What's It Going to Take to Win
in 2021 and Beyond:
PERSEVERANCE! by Bibiana Boerio
Way back in the summer of 2019, I wrote for this group an article "What It's Going to Take to Win 2020". I thought it might be useful to look back and see what worked and didn't work based on 2020 election results as a way to look ahead. Back then, I had just participated in a conference sponsored by Third Way, a Washington-DC based think tank that champions modern center-left ideas. The message of that conference was that if we were going to win in 2020, we needed a broad-based coalition of voters. They called it a "partisan plus persuadable" strategy. At that point, a survey had been conducted which said that the most democratic primary voters wanted a candidate who can win AND unify the country to solve urgent problems.
As we look at the results of the November 3, 2020 election, there are some lessons learned. Some areas showed the messages were right on, and there are some warning signs for 2022 and 2024. Throughout the state, very high turnout marked the day. Statewide in the Presidential race, there were 13% more voters than in 2016. There were 18% more votes cast for the Democratic nominee, and there were 14% more voters for Trump. Think about that. 14% more Pennsylvanians voted for Donald Trump in 2020 than in 2016. So how and where did Biden get the votes to beat Trump by 80,055.
I think the answer lies in that message from the 2019 surveys. It took a broad-based coalition of voters. I don't think any one group of voters can claim sole credit for the Biden victory. Rather, it took groups across the state to bring the Biden win home. The biggest margins of victory came in the "collar counties" around Philadelphia (Bucks, Montgomery, Chester and Delaware) where Biden garnered 25%-30% more votes than Clinton while holding Trump to gains less than the statewide averages. Allegheny County also was a big player, with votes for Biden up 17% while Trump was Held to 9% increase. We did our part in Westmoreland, Washington, and Erie Counties where votes for Biden were up 20-25%, holding Trump's margin of victory down. Trump won Westmoreland County by 28% points in 2020, but he won by 31% in 2016.
But the warning signs are there. Biden took Philadelphia by a wide margin, but the turnout (up only 3%) and the actual margin were reduced compared with prior years. Also, statewide, only Attorney General Shapiro took a row office with more statewide votes than Biden, while the candidates for Treasurer and Auditor General lost votes down ballot and lost their races. Further, while each of the 9 Democratic Members of Congress in the PA Delegation held onto their seats, for the most part, their margins of victory were dramatically reduced compared with 2018. For example, Conor Lamb won his seat by 2.3 points, compared with a win of 12.5 points in 2018. (Note: the 2022 lineup for Congressional seats is up int the air at this time. The release of the 2020 Census data has been delayed at least 6 months. We do know that it is almost certain PA will lose one congressional seat-going from 18 to 17. It's also clear that some of the biggest relative population declines have taken place in SWPA. But it's not at all clear what the new Congressional maps will look like. Or whether "our Guy" will jump into the race to replace Senator Pat Toomey.)
So what does this mean going forward? I think it means we need to keep the focus on building coalitions across the county, across the state and across the country. We need to upload the values of the Democratic party and we must truly be a big tent party. That means recognizing that each county/district will have different priorities and need candidates with different backgrounds and experiences. We should have respectful, fact-based dialogue to explore differences and come out with the best plans for our area. It's important that we keep a steady flow of reasonable, no-name calling letters to the editor of our local papers demonstrating the progress being made by the Biden administration to help the common good. We need to keep the focus on expanding economic opportunity for all-in particular infrastructure (broadband plus fixing roads, bridges, power grid), and economic development.
There is an article in the Third Way site that references the Executive Orders put in place by the Administration in its first few weeks. (https://www.thirdway.org/memo/biden-has-stayed-in-the-center)
It's important to remember that most of these are placeholders to reverse the worst excesses of the Trump administration while the details of legislation are hammered out with Congress. It's also important that we take the time to understand and communicate some of the "complexities" in getting things done in the real world of a very narrowly held Democratic majority in the U.S. House and Senate.
I'm really tired of seeing people "tweet" about Biden not having the "courage to fight" for some of their priorities. What they don't seem to understand is that right now it takes 60 votes to get things through the Senate. The Democratic Party only holds 50 seats including two Independent Senators who caucus with e Democratic Caucus. Ultimately, the Parliamentarian of the Senate makes the decision as to what fits the vary narrow Senate rules of Budget Reconciliation which can allow some things to be included in legislation that only requires a simple majority. That means highly desired programs like increasing the minimum wage and comprehensive immigration reform don't likely fit in those rules. That doesn't mean we don't fight for them. It means that they have to take different routes that might take longer, and come in phases. (Overturning the filibuster rule is subject for another posting!)
I watched the coverage of the landing of the NASA Rover "Perseverance" on the Mars surface recently. Think about it. Starting with the name: Perseverance. Having a plan, getting the team together-in this case a group of multi-disciplinary experts-who have a shared vision, work together to solve complex problems through science, grit and determination-and recognize that real changes don't come in quick soundbites. Rather, they require creativity, compromise-and yes, perseverance. Having the patience to work through and to wait when necessary to accomplish the shared goal. (Did you also notice that this group of nerdy scientists all were wearing masks?)
We can learn from that group of scientists. Together, we can build the plans to achieve shared objectives, and create the strength to win, district by district, state by state. But it won't happen overnight. It requires perseverance AND passion.