The Nation, October 29, 2020
According to canvassers in battleground states, the Democratic Party hasn’t done enough to reach out to the very constituency it relies on most.
Detroit may be a car capital, but Wendy Caldwell-Liddell wants to meet at the bus station. The 29-year-old founder of Mobilize Detroit canvasses there regularly, because she knows she’s likely to meet people mainstream Democrats are failing to reach—people who have to go to work, or take care of their children, and are using a public service to get there. People, in her words, who are “on a mission.”
That would be a good description of Caldwell-Liddell herself. A 29-year-old urban planner and grant-writing consultant by trade, as well as a mother of two, she doesn’t have a lot of time to spare. Yet, since August, she’s been coming to the Rosa Parks Transit Center and other local hubs every week in an attempt to mobilize Detroit voters. It wasn’t easy at first.
“A lot of people [are] just completely uninterested in choosing between Trump and Biden, uninterested in the national elections just as a whole,” she told me in early October. But she found her stride when she set the presidential election aside, and began approaching people about local issues instead: police surveillance, housing and gentrification, and water shutoffs, to name a few.
“A lot of people out here tell me, ‘I have never voted before,’ but they hear the local issues I’m talking about, and that makes them want to register,” she said.