Even with Trump testing positive for COVID-19, unable to host social-distancing be damned rallies, “Don the Con” seeks adulation in his second home state of Florida, where his growing cult of right-wing conservatives and QAnon conspiracy theorists continues to promote the Republican neo-fascist agenda of immigrant-bashing, tax scams for the rich, erasure of the Affordable Care Act, privatization of the United States Post Office, the militarization of the police and lies about non-existent election fraud.
Five Thirty Eight’s latest Florida Presidential poll (Sept. 15-22, 2020) shows Biden with a mere 3% lead in Florida, the state that in 2000 put George W. Bush over the top, with help from the Bush v. Gore legal team that included Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. It was this team that convinced a Republican-dominated US Supreme Court to stop the ballot counting in Florida when it looked like Gore might win the state’s decisive electoral votes.
We are in troubled waters and about to drown in Florida unless the Biden campaign snaps out of its reverie and steers this ship in the direction of victory.
We are in troubled waters and about to drown in Florida unless the Biden campaign snaps out of its reverie and steers this ship in the direction of victory. Political pundits predict Florida's 29 electoral votes will be decisive. Every ballot counts in a state with Democrats and Republicans dueling for the vote of independents. On August 31, 2020, Florida's Secretary of State reported the following nail-biting voter registration statistics:
- Democrat: 5,203,795
- Republican: 5,020,199
- Independents: 3,653,046
- Third Party: 188,587
While Trump’s bumper stickers, flags, and yard signs can be spotted from Apalachicola to Marco Island, Joe Biden’s “Build Back Better” and “Biden/Harris” campaign paraphernalia is largely missing in action. To make matters worse, the local Joe Biden team takes a month to put together a digital flyer and cannot schedule events without time conflicts. The Joe Biden National Headquarters bickers with organizers on the ground as the Florida Democratic Party watches from the sidelines.
In the middle of a severe pandemic and historic economic downturn, we can win Florida if the campaign properly targets the youth vote and actively courts votes from the African American, Latino, and Muslim communities. To date, outreach to these communities has been abysmal as we constantly hear complaints from our own Muslim community on the lack of engagement. Muslim votes are to be mined in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater and Orlando.
In addition, the campaign should seek to flip the historically Republican counties of Seminole, Duval and Pinellas and dedicate staff to reach out to these counties, instead of neglecting these areas, presuming they are a lost cause.
To boost turn out amongst youth and people of color, the campaign should adopt a distributive organizing model and allow anyone access to digital tools to host events, power map, and leverage their personal networks to get out the vote. Although Bernie Sanders did not win the Democratic Party primary, his campaign showed the power of mass movement organizing on a distributive model versus the current top-down presidential campaign which expects grassroots activists to take directives from Biden's national headquarters.
With Biden leading Trump by 31 points among likely female voters, the Biden campaign must target women in every county in Florida, a state with a half a million more women than men, according to the last US Census. To appeal to women, the campaign must focus on the issues most important to women: reproductive rights, health care and climate change.
As you probably have guessed by now, we want Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo to spill her morning coffee when she reads this piece, then sit up, wake up and seize the moment, lest the staff at Mar-a-Largo use this admonition to line the resort’s garbage bins or crumple it for a make-shift golf ball because the Trump administration will be in business for a long time at the rate the state party and the Joe Biden campaign are moving, rather crawling.
The next four years of Trump fascism and ignorance could spell the end of democracy as we know it.
Hence, we are sounding the alarm that we cannot afford to lose this election. There is a vacancy in the Supreme Court that can be filled any day with a conservative ideologue striking down what is left of a broken healthcare system and reproductive rights. We need a Biden win in 2020 to expand the number of justices on the Court and mitigate the Republican grip over the highest court in the land.
It will take Herculean organizing involving phone banking, fundraising, and canvassing, not nonchalant MSNBC armchair chin-scratching, to breathe new life into what should be a vibrant Presidential campaign. We want to see the Biden campaign distributing masks, feeding the hungry, calling more voters to provide immediate resources during these perilous times.
As Muslim Americans, we have much to lose under another term of Trump: four more years of visas denied to family members, relatives separated across seas, grandchildren denied the love of their grandparents, Islamophobic slurs, hate speech, attacks on mosques; drone bombings of Muslim-majority countries, where the victims of Trump’s unchecked militarism dread a sunny day because that is when the drones fly overhead, terrorizing neighborhoods and sowing the seeds of generational hatred.
In the 2016 Presidential election, Democratic Party Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz bowed to party hacks and corporate interests, undermining progressives with her mocking of Bernie Sanders during the Primary. She called for unity without attempting to fully engage progressive Democrats advocating for healthcare and a clean energy economy. The result? Trump beat Hillary Clinton, 48.6% to 47.4%. We must not repeat the mistakes of 2016. The Biden campaign and the Florida Democratic Party need progressives to put Biden over the top in November.
So Establishment Democrats, you won the primary, but can you win the General Election?
It’s football season. Bring on the ground game.
Nadia B. Ahmad and Hanieh Jodat Barnes