Voters will realize they 'just won't survive' with Trump as president, says activist DeRay Mckesson

Max Zahn

In the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, all seven candidates made the case for why they can defeat President Donald Trump. In a newly released interview, activist and podcast host DeRay Mckesson says Democratic voters shouldn’t worry too much about it — voters will realize it’s not in their interest to vote for Trump.

“What's interesting about Trump is that the trauma is not ending — he’s just keeping it steady,” says Mckesson, who came to prominence in 2014 as a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The closer we get to election time, people will realize that whether they like the nominee or not, they just won't survive in a world where he’s president,” Mckesson adds.

The Trump presidency has reminded Democratic voters of the importance of the nation’s highest elected office, Mckesson said.

“There are a lot of people, even on the left, who participated in language and a logic that said, president doesn't matter, right? Vote local,” Mckesson says.

“Then enter Trump, and people realized that that position was a wild position to be in,” he adds.

Polling data both supports and challenges the prediction of a Democratic victory in the general election next November.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders each lead Trump nationally by a margin of 52% to 48%, according to a survey released by Emerson College and 7News Boston on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the poll, which queried 1,222 registered voters and had a margin for error of +/-2.7%, found Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren leads Trump 51% to 49% and Buttigieg sits tied with Trump.

In swing states, the results are even murkier. A New York Times poll last month found that Biden narrowly leads Trump in four of six key swing states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. In those states, Sanders narrowly leads Trump in three states and trails him in the others; Warren trails Trump in three states, runs even with him in two, and is ahead of him in one, the poll found.

Such polls can shift significantly in the months leading up to a general election, though Mckesson said voters will become increasingly motivated to defeat Trump as election day nears.

“People will mobilize out of necessity,” Mckesson says.

In 2016, Mckesson backed Sanders in the Democratic primary but supported former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the general election — a choice he described in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

“From the left, people were like, I can't believe you would sell out like that,” he recalls about the response to the op-ed. “You know, you're like, I believe [Trump], right? I believe him when he says he's going to do all this damage in the country. But I think those people will get it together [in 2020].”

Mckesson made the comments during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Age 34, Mckesson leapt onto the national stage five years ago when he joined protests against the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, becoming a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter movement. The host of a podcast called “Pod Save the People,” Mckesson published a memoir last year called “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope.”

In 2016, Time Magazine named him one of the 30 most influential people on the internet.

Activist and podcast host DeRay Mckesson appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.
Activist and podcast host DeRay Mckesson appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

The House had a ‘responsibility’ to impeach Trump

While Mckesson believes Trump will lose in 2020, he said the House had a “responsibility” to impeach Trump even if the Senate ultimately acquits him.

Mckesson criticized Democratic leaders for putting off impeachment earlier in Trump’s term, but credited Democratic New York City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for advocating that the House uphold its role in the proceedings.

“People like AOC have it perfect,” says Mckesson. “We have a responsibility, and we do our part.”

“When it goes to Senate, they have to do their part,” Mckesson adds. “If they don't remove, then they don't remove, but that doesn't mean that we actually don't uphold our end of the bargain.”

On Wednesday night, the House voted in a near-uniform party line vote to impeach Trump on two articles: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Just three House Democrats chose not to side with their party, including Hawaii Representative and Democratic Presidential Candidate Tulsi Gabbard, who voted present on both articles.

Ocasio-Cortez called for the opening of an impeachment inquiry back in May, citing the Mueller Report’s evidence of obstruction committed by Trump; Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a close ally of Ocasio-Cortez, drew attention in January when she called for Trump’s impeachment hours after she was sworn into office.

A set of activist groups — including Indivisible, MoveOn, Need to Impeach, and Stand Up America — launched a campaign in August to push House Democratic leaders to open an inquiry.

“If anything, it was odd to see the left sort of slow down the impeachment talk for so long,” Mckesson says. “Then we finally get to the Ukraine moment, and people are like, ‘oh, that's really bad.’ You're like, well, he's done a lot of really bad things.”

“It's good that we're moving forward. It is still sort of weird to see Trump be so aggressive and so intense, and people still be reticent about fighting him,” he adds.

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.

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