliani broken-windows approach could bring racial profiling back to the mainstream. Millions of undocumented people and Dreamers fear deportation regardless of whether they have a criminal record. Muslims are not sure when somebody will attack them or burn their places of worship. The LGTBQ community worries that the tide of recent advances will start to reverse. Hate and harassment could go mainstream as witnessed by several recent incidents around the country.
We have to be ready to play some strong defense and stand by all of our communities when the attacks come. We must hold our state leaders accountable to fight even harder against sexism, racism, homophobia, and inequality. Now is the time to build stronger partnerships with national networks as they prepare themselves for the onslaught. Let’s not be surprised when the attacks come, and let’s remember that an attack on one is an attack on all.
More than ever, we must stand together. In this moment of challenge, let’s not underestimate the strength of our communities.
Tired but ready,