Black Women Are Our Base, We Owe It To Them To Be Pragmatic

4 mins read
Elvert Barnes from Baltimore, Maryland, USA [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ok, Real Talk. Pragmatism isn’t the same as Centrism. Pragmatism is playing out the string, carefully considering the outcomes and playing the long game. Vetting candidates, policies and strategies is CRITICAL, not divisive.

I’m tired of hearing 2020 placed in the misguided construct of targeting swing voters vs. the base in terms of center and far left lanes. Our base is black women. It’s not just that they are consistently are most reliable voters, but that they have existing networks for GOTV that our party has depended on. The nominee must have their support to win and they’re not generally far left voters. For good reason.

Women of color are the most vulnerable. The risk to them is higher if we fail. We all need to vote with our base in mind and be willing to discuss concerns because, as a party, we cannot let them down. I want big, structural change, but I’m very concerned about empty promises or shortsightedness.

Just consider Medicare for All. First, you must have the votes in Congress to get it passed. Be prepared that the GOP will pick up some seats if our POTUS nominee is running on this. If we do it by executive order, you can be even nearly certain of a GOP 2022 rally. But, everyone will like it, you say…

Some will, some won’t, but you can be sure the first roll out will be clunky. There will be confusion and frustration and not enough time to assess success or work out the kinks before the GOP boomerangs off it. For reference, see the ACA, and, remember, that didn’t affect *everyone*.

If the Republicans take control in 2022, we get a repeat of what happened with Obama and a strangulation of the legislation we ran on. Wash, rinse, repeat. Policies that marginalized communities need so badly will be stonewalled, and our POTUS will have a poor track record to exploit going into the next election cycle. Further, what keeps the GOP from weaponizing government healthcare against reproductive rights or marginalized groups next time they take the White House? The rules of coverage will be within the purview of the Executive Branch.

This doesn’t mean that Universal Healthcare shouldn’t be pursued, but it does mean that the plan and the implementation of that plan needs to be carefully considered and examined. Codifying Roe v. Wade immediately will be imperative and we’ll need control of both chambers for that. Mitigating public backlash must be a priority. An opt-in plan, for example, provides an opportunity for a much safer rollout than Medicare for All.

We owe it to our base to be measured, honest and sure-footed. We owe it to black women to listen to them and not talk at them. We owe them real, sustainable action and protection from the dangers of GOP majorities. Their concerns should be all of ours.


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Rachel is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Democrats Work For America, a political action committee for and by grassroots activists. Rachel and Sudha Mohan created Democrats Work For America with the idea that ground level activists are better positioned to accurately assess districts and candidates and determine where support is needed. Through a national network of volunteers and coalitions we focus on providing resources, support and guidance to the boots on the ground. Rachel lives in Saint Louis, MO with her husband and 2 children. Rachel is on the Board of Directors for DemCast.

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