In 2020, democracy will be decided at the margins

In 2020, democracy will be decided at the margins
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While impeachment is likely to be the nation’s primary focus for the foreseeable future, Democrats must also sharply turn their attention locally, to directly target President Donald Trump’s base across the Midwest if they want to win in 2020. That’s why my organization, American Bridge 21st Century, has launched a multimillion-dollar effort to do just that.

Launching a targeted strike to peel off Trump’s white, working-class support in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — and winning the 2020 election — is how we will defeat Trump and save our democracy. While congressional Democrats are upholding the rule of law, the party cannot afford to hemorrhage white, working-class voters in the way that we have in the last several presidential cycles and still hope to win the electoral college.

Luckily, we don’t have to choose between motivating our base and peeling off the president’s core supporters in these swing states. Electrifying a diverse coalition that represents the New America will be the eventual Democratic nominee’s job, but until that nominee is in place next summer, our party’s allied organizations must fill the void by communicating with these voters and persuading them to not support Trump in 2020. We must do both — and if you don’t think a modern Democrat can do that, just look at what Andy Beshear did in Kentucky on Nov. 5.


Although a comparison between a statewide and a presidential election has its caveats, Beshear was able to defeat incumbent Republican governor Matt Bevin in a state that Trump won by 30 percent; Beshear did so by both surging his urban and suburban support and cutting into Bevin’s rural margins. Pike County, whose population is more than 97 percent white and mostly rural, serves as a prime example of this. In 2016, Pike County voted for Trump by more than 62 percent, a margin of more than 15,000 votes; last week, Beshear narrowed that gap to about 22 percent, losing the county to Bevin by just under 2,000 votes. By surging his margins in Fayette County, which encompasses Lexington, and reducing his margins in rural counties like Pike, Beshear eked out a victory against a highly unpopular Republican governor by just about 5,000 votes.

In 2020, we’re up against an incumbent president who is a lot more popular in the swing states, and who has an operation that is a lot more formidable. For the past three years, the Trump campaign and GOP apparatus have built out an operation in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania akin to a political “Death Star.” In the third quarter of 2019, the Trump campaign raised a record $125 million to fuel a gargantuan reelection campaign that has remained on the ground in swing states since his election.

But they aren’t just trying to win back these voters, they’re trying to surge their support with this group into the stratosphere. Nearly 500,000 white, working-class voters in Wisconsin did not turn out to vote in 2016, and the Trump team is currently spending millions in a highly sophisticated voter contact effort to turn this group out in even greater numbers. If Trump’s operation succeeds in boosting their turnout by even just a little bit, it will be ballgame no matter how high the Democratic turnout is.

Democrats lost Wisconsin by less than a percentage point in 2016 because Trump surged his margins with white, working-class voters in rural regions across the state, and our turnout in urban areas like Milwaukee wasn't strong enough to counter his gains. This difference between a President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE and a President Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBloomberg called Warren 'scary,' knocked Obama's first term in leaked audio Trump trails Democratic challengers among Catholic voters: poll Sanders under fire from Democrats over praise for Castro regime MORE came down to a rail-thin margin.

That tiny margin in 2016 meant the difference between a president who banned transgender troops from serving in the military and one who would have enacted the Equal Rights Amendment into law; a president who has irreparably damaged farmers in an ego-inflated trade war with Beijing and one who would have held a steady hand on the global stage; a president who welcomes foreign interference in our elections and one who would work to prevent it. The list goes on.

In 2020, with a president openly extorting foreign powers to investigate his political opponents — and a Republican Senate that appears set to let him off the hook — our democracy will live or die by these margins. It will be to our own peril to ignore this group of voters any longer. We must engage now if we want to make Trump a one-term president.

Bradley Beychok is the co-founder and president of American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive super PAC that supports Democratic candidates and is an opposition-research group for the Democratic Party. Follow him on Twitter @beychok