I’ve heard a lot about how anxious Democrats across the country are about the current front runners in the presidential campaign — Vice President Biden, Senator Sanders, Senator Warren and Mayor Buttigieg — and who, if any of them, can beat Donald Trump.
And I get it, I want Donald Trump out of office. The community I go home to, and the communities I have visited all over the country, cannot take four more years of this President. To me, this election is as serious and as personal as it gets.
But we as Democrats deserve more than just a candidate who claims they can beat Donald Trump– that’s the floor, it’s not the ceiling.
The next leader of our party, and critically our country, must be someone who can build a diverse coalition and unite the progressive and moderate wings of our party in common cause to beat Trump and then heal our country.
The Democratic Party is a diverse party. We have been since 1936, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt got 71 percent of the Black vote — including my own grandfather who switched from Republican to Democrat — because he believed in the bold vision FDR had for our country.
In a party and a country that is only becoming more diverse, the ability to build multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalitions is not a nice-to-have — it’s a job requirement.
I’m the only person in this race who has demonstrated time and time again, with only my own name on the ballot, an ability to turn out the vote and win in a heavily Black electorate.
Starting with my first run for Newark City Council over 20 years ago, when I went door to door, standing in laundromats and at bus stops talking to voters — I won because we energized and engaged Democratic voters.
In 2013, I ran in a special election for a Senate seat. Instead of adding my race to the slate of regularly scheduled state elections, the Republican governor spent taxpayer money to hold my election on a random Wednesday in October — weeks before the general election. Black voters in my race accounted for 13 percent of the electorate. In the governor’s own general election just a few weeks later, Black voters accounted for just 9.7 percent of the electorate.
What we need to understand right now as a party is that every successful struggle for justice in America — not to mention every winning Democratic coalition in modern times — has included the active participation and engagement of Black people.
In particular, they have included Black women, who in recent elections have been engaged more and vote at higher rates than the national average.
That’s how Democrats won in 2008 and 2012 and 2018. And that’s how we win next year.
We also need to recognize that we win by uniting in common cause as a party. That doesn’t mean compromising on values or settling for a middle ground for the sake of unity. It’s about getting things done for people who need help, and who need it urgently.
In this campaign and in the Senate, I’ve put forward some of the most progressive plans and pieces of legislation on everything from criminal justice reform–legalizing marijuana and expunging records– to a federal jobs guarantee pilot program to get jobs to communities that need them.
And I’ve worked across the aisle to actually get things done– in Newark, when I was the chief executive of our city during the great recession and in the Senate getting a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill passed into law that has already liberated thousands of people.
Energizing, exciting, and igniting a diverse coalition of voters is the challenge we face in this election because that coalition won’t just decide who our nominee is, it will determine whether or not we beat Donald Trump.
So to those who are concerned about the current front runners, to those who are looking for an alternative candidate who can unite the country, bring together the diverse coalition that took Obama to the White House, flipped a Senate seat in Alabama, and won back the House in 2018, I say this: I can, and have, excited a diverse coalition of voters. I can, and have, united progressives and moderates. And I can, and will, beat Donald Trump.