Power Concedes Nothing



“Thanks to the contributors and editors of this immensely valuable collection, the lessons gleaned from an array of successful organizing strategies will not be lost to the historical amnesia that often claims such local but transformative work.”
—Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, UC Santa Cruz

“Fierce contributors offer us battle-tested wisdom for the struggle ahead.”
—Bonnie Castillo, Executive Director, National Nurses United

“The broad center–left coalition to defeat Trump in 2020 was an artful display of strategic unity and tireless mass mobilization. These writers give invaluable insights into how that victory was won...”
—Barbara Ransby, author of Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement

“An antidote to the sort of superficial gloss that often passes for political analysis.”
—Manuel Pastor, director, USC Equity Research Institute

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About the Book

The November 2020 US election was arguably the most consequential since the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln—and grassroots leaders and organizers played crucial roles in the contention for the presidency and control of both houses of Congress.

Power Concedes Nothing tells the stories behind a victory that won both the White House and the Senate and powered progressive candidates to new levels of influence. It describes the on-the-ground efforts that mobilized a record-breaking turnout by registering new voters and motivating an electorate both old and new. In doing so it charts a viable path to victory for the vital contests upcoming in 2022 and 2024.

Contributors include: Cliff Albright, Yong Jung Cho, Larry Cohen, Sendolo Diaminah, Neidi Dominguez, David Duhalde, Alicia Garza, Ryan Greenwood, Arisha Michelle Hatch , Jon Liss, Thenjiwe McHarris, Andrea Cristina Mercado, Maurice Mitchell, Rafael Návar, Deepak Pateriya, Ai-jen Poo, W. Mondale Robinson, Art Reyes III, Nsé Ufot and Mario Yedidia


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A project of Convergence–A Magazine of Radical Insights

420 pages • Paperback ISBN 978-1-68219-330-3 • E-book ISBN 978-1-68219-329-7

About the Editors

Linda Burnham is an activist, writer and strategist who served as National Research Director and Senior Advisor at the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She was a leader in the Third World Women’s Alliance and, for 18 years, executive director of the Women of Color Resource Center.

Max Elbaum is a longstanding activist in the peace, anti-racist and radical movements. He is the author of Revolution in the Air and is currently an editor of Convergence (formerly Organizing Upgrade).

María Poblet is a longtime community organizer with roots in Buenos Aires, Guadalajara, and East Los Angeles. She was instrumental in building Causa Justa :: Just Cause and currently serves as the Executive Director of Grassroots Power Project and as a board member of the Bay Area Rising Action Fund.

Read an Excerpt

Left and Center Against the Right

The 2020 elections served as a temperature check on where the country stood after four years of the most intense political polarization since the Civil War. The elections also served as a reading on the relative strength of various political blocs, that is, the capacity of left, right and center to shape the political terrain. Conservatives, having subordinated themselves to the far right, consolidated the Republican Party around the MAGA agenda of racial and imperial revenge, with Trump as Maximum Leader. White supremacist militias and Q-anon conspiracy theorists were welcomed into the fold. This newly dominant bloc eagerly looked toward another four-year term as an opportunity to double down on white minority, patriarchal rule. Despite a few notable defections from his camp and from the Republican Party, Trump went into the election with the advantages of his incumbency, the dated Electoral College system that confers advantages on white and rural voters, and a roused, highly motivated right-wing base.

Of course the main question to be settled by the election was whether a broad enough coalition could be forged to rebound from Hillary Clinton’s disastrous 2016 loss and toss Trump out of the White House. Mainstream Democrats had to at least nod to the Left. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign had demonstrated that a substantial swath of the electorate is open to a left-of-center political agenda. The campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in 2020 generated levels of excitement and support that confirmed the existence of a large constituency in favor of governance and policies well to the left of the Democratic Party mainstream. Their platforms, including a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, the cancellation of student loan and medical debt, a humane immigration policy, and higher taxation rates on corporations and the ultra-wealthy made it clear that neo-liberal austerity for the poor and precarious was not the only thing on offer. There is an alternative. Though their primary bids failed, their candidacies opened up new realms of possibility and sparked left imagination. …

The Uprising

On May 25, 2020, in the midst of presidential primary season, a murderous policeman pressed George Floyd’s last breath out of his body. Demonstrations against police violence and the summary execution of Black people spread throughout the country, led and energized by furious young Black protestors. Tens of millions of people took to the streets in the spring and summer of 2020, in demonstrations that were more numerous and located in more cities and towns than at any other point in U.S. history. The protests changed the racial climate. Black Lives Matter signs sprouted in shop windows and on lawns across the country. Corporations and institutions of every kind scrambled to respond to the “racial reckoning.” For many, a light bulb had finally been turned on. Others wondered why such belated enlightenment always seems to require the sacrifice of Black lives. In any case, the ruthless suffocation of George Floyd impacted the presidential contest and set off social and political currents that continue to shape today’s national dialogue. Debates over racist policing and incarceration and intractable, racialized economic inequities inevitably filtered into the campaigns. And the right-wing distortion industrial complex mangled anti-racist demands in ways that were guaranteed to energize their base. This continues today, with the Republican base mobilized to discredit any attempt to teach the history of U.S. racism, under the banner of opposition to critical race theory….

2022 and 2024

While the country took a small step back from a precipice on November 3, 2020, there was barely a pause before Trump loyalists rallied to a new cause—the alleged “steal” of the election. The violent, failed insurrection on January 6th drove home the level of commitment of Trump and his party to remaining in power by any and all means.

The lie that Trump won, and that a Democrat is illegitimately sitting in the White House, serves at least two purposes. The base, feeding on a constant stream of new false narratives, has been provided with a cause, which keeps it inflamed and stokes polarization. And Republican political operatives, in state houses and on election boards across the country have an excuse to introduce laws and procedures intended to constrain democracy and suppress the votes of the constituencies Democrats depend upon…

The midterm elections of 2022 and the presidential election of 2024 are shaping up to be pitched battles. Trump enablers, acolytes, wannabes and bankrollers are doing everything in their power to gain ground in 2022 and restore Trump in 2024. A Trump restoration would be far worse than his election in 2016. He has shown all of us who he is and what he stands for. And if health or criminal prosecution take him out of the running, other would-be strongmen are lining up to take his place. A GOP victory, whether by quasi-legitimate means or by what amounts to a coup, would signal a truly profound degeneration of the political space. As many have noted, right resurgence and the figure of an authoritarian strongman with fascistic leanings are phenomena not limited to the United States. But, given the place and power of the U.S. in global politics, the further shredding of democratic norms and institutions and/or a Trump restoration would likely incur disastrous consequences, both nationally and globally. Said another way, the stakes in 2022 and 2024 remain extraordinarily high.

We may be sure that the social justice organizations that share their experiences in this book are fully alert to what hangs in the balance for the constituencies and issues they represent. Whether the rich lessons of 2020 are absorbed and put to use by an expanded and more united progressive current in U.S. politics will, in no small measure, shape the future of democracy.

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