In this presidential election it was easy to think that policy did not matter.
After all, Trump did not have any policies. Literally. The easiest way interviewers could trip him up was to ask what he would do with the next four years. His only answer was “we’re going to be great again”.
If asked what he would do specifically, he answered a version of “well, we’re specifically going to be great again”.
And yet policy did matter. It always does.
Graph not appearing? View here
In Florida, a vote was held to raise the state minimum wage to $15 over the next six years, from its current rate of $8.56.
It was a policy Donald Trump outright rejected in the second presidential debate and Joe Biden strongly supported.
It needed 60% support to pass and it made it, in a state where Biden only got 48% of the vote.
And so around 12% of voters voted for a policy Biden supported, but then didn’t vote for him to be president.
Now clearly there are many more reasons to vote for a president than just their position on the minimum wage. But the important aspect of this is not that it shows Biden should have had a better ground game.
In the far too early wash-up, commentators overreacted before the votes had all been counted and looked at Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania and rushed to claim Biden failed because he was too “woke” (never actually defined), and needed to be more centrist.
And then the votes kept being counted, and they all looked a bit silly.
The thing is, Biden is actually quite socially progressive.
He took a while to get there, but as vice-president he actually came out in support of marriage equality before Barack Obama did.
He also this year has strongly supported transgender rights, replying to the mother of a transgender child in his NBC town hall that “the idea that an 8-year-old child or a 10-year-old child decides, ‘you know I decided I want to be transgender. That’s what I think I’d like to be. It would make my life a lot easier.’ There should be zero discrimination.”
He said in 2012 that transgender rights were the “civil rights issue of our time” – that is well ahead of many in his own party.
And he won Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – states that are your stereotypical blue-collar workers states.
Guess what? If they like and trust you, they will go with you.
Biden also has a strong climate change policy because, bizarrely for a Democratic candidate, he became more progressive after securing the nomination. His energy plan includes a commitment for complete carbon-free power by 2035.
Alas the Senate, if it retains its Republican majority, will do everything it can to stop him, but again, he did not race to the centre during the election, and yet he did not lose the centre.
Climate change is real, but you can’t win the debate if people truly don’t think you believe that is the case because you hedge about coalmines.
Yes he lost Florida, but the people won. Workers there will be seeing a raise in the minimum wage. And this is why progressive parties must keep pushing progressive policies – they change the country and improve lives.
Four years ago the move to raise the wage to $15 was still something Hillary Clinton could fudge, whether she really supported it or not. But grassroots organisations kept pushing, Bernie Sanders pushed, lobby organisations such as “Florida For A Fair Wage” kept pushing.
This time around Biden was full-throated in his support, as is the entire Democratic party. And even in a state where Biden lost, over 60% voted in favour of it.
So yes, Biden lost that state, but that pushing and advocacy meant the policy won.
Policy matters, not because it might affect an election result but because it affects people’s lives – and that is something progressives should always fight for.