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Thursday, May 06, 2021

In 2020, Democrats must remember down-ballot races

It goes without saying that the presidential election will be the main event of the 2020 campaign cycle. The White House is now home to a historically polarizing and unpopular president who is tearing away at the moral fabric and reputation of the country — and the Democrats must take it back. But we cannot forget the other fronts on which Democrats must play both offense and defense.

Mitch McConnell and the Republican Senate majority have ignored dozens of important bills passed by the House since Democrats took control of the lower chamber in the 2018 midterms. These include the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, the Equality Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, among others. If a Democrat wins the White House, the party will need to pick up three seats to win the majority. If President Trump is re-elected, they will need to pick up four seats.

Even though Republicans are defending 23 seats compared to the Democrats’ 12, gaining control of the upper chamber will be a tall order for Democrats. Key states include Arizona, Colorado, Alabama, Iowa, Georgia, North Carolina and Maine.

The Democrats winning the House majority in 2020will also be on the line. In 2018, after two years of a Republican trifecta in Washington, the Democrats successfully put a check on Trump’s power. While this was a big win, it was only one step in the Democrats’ post-2016 rebuilding process. If the party wants to accomplish its agenda, it will have to keep control here, too.

After the 2020 elections, the Democrats will want to be able to get things done. In order to fulfill their policy promises, get their chosen court appointments confirmed and rebuild a nation greatly damaged by the current president, a Democratic Congress will be necessary. 

The sprawling 2020 Democratic presidential primary field will soon wind down to a few contenders who are able to catch fire in the debates, attract the attention of early state voters and continue to fundraise enough to grow their staff. We have already seen lower tier candidates, including former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, drop out of the race in favor of a candidacy for the Senate. His decision to prioritize his state’s welfare over his own ego is admirable and should be an example for the other candidates who will inevitably meet a similar fate.

Let’s not forget the state-level races that will end up determining the outcome of the 2020 redistricting process. Across the country, in states like Florida, voters will select new state legislators that will have the power to redraw district lines following the 2020 census. Partisan gerrymandering has real consequences. For Democrats, winning majorities in state legislatures will be critical to the party’s prospects over the next decade.

Here in Florida, we have a lot of say when it comes to the country’s future. Our state is famous (some would say notorious) for its political influence in presidential campaigns. Those of us who are able to vote in Florida have a duty to not only vote but to make informed selections up and down the ballot. 2020 is about more than just defeating Trump, it’s about taking steps towards sustainable change.

Ben Lima is a UF political science senior. 

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