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Ben Jealous: Organizing Starts Now, With Love

If you unfriended your Trump-loving friends on Facebook, re-friend them. If you don't know anyone who voted for Trump, make a new friend. Then listen.
Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton Hosts Election Night Party
Attendees embrace after an election night party for 2016 Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton at the Javits Center in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016.Bloomberg via Getty Images

What do we do daddy? I'm crying.

Those were the words I awoke to this morning.

My daughter, like millions of American children, has not just witnessed the election of a president who has openly bullied women, Latinos, Blacks, Muslims, the parents of war heroes, and many other groups of Americans. She has watched his rhetoric change the atmosphere on her playground as children mimic his hate like mocking birds. It hurts her. It scares her.

My response to her: Dry your tears. A better day will come. We must all pull together to make it happen.

How? She asked. I told her we would discuss it tonight. Here is what I will try to explain to her in simpler terms:

The resistance begins today.

We must take Trump at his word. He has promised to assail the rights of women and minorities, expand coal mining and fracking, build the equivalent of the Berlin Wall between us and Mexico, said he does not believe in a Federal minimum wage, and threatened to escalate our conflicts abroad. His respect for the US Constitution is questionable at best.

We must build the most robust movements we have ever known to defend our rights and those of our neighbors, protect our planet, end poverty, and shift the world away from war and towards peace.

Democratic National Convention: Day One
Former NAACP President, Ben Jealous delivers a speech on the first day of the Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center, July 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.Alex Wong / Getty Images

Leadership begins with listening.

If you are tempted to dismiss most of Trump's supporters as being as hateful as his rhetoric, please don't.

If you unfriended your Trump-loving friends on Facebook, re-friend them.

If you don't know anyone who voted for Trump, make a new friend.

Then listen. Among the messages you are most likely to hear: the system is rigged in favor of the elites and we could not vote for someone who embodied that system.

Sound familiar? Replace the phrase "elites" with "1%" and it's a core message from progressive movements that span from labor to civil rights to occupy to the Bernie Campaign.

That is the message that upended the Democratic primary. That is the message that won the general election. That is the message that can unite most Americans tomorrow.

Establishment Presidential Campaigns Lose

It may be hard to hear let alone accept. But when the dust settles, I suspect we will find that Hillary lost this year for many of the reasons Mitt Romney did four years ago. She over-invested in ads marketing her campaign to Republican moderates (a decidedly shrinking demographic) and under-invested in building her base with people of color (rapidly growing demographics).

She lost FL by approximately 120,000 votes. There are more than 600,000 un-registered Blacks in that state.

There are a couple of key differences of course between Romney's failure and hers. He would have had to convince people of color to support him. She just had to invest in registering and turning out those who were otherwise unlikely to vote. She lost FL by approximately 120,000 votes. There are more than 600,000 un-registered Blacks in that state. We could have registered all of them for a small fraction of her ad budget.

Think about that for a moment. Then consider this.

Hillary Clinton Holds Election Night Event New York City
People react at an election night event at the Javits Center November 8, 2016 in New York City, New York.Toni L. Sandys / The Washington Post/Getty Images

Every American, Every City, Every County, Every State Counts

The Democratic Party stopped talking to most working class white men a long time ago. They roared back last night.

For more than twenty years, most of our party's leaders have supported trade policies that have gutted our cities. We lost Michigan last night (in part, we will likely find, because more black men than Dems expected voted for Trump).

No longer can we have a political conversation with every demographic of Americans except economically struggling white men outside the cities.

No longer can we have an economic agenda that promises more jobs for our country but fails to replace good jobs in the specific cities, counties, and communities where they are lost.

Creating a new New Deal can no longer be empty rhetoric we "aspire to". It must become the heart of the reforms we actually deliver.

We can win. We did win. We will win bigger next time.

All across the country we won major progressive victories last night. We increased the minimum wage in AZ, CO, WA, and ME. We passed public financing of elections in one of the largest counties in MD. We sent a progressive immigrants' rights organizer to Congress from Seattle. We sent a black woman who is a leading criminal justice reformer to the US Senate from California.

But if we are going to build an even bigger, more successful, progressive movement we must also take stock of our near misses.

RELATED: Analysis: Next President Could Shape Supreme Court for Generations

In NJ's 7th CD last night, Peter Jacob came within 40,000 votes of unseating Congressman Leonard Lance. Lance supports Trump and is rated the 5th-least effective member of the US House of Representatives. Lance raised more than $1,000,000 for his reelection.

Jacob is a South Asian American 31-year-old social worker who was inspired to run by Bernie Sanders. He ran on a platform of increasing good jobs and banning fracking. He beat the establishment Democratic candidate in the primary easily despite having been significantly outspent.

As of two-weeks ago, Jacob had raised $106,000 or about 1/10 of Lance. He had also pulled even in the polls with about 10% undecided.

Bill Clinton Joins Steve Aoki At Get-Out-The-Vote Performance For Hillary Clinton
A "Love trumps hate." sign hangs on a podium before a get-out-the-vote performance by DJ/producer Steve Aoki for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton as part of Hillary for America's "Love Trumps Hate" concert series at the Cox Pavilion on November 3, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

His campaign was all but ignored by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and mainstream media. (The only exception was momentary coverage when his house was spray painted with racist graffiti and swastikas). When I asked why, media execs and party insiders told me the same thing: he has not raised enough money. Donations surged from Bernie Sanders supporters to Jacob in the last week. It was too late.

In the end, Lance had the money in time to convince the undecideds to put him over the top. Jacob didn't. Still it's hard to say Jacob ran a bad campaign. Its also hard not to wonder what might have happened if the DCCC had been willing to put their faith in this young insurgent.

If we are going to build a progressive movement that can harness the populist energy in the country in ways that move our nation towards love, we must find a way to support candidates like Jacob better and earlier. It can be done inside the Democratic Party. It can be done outside the party. It probably should be both.

Cry if you need to today. It's healthy. It's human.

But tomorrow begins a new day and with it a new chance to build an even better America.

Our choice must not be whether to embrace and engage our fellow Americans who voted for Trump or to build great protest movements against his worst policy goals. It must be both.

Ben Jealous is the immediate past president of the NAACP. He is a visiting professor at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs and a board member of Our Revolution. He is an MSNBC contributor.

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