Opinion | The 2020 election is a test that swing voters can’t afford to fail

By Alison Sivitz, Staff Columnist

It was a rainy September morning. After lying awake all night pondering the rapid decline of American democracy, I rolled over, unlocked my phone and began reading bleak tweets and Instagram infographics about everything else going wrong in the world.

Then, after completing my morning ritual — compartmentalizing feelings of doom, rubbing my eyes and chanting “Bernie Sanders” three times in the mirror — I promptly dialed into the wrong conference call and spent two minutes listening to saxophone-heavy hold music before realizing my mistake. Doom returning, I frantically redialed, wondering how I would realistically be able to help salvage American democracy when I couldn’t even join a conference call correctly on the first try.

Luckily, Ilana Glazer — a comedy heavyweight and progressive activist — was on the other end, so I decided to ask her.

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Glazer has teamed up with nonprofit Generator Collective and liberal super PAC PACRONYM to create “Cheat Sheet for the Voting Booth,” a new web series aimed at educating swing-state voters about down-ballot races while building enthusiasm for Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.

The series consists of shareable infographics about progressive candidates, as well as videos in which Glazer interviews friends and celebrities from crucial states about what’s at stake in key 2020 matchups up and down the ballot. The videos are funny, digestible and the exact sort of social media content that voters need to watch and share in the lead up to November.

The races promoted by “Cheat Sheet” are winnable, too. Not only does the series stress the importance of electing Biden and Harris, but it highlights down-ballot races — state and local races that appear lower on the ballot — that are genuinely within progressives’ grasp.

“We teamed up with PACRONYM, a group of experts,” Glazer said. “These experts have given us the races that are closest — most possible — to being winnable. These Democrats down ballot are absolutely winnable races, and they are who actually affect your daily life.”

Originally a supporter of Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s campaign platforms, Glazer understands the degree to which progressive swing voters — like myself and countless other young people — crave exciting candidates and harbor anxiety about the impending Biden/Trump showdown. But despite the presidential race feeling a bit dry and unsettling, Glazer insisted that “[this election cycle] is very juicy at the local level” and added that it’s “something that young people can sink their teeth into.”

Glazer is right, which is precisely why young swing voters need to pay attention to “Cheat Sheet.” For many of us, November-related anxiety stems from the inability to elect a progressive such as Sanders or Warren at the top of the ticket. Voting for progressives down-ballot, though, is where we can channel some of the disappointment into substantive action.

For progressives, the entire appeal of a Sanders or Warren presidency was rooted deeply in the desire to elect someone who fights for the little guy and understands the daily struggles of everyday Americans. By working diligently to win contentious down-ballot races across the state, we gain the ability to grant the actual “little guy” with power and influence. It’ll be like electing a thousand little Bernies.

In the first “Cheat Sheet” episode, Glazer sits down with fellow comedic powerhouse and “Broad City” co-creator Abbi Jacobson to discuss a few of the Keystone State’s most exciting down-ballot candidates, including Auditor Eugene DePasquale and state House candidates Deb Ciamacca and Patty Smith.

Glazer expressed high levels of personal excitement for other Pennsylvania candidates, as well.

“There’s this one woman, Janet Diaz, who’s the first Latinx representative in Lancaster County,” Glazer said. “That alone is so exciting.”

But while hopeful, the “Cheat Sheet” videos don’t ignore reality — Glazer and company frequently acknowledge the less-than-perfect conditions of 2020’s biggest race.

“I would love to be able to vote for Bernie or Warren,” Jacobson said. “But we’re not there anymore. They’re still doing incredible work, but this one sheet has to be Biden. He opens his ears, he knows that so much of the country is in support of more progressive ideas.”

Episode four of “Cheat Sheet” — which is also dedicated to Pennsylvania — echoed this sentiment. The video — in which Glazer sits down with comedy legend Wanda Sykes — highlights the fact that President Donald Trump won the state by a mere 0.7% in 2016. In turn, Glazer emphasizes a harsh reality — Biden losing Pennsylvania could easily result in Trump’s reelection.

“If we don’t win Pennsylvania for Joe Biden, we don’t win. Rock-hard stop,” Glazer said. “Pennsylvania is the one. Number one.”

This is precisely why young swing voters need to pull their weight.

“I’m talking specifically to young, white 20-somethings,” Glazer said. “You do not write Bernie. You do not write Kanye.”

She’s right — young swing voters will play a vital role in determining the outcome of the presidential election, and there’s absolutely no room for apathy or third-party voting. This cycle, millennials and Generation Z will make up 37% of the electorate, and we can’t afford to selfishly fumble that responsibility. Plus, Pennsylvania voters are quite literally holding America’s future in their hands, so we need to get on board and move full steam ahead into November. There’s simply too much at stake.

Not only do these honest conversations make “Cheat Sheet” more enjoyable than aimlessly scouring Google for election information, but they meet progressive voters where they are and remind them of the bigger picture. In an election that simultaneously feels like a compromise and the most urgent event in recent history, we have to share and engage with these types of social media campaigns to remain informed and enthusiastic. In doing so, we may get a few steps closer to what we hoped to gain from a Sanders or Warren presidency.

“Truly, I beg of everyone to share the ‘Cheat Sheet’ episodes and the cheat sheets themselves,” Glazer said. “[Also] make sure you vote and your vote counts.”

And just like that, my doom spiral morphed into determination. Because myself and other young swing-state voters have the unique ability to affect change this year, we should all be working our hardest to elect Biden, win down-ballot races and energize fellow progressive voters. After all, one step in the right direction is far better than six steps backward, over a cliff and into the unforgiving depths of fascism — the metaphorical conference call we aren’t supposed to be on.

Alison Sivitz writes about pop culture and politics. Follow her on Twitter @ali_sivi. Write to her at [email protected]