Arizona’s Blue Shift Rooted in Years of Grassroots Latinx Organizing Against GOP’s Xenophobia

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One of the crucial states that could decide the presidential election is Arizona, where Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump with thousands of ballots left to count. Trump won Arizona in 2016, and if Biden’s lead holds, he will be just the second Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1948. “The lion’s share of the credit belongs to sustained community organizing in the state,” says Marisa Franco, director and co-founder of Mijente, a national digital organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx communities. She says the Trump administration has been disastrous for immigrants and immigrant rights groups, and a second term would be even worse. “A shift in administration would give us a fighting chance,” she says.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The Quarantine Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we turn to the presidential race in Arizona, where Joe Biden is leading Donald Trump by more than 68,000 votes, with 86% reporting. The Associated Press and Fox News have called the state for Biden — and they did that over a day ago — but other outlets, including CNN, have yet to declare a winner. Biden’s lead narrowed early Thursday morning when Arizona announced results of a batch of mail-in ballot, mainly from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. Counting the remaining votes could take several days.

Several hundred Trump supporters gathered outside the Maricopa County election center last night, chanting “Count the vote.” Many of the protesters were openly carrying AR-15 assault rifles and other guns. Donald Trump won Arizona in 2016. So, they were [chanting] “Count the vote,” and that’s opposed to the group, what Donald Trump Jr. has referred to as the army of supporters, that were outside a Detroit counting center, where Trump was ahead in Michigan, and they were saying “Stop the vote” as they stormed into a counting center. But in Arizona, where they were behind, Trump insisted they count every vote.

Now, if Biden’s lead holds in Arizona, he’ll be just the second Democratic presidential candidate to win the state since 1948. Arizona’s blue shift is in large part due to a decade of grassroots organizing, particularly in Latinx communities against Arizona’s anti-immigration policies and Maricopa County’s infamous former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Meanwhile, in a closely watched Senate race, Democrat Mark Kelly, the astronaut and the husband of Gabby Giffords, the congressmember from Tucson who was shot in the head — yes, Mark Kelly has unseated Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally.

We go now to Phoenix, where we’re joined by Marisa Franco. She’s co-director and co-founder of Mijente, which means “my people,” a national digital organizing hub for Latinx and Chicanx communities, which this year has led a national campaign to mobilize Latinx voters.

Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Marisa. Talk about the significance of what’s happening right now in Arizona, the explosion of the Latinx vote.

MARISA FRANCO: The lion’s share — I think the first thing to say is that the lion’s share of the credit belongs to sustained community organizing in the state. The other night, you know, all of us were watching. It was — I think, probably like many of you all, we were having this feeling of doom, of 2016. And 2016, we had this moment of like — it was bittersweet, right? We finally took Sheriff Arpaio out of office, but, really, you know, as soon as that was announced, it was very clear that Trump was going to win the election. And so, as we waited for the results this year and we heard about Florida, we heard about — you know, we started seeing the numbers coming out of Ohio and coming out of the Midwest, it felt really good this year to have our state be a shot in the arm. We were very excited about the results.

At this point, we are still awaiting what the results are at the top of the ticket, but we have won seats at the county Board of Supervisors. The Red for Ed ballot initiative won. We’ve elected, it looks like, a progressive county attorney in Julie Gunnigle, and just continue to see a shift in the state. And I think it’s important to name that it’s a shift that comes at the efforts of many, many people. It is sustained community organizing. And it’s an embracing of a multiplicity of strategies. This is just as much owed to the people that took to the streets in protest, the people that called for boycotts, as much as it is the people who knocked hundreds of thousands of doors to register and mobilize voters.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Marisa, what do you think accounts for the difference in Arizona compared to other states when it comes to Latinx voters? Is it this organizing that you’re speaking of?

MARISA FRANCO: Absolutely. And, you know, Juan was after my own heart in your last segment, because he’s naming numbers that are astounding. Our community, the main story of this election, in reference to Latino voters, is that we came out. We showed up, and we showed out, the vast majority rebuking and rejecting the Trump agenda. Arizona is one example of how that’s done. I think it’s an example that can be replicated.

I think we should not take for granted that this means that Arizona will always be blue or Latinos will always come out. And frankly, that’s something the Democratic Party does pretty often. Our community is an afterthought, and there isn’t a substantive effort to think of how — what are the kind of issues that matter to us, how can we be engaged in a meaningful way, how are we involved in decision-making and leadership of political campaigns, and often are getting the very short end of the stick on resources, as well.

And so, frankly, you know, you could probably look at a lot of different examples. Arizona is one of them. And the Arizona example, I think it really demonstrates that consistent, sustained organizing is really critical for the community to actually feel that something is changing and that they have a role in it.

To read full transcript of watch the news video segment go here.