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.
This election is the most important election in many years, possibly in our lifetimes. Lives depend on it. Communities are threatened by everything from white supremacist street violence, to covid-19, to more blatant attacks on immigrants, to a dire economic crisis, to increased climate chaos, and more. For those of us who care about racial justice, sitting this election out is not an option.
Electing a Democrat in this election will change the terrain on which we fight. We know that the democratic ticket is not going to get us to the liberation we are fighting for. But they will give us more breathing room in which we can organize. Four more years of Trump is not an option.
That means voting for a democratic presidential ticket, and that means joining forces with any of the hundreds of progressive organizations that are already in motion talking to voters, protecting the vote, and turning people out for the biggest landslide against white supremacy we can possibly have.
In 2016, we, like many progressives and social justice organizations, mostly sat out the election. We cannot do that again. That election was so close, and if we had participated, maybe we could have changed the outcome. Just like in 2016, Trump is already setting the stage to contest the election, while doing everything he can to suppress the vote. We need to defeat him by the largest margin possible. We are a force to be reckoned with, and we must bring that power to the electoral arena, now. We must resoundingly defeat Trump at the ballot box, and build our movements for the long-haul.
We have only several weeks left before November 3rd. Not sure where to engage? Here are a few projects that are prepared to plug volunteers in right away:
- Seed the Vote is partnering with grassroots people of color-led organizations in swing states to reach key voters, while building those organizations’ power for the long haul.
- With Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), do voter outreach to Georgia with Collect Your Cousins, or join to take action in the case of a contested election with the Election Defenders
- Protect the Results is building a mass base of people ready to mobilize if Donald Trump refuses to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election.
We are guided and inspired by radical women and queers of color who have called us clearly into this work. Find powerful quotes below to be moved into action.
With heart and hope,
Catalyst Action Fund
Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, “It is not hyperbole when we say that this election cycle is probably one of the most important in a generation. And you know, its no longer about parties – at this point, this is about survival. And we cannot afford to be ambivalent about this process we cannot afford to let somebody else figure it out we cannot afford to just simply rest on its not good enough and it doesn’t do enough. The fact of the matter is our lives are at stake, our communities are at stake.”
Marisa Franco, Mijente Director, “It’s up to us now to build the national political vehicle to continue mobilizing against Trump. He has always been our target, and our commitment to get him out is all the stronger.
After years of denigration and attacks, for Latinos this election is a fight to demand respect. Now, in the middle of a global pandemic, it is linked to our very survival. This public health crisis shed a painful spotlight on how Latinxs are among the most directly and disproportionately devastated as a result of having a cruel and negligent president in charge.”
Noura Erakat, Palestinian-American organizer, professor, and human rights attorney: “We have to get Trump out of office in order to create enough room to do the political work that we want to do,” said Erakat. “[Biden’s] definitely a foe, but a foe under whose liberal administration gives a little bit more breathing room for us to organize effectively.”
Angela Davis: “I don’t see this election as choosing a candidate who will be able to lead us in the right direction. It will be about choosing a candidate who can be most effectively pressured into allowing more space for the evolving anti-racist movement. Biden is very problematic in many ways…. But, I say but, Biden is far more likely to take mass demands seriously. Far more likely than the current occupant of the White House. So this coming November, the election, will ask us not so much to vote for the best candidate, but to vote for or against ourselves. To vote for ourselves I think means that we will have to campaign for and vote for Biden.”
Taina Vargas-Edmond, co-founder of Initiate Justice: “as an organizer and a leader, I understand VERY CLEARLY that it will be much easier to move a liberal centrist government than a right-wing fascist regime. We can not afford 4 more years of Trump. Some of the most vulnerable will literally not survive it.
So I am voting #BidenHarris on November 3, and I hope you all will too. My advocacy does not start or stop at the ballot box. Voting is just one of many tools we have.
I will continue to fight because I believe in a better future and I believe in people power. I have hope that 2024 / 2028 will be different, and I will work hard toward that vision.
Come on y’all. Let’s hold the complexity of what it means to cast a vote for a harm-reduction ticket while continuing to fight like hell for the radical liberation future we envision. ✊?”
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!