2016: Trumping Politics, Voters Unite
Around Bread & Butter Issues

Photo courtesy of Ohio Organizing Collaborative and its advocacy affiliate, Stand Up for Ohio

December 13, 2016 3:35 pm

Who knew preschool could bring Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton supporters together?

That’s what happened in Dayton, Ohio, where Trump and Clinton supporters came together around the unlikely issue of preschool expansion.


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The presidential election split Dayton – already one of the most racially divided cities in the country – largely along racial lines, with Clinton doing better with Black voters on the West side and Trump winning support among White voters on the East side, according to the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.


But on the same ballot, those two groups came together to approve an expansion of preschool for Dayton’s low-income families with approximately 56 percent of the vote.

If you ask most Americans to characterize the past year – and particularly the politics – you’ll probably hear some version of “divided.” But, a closer look reveals something more complex. In the midst of one of the most bitterly divisive presidential elections in history, voters came together across longstanding divisions of race, region and political ideology to push through initiatives around the one thing they all share: family.

The preschool vote in Dayton is only one of many instances this past year in which people came together to address the daily issues families face, even as they fought bitterly over who should become president.

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In Arizona, for example, voters approved $3.5 billion in new spending for schools. Renters won new rights in Silicon Valley. Residents finally secured safer drinking water in Tornillo, Texas. And across the country, cities and states raised their minimum wages.

“We are meeting people where they are in the community and having conversations with them…about the problems they want to solve,” said Michael McGovern, a spokesman for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, which helped lead the preschool campaign. “That is how we think a lot about our work and certainly our work next year and the years to come.”

In statehouses and city councils across the country, these types of wins mounted throughout 2016, proving change was possible. In California, the progressive Ella Baker Center for Human Rights teamed up with the more conservative Chief Probation Officers of California for the first time to end long-term isolation in juvenile detention facilities.

Successes in California, Ohio, and elsewhere reflect that families are often not single-issue, or even single party, voters. Instead, families find common ground around challenges they all face: finding decent child care, sending their kids to high-quality schools, securing good jobs, and building healthy communities.

In Mississippi, for example, parents and grassroots organizations joined working groups that will help implement a sweeping new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act. Adding their voices to this work is the result of 20 years of work, according to Joyce Hall Parker of the Mississippi Delta Catalyst Roundtable, a network of grassroots organizations.

Families make progress when they work together across political party, race, ethnicity and culture, said Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

“How powerful we can be when we start together – (those) are the stories people should look to,” said Poo, who is also co-director of Caring Across Generations, a movement to improve caregiving in America.

A Tale of Two Nations

Looking back, 2016 was a tale of two nations. One version was a nation so bitterly divided by political allegiances that presidential debates degenerated into name-calling and campaign rallies ended in violence. In the other version – less widely-noted, but equally important – communities came together across political divides to work together for better schools, paid family leave, worker rights, decent housing and a living wage.

What policies should the new president prioritize during the first 100 days in office?

During Election 2016, Equal Voice News asked the public in five online surveys, each listing three issues:

Survey 1

  • 33% – Education (498 votes)
  • 35% – Immigration (528 votes)
  • 32% – Health Care (483 votes)

Survey 2

  • 67% – Employment (678 votes)
  • 15% – Housing (152 votes)
  • 18% – Child Care (182 votes)

Even as they grapple with the results of the presidential election, advocates express hope that these local alliances could support progress, and families, in the coming year.

“The work doesn’t stop because the Trump era is upon us. I really see this drive, this commitment,” said Sally Lew, coordinator of the Equal Voice for Southern California Families Alliance. “It is about getting our people, our families…ready to advocate and be vigilant.”

Stories of progress and collaboration in 2016 were often overshadowed by the name-calling, threats and anxiety bred by the battle for the White House. In the new year, however, a shared commitment to family and community could be a force that brings people together, even as the presidential transition threatens federal progress on everything from health care to public education.

In 2017, Equal Voice News will track whether and how families and policymakers come together on behalf of their communities. What issues are families and organizations from Birmingham, Alabama to Los Angeles tackling? Is the partisan wound opened by the presidential election of 2016 being healed, at least partially, by local progress in 2017?

States, cities and communities begin 2017 with an impressive array of local wins to build on. These include:

Working Families


  • In Arizona, voters approved Proposition 123, which will invest $3.5 billion in education over 10 years.

What policies should the new president prioritize during the first 100 days in office?

During Election 2016, Equal Voice News asked the public in five online surveys, each listing three issues:

Survey 3

  • 64% – Criminal Justice Reform (663 votes)
  • 12% – Food Security (124 votes)
  • 24% – Environment (249 votes)

Survey 4

  • 35% – LGBTQ Issues (384 votes)
  • 29% – Transportation (318 votes)
  • 36% – Elder Care (395 votes)

Survey 5

  • 39% – Youth Engagement (486 votes)
  • 35% – Voting Rights (436 votes)
  • 26% – Fair Lending (324 votes)


Voting Rights

Criminal Justice

Health Care



  • In Northern California, residents in several towns won new housing protections. In Richmond, voters approved rent control. Residents in Mountain View and East Palo Alto won stronger eviction protection. Oakland voters approved stronger tenant protections.


Paul Nyhan is the senior writer for Equal Voice News. This report includes information from The Associated Press.

2016 © Equal Voice for America’s Families Newspaper


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