Election Plan A and Plan B: Different Strategies. Same Fierce Goals.

Noreen Farrell
4 min readNov 5, 2020


By Noreen Farrell, Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates

On days like this, political winds feel determinative. They affect the pace of our progress toward justice and equality. They can fan flames of hate and oppression and threaten immediate relief for millions in crisis across the nation. In an excruciatingly close election like the unfolding Presidential race, these political winds reveal critical work ahead needed to unify the nation on issues ranging from public health to gender and racial justice to economic recovery.

But as we grapple with and strategize about the various scenarios presented by Election 2020, remember this: political tides do not determine our movement’s goals. They simply force us to be more creative about strategy. The past four years have taught us well.

No matter what the outcome of the election, remember our power fueling our goals. We will continue to strengthen the rights of women and LGBTQI+ people to work without discrimination, hazardous work conditions, or harassment. We will defend the right of students to be educated without the threat of sexual assault. We will demand government budget allocations that reflect our values of safety and dignity for all.

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Our power on the policy front

As we speak, dozens of pieces of progressive federal legislation await more votes. They would strengthen fair pay laws, combat sexual harassment, expand paid leave, and better protect pregnant workers. This election will determine their fate. But Plan B continues a strategy that has proven effective across the country over the past four years: states can guarantee federal rights under fire.

In the past year, dozens of states and cities enacted stronger anti-harassment laws, instituted or expanded paid leave, raised the minimum wage, and strengthened fair pay protections. Some states prioritized community health and affordable childcare in budget decisions. Many passed legislation to guarantee federal rights under attack. This past year, for example, California passed a bill that protects students from new federal rollbacks meant to silence reports of sexual violence, and another that will require employer pay data reporting (critical to evaluating pay disparities) stalled at the federal level by the Trump Administration. As the country gets its federal houses in order, states across the country are contemplating replication of innovative legislation that is gaining traction elsewhere.

Our power in the courts

A change at the White House would allow us to quickly dispose of dozens of unlawful and unjust executive orders issued over the past four years. These include Trump executive orders that roll back labor and civil rights requirements for federal contract workers and ban their diversity trainings; that limit families’ access to food assistance and affordable healthcare; that restricted the movement of some immigrants and kept children in cages at the border, separated from their parents.

“Plan B continues a strategy that has proven effective over the past four years: states can guarantee federal rights under fire.”

But absent a President who will rescind these Trump-era executive orders, our Plan B must continue to topple these unlawful measures in the courts. Over the past four years, dozens of suits have been brought to do just that in the lower courts (like challenges to Trump’s Muslim ban and his separation of families at the borders). Others are pending, like federal lawsuits against Betsy DeVos challenging new Department of Education rules that undermine student safety from sexual harassment and assault. Plan B will press these judicial strategies, with care of course to keep as many as possible away from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The power of our purse

As consumers and breadwinners and taxpayers, we have extraordinary influence on corporate policy and government spending, no matter what the election results. While the federal government fanned racist flames in the face of police violence, our consumer dollars supported hundreds of corporations joining the Black Lives Matter movement to decry the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others.

We’ve flexed our power as taxpayers in cities across the country considering the reallocation of funds away from the over-policing of Black and Brown people and toward programs that contribute to economic, gender, and racial justice, investing in schools, health and social services, affordable housing and childcare options, and food assistance programs.

So as we contemplate our Election 2020 Plans A and B on the strategy front, let’s center movement goals that are steadfast through political winds. Remember our power. We move forward as we always do — together.

Noreen Farrell is Executive Director of Equal Rights Advocates, a national gender justice legal nonprofit based in San Francisco.



Noreen Farrell

Executive Director, Equal Rights Advocates; Chair, Equal Pay Today! Campaign; Chair, Stronger California; Founding Partner, Women’s Wealth Gap Initiative