It's Not a Sprint, It's a Marathon': Kevin Alexander Gray on the importance of organizing between elections.

AuthorMiyasaki, Jan

Kevin Alexander Gray, a contributor to and longtime friend of The Progressive, was Jesse Jackson's South Carolina campaign manager in 1988 and Tom Harkin's Southern campaign coordinator in 1992. He is the former president of the ACLU of South Carolina, where he still lives.

Gray is the co-editor of Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence and the author of Waiting for Lightning to Strike: The Fundamentals of Black Politics and The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama. We spoke in a live interview on WORT-FM, a community radio station in Madison, Wisconsin, on the day after the November 3 election. Here's an edited transcript.

Q: What did election day look like for you in South Carolina?

Kevin Alexander Gray: Well, I had gone out and did a little project in some select counties with an Indian American friend of mine that focused on neighborhoods serviced by Indian American or Arab American businesses. You have a lot of poor communities and you have all these little stores in those neighborhoods, so we just put out signs that said "Vote, our lives depepnd on it." And then we had window stickers that said Vote, we re in this together," for when people walk into those stores. And of course, here in South Carolina with Jaime Harrison, I had written an article in The Nation and said that Jaime had to get Obama numbers, which he did, but the downward trend of Lindsey Graham's voters would have had to keep going down, too.

His last election, he won with 665,000 votes, this time he got 1.3 million votes. Even if Jaime Harrison had gotten all the nonwhite registered voters, which is right at 1.1 million, you would still have to have a significant white vote for Harrison.

Now, there are a couple of things that happened in this election. One is the Coronavirus, the other is organizing. The Democrats did the responsible thing. They weren't doing door-to-door canvassing, and they didn't have a lot of big rallies. Trump came into the state and [Grahams supporters] weren't afraid to meet with their people despite the virus.

Q: What could have been done differently?

Gray: While there was massive October early voting, the ground game for the Democrats wasn't as strong as it could have been. And when you look at the local elections, the house races and the senate races here in South Carolina, the Democrats lost at least three state senate seats and two house seats.

So now we are going to have to deal with the issue of...

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