Catalyst Action Fund is a sister organization of Catalyst Project. Catalyst Action Fund promotes racial justice through engaging in policy work and the electoral arena, as tools of social movement building.
We cannot sit out the elections in 2020. There is far too much at stake. We face the threat of imminent war, accelerating climate catastrophe, and immigrants face more raids, deportations and an ever more militarized border. Organized white nationalist groups are increasing their power and leverage in shaping the national agenda and the right wing is shredding what remains of a social safety net.
For all these reasons and more, Catalyst Project has launched a sister organization, Catalyst Action Fund, a 501(c)4 fiscally sponsored under Tides Advocacy.
In 2020, hundreds of thousands of people will be throwing down in elections and policy fights across the country. Many of these people will be newly politicized and will grow into social movement leaders inside and outside of electoral politics. Catalyst Action Fund is creating opportunities to support these developing leaders to become as powerful and strategic as possible about the power of organizing, to understand the necessity of centering racial justice and of being in the struggle for the long haul. We will collaboratively develop trainings to support local grassroots groups across the country who know their communities and will be organizing long past November 2020; these trainings will be tailored for both multiracial and majority white groups. We will be supporting our network of 300 Braden alumni to engage in the election. And check out our endorsement of Bernie Sanders for US President below!
Many of us have worked on electoral projects and campaigns in the past. However, electoral politics have not been largely front and center for Catalyst Project as an organization. Our faith was, and still is, in the power of organized social movements of the left.
Like a lot of people, we held back from fully engaging in 2016, for many reasons. We underestimated the depth and breadth of white nationalist sentiment and how it would show up at the ballot box; we had a deep distrust of the Democratic Party (full disclosure, we still have that distrust); we feared that urging people to vote for a mainstream candidate would only give legitimacy to corporate Dems who also start wars, imprison Black people, and deport immigrants. We want to overturn this system, not put a bandaid on a bullet wound.
The shock of the 2016 elections—the unrestrained white supremacy and misogyny that came to power and the role that white voters played—forced us to re-evaluate the times we are in, what we’re up against, and what our responsibilities are.
In that context, and in discussion with organizers from across the country who challenged us, we grappled with how we should relate to electoral politics in this period. And this is where we arrived:
- We can’t cede the electoral front to the right wing. The right has had a forty year plan to take power, they’ve consolidated that, and we have too much to lose by not fighting back on the policy and electoral terrain.
- Electoral work is an important element of the left ecosystem, one of many tools we have to build grassroots power. Our ideas of electoral work include policy campaigns, voter education and mobilization for specific candidates as well as working against voter suppression and disenfranchisement, gerrymandering, the undemocratic electoral college, etc.
- The white vote in this country is one of the biggest obstacles to progressive electoral and legislative wins. In many places, organizing white people to get behind a racial justice agenda can mean the difference between a left candidate and an outright racist.
- We need a culture shift that breaks the binary of “people who are too left to touch electoral politics”-vs-“sellout to the spineless Democratic Party.” We have to stop trash-talking about each other’s choices about how to relate to elections.
- Electoral wins can give breathing space to our movements – we’ve been hit incredibly hard by the right, and we need to build our movements, broaden our base. We see how progressive elected officials have made a difference and opened up political space for social movements to grow.
- We engage in this work now in the hope that fewer people will suffer, not in the belief that any one candidate in office will eliminate that suffering, or bring us anywhere close to the world we really want.
While we have come to recognize the importance of electoral organizing, that does not mean that we are giving up any ground on our commitments to collective liberation, commitments that were largely forged outside of the electoral arena.
Our politics have been shaped by movements for self-determination including the Black liberation movement, the Indigenous sovereignty movement, the Puerto Rican independence movement, the Palestinian liberation movement, the queer liberation movement, women of color feminism, and more.
Electoral wins must not become our political horizon; we cannot afford to shrink our long-term vision of a deeply transformed society. And that requires building powerful left movements led by working class communities of color. Progressive electoral wins in 2020 give us more time, space, and capacity to fight for that long-term vision.
Through rich conversation with many movement leaders, we have come to believe that the year ahead offers us crucial opportunities in the struggle for collective liberation. 2020 offers us the opportunity to roll back some of the gains made by white nationalism in recent years, to shape the terrain we organize on moving forward, and to position our movements to act powerfully to confront climate chaos and structural racism while bringing thousands of new people into movements for liberation. We hope you will join us in seizing this moment.
Here are some ways that you can join us in the work ahead:
- Check out our website and stay involved with Catalyst Action Fund
- Plug in with a grassroots organization in your area that is doing both electoral and long-term movement work
- Volunteer on a campaign for the primaries and after
- Work against voter suppression (text FAIR to 70700 to get involved with Fair Fight).
However you throw down, it will take all of us. We’ll see you out there.
The outcome of the 2020 presidential election is critical. We face the existential threats of climate crisis, the global impacts of reckless warmongering by the current administration, and the increasing insecurity of housing and medical care for poor and working class people, who are disproportionately Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. We know that a national election is not how we reach the liberated world we all desire, but that doesn’t mean we can afford to sit this one out.
We will work to defeat Trumpism no matter who becomes the Democratic candidate. However, the primaries are a time when we can make a big difference in how we defeat Trump — whether through pushing progressive priorities or returning to the racist, neoliberal status quo. What we need to turn the tide of rising white supremacist power in this country is powerful, thriving racial justice movements that both win elections and build power outside the electoral arena.
After many conversations with our mentors and partners, Catalyst Action Fund is endorsing Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary.
Beyond any individual candidate, this election needs to be about building a movement. Regardless of who wins the election in November, we need movements that hold politicians accountable and push racial justice priorities. The movement building infrastructure of the Bernie campaign offers the best chance of carrying forward the organizing energy going into the election.
Bernie is the strongest candidate to beat Trump in the general election. Bernie’s coalition is the most multi-racial and most working class of any contender; the consistency of his long record reflects a principles-oriented approach to politics that sets him apart from the field and can help win back the trust of disaffected voters; his massive grassroots operation is working tirelessly to beat Trump by expanding the electorate, engaging would-be-voters who have `historically been ignored or used by both parties; and his left populism offers a necessary social justice alternative to Trump’s rhetoric of economic nationalism and racist scapegoating.
Many of our top issues are on the ballot this election. The issues we fight for and care about are being discussed and debated on the national stage, mostly being pushed by Sanders and sometimes Warren – Single-payer healthcare, passing a Green New Deal to address climate change, abolishing ICE, ending money bail, being resolutely anti-war, making public universities tuition-free and canceling all student debt, restoring voting rights to all currently and formerly incarcerated people, and meaningfully addressing disability rights.
While Bernie Sanders is our top choice, we know many progressives and people we respect are also supporting Elizabeth Warren, including Black Womxn For. It will take all of us to build the power we need to get a progressive candidate nominated and believe strongly that our side has nothing to gain from infighting.
Whoever wins the the Democratic nomination will undoubtedly need to be pushed on racial justice issues. As we throw our weight behind Bernie Sanders and commit ourselves to supporting the nominee whoever they may be, we must also commit to pressuring the next President of the United States to prioritize and center racial justice.
2020 requires us to act boldly. Join us as we organize like hell to beat back white supremacy and build a movement that can win in November and beyond!