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An existential election


President Trump’s reelection prospects seem to grow dimmer by the week. But even amid the daily onslaught of Trump’s factually challenged statements and unhinged tweets, Democrats cannot assume that the situation will be easy going forward or that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden will cruise to victory this fall.  Making that assumption would be their – and the country’s – downfall.

I have warned before that Democrats cannot rely on the polls, which now consistently show Biden ahead by double digits. While I suspect the polls are correct (the national polls were right in 2016), relying on them can lead to apathy and, eventually, to defeat.

It is more important to look at the state polls, which also look solid for Biden. But the danger lies in the underlying registration numbers. These are declining in the midst of a resurgence of a pandemic that has disproportionately hurt communities of color, who are the backbone of the Democratic voter base. 

Reports from April indicated that key battleground states such as Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia were showing at least a 50 percent voter registration decrease compared to April 2016. Even more concerning, registration in Texas, which Democrats are touting as a new swing state, and California, the biggest electoral prize, sank 75 percent.

There is a correlation between the devastating effect of the coronavirus on African Americans and Hispanics and the plummeting number of voter registrations in key states where Democrats have hopes of performing well.   

Until the pandemic hit, Democrats had a registration edge in some key states. But if you are worried about your family’s survival, registering to vote may not be a top priority. 

“In some states, before the pandemic, you were seeing a net edge for Democrats,” Page Gardner, founder and president of the Voter Participation Center, which focuses on registering young people, unmarried women and people of color, told Politico. But now she says “in some states…the advantage has shrunk substantially.”

There is hope for Democrats, however. Democratic-leaning groups that have made it their mission to vote Trump out of office, flip the Senate and increase Democratic control in the House of Representatives are adjusting their programs amid the shifting realities to ensure that voters turn out. They are doing so in part by arguing that Trump can no longer be seen simply as incompetent. Rather, as the pandemic continues to rage and as race relations plummet, he should be seen as a danger to the future of the republic.

Mi Familia Vota (MFV) just announced a $10 million campaign to educate, register and mobilize Latinos to vote in November. 

“We are adapting to the realities of the current COVID-19 pandemic to reach 3.3 million voters,” MFV’s executive director, Hector Sanchez Barba, said. “We are living a historical moment of attacks and it requires a historical mobilization from our community to say #BastaTrump.”

We have all seen the Black Lives Matter movement’s emergence as a force to mobilize protests across the country for social justice and racial equity. They are now using their influence to turn that energy into votes.

Donald Trump, meanwhile, is spiraling out of control. Seemingly every day he downplays the COVID pandemic even as cases spike. Additionally, Trump has urged Republicans to “fight very hard” against efforts to allow people to vote by mail.

But Democrats and Americans who believe we cannot afford to reelect Trump must work harder than ever to register voters and energize and mobilize them to vote between now and November. 

Politicians always claim that the upcoming election is the most important ever. But this election may in fact be the most important we’ve had in at least a generation. Many communities of Americans believe their existence depends on its outcome.

Maria Cardona is a longtime Democratic strategist and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s rules and bylaws committee for the party’s 2020 convention. She is a principal at Dewey Square Group, a Washington-based political consulting agency, and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.

Tags 2020 election 2020 presidential campaign 2020 presidential election Democratic Party Donald Trump Joe Biden MFV Politics of the United States Voter registration Voter turnout

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