I'm Black and Jewish, and at Tonight's Debate I Want to Hear How Democrats Plan to Defeat White Nationalism | Opinion

Tonight, the Democratic party's presidential contenders will gather for another debate, the first since a radical white nationalist entered a Walmart in El Paso and shot 22 people to death, injuring dozens more.

The El Paso shooting is the latest reminder that white nationalism is not an abstract concept; for Jewish Americans, Muslim Americans, immigrants, Black Americans, the Latinx community, and many others, it is an existential and imminent threat that endangers our lives and must be urgently addressed. As a Jewish woman of color, I feel the threat of white nationalism personally and profoundly. That's why, with violence mounting against our communities from Pittsburgh to Gilroy, I am desperately hopeful that the moderators of tonight's debates will push the candidates toward a thoughtful discussion of their plans to address, mitigate, and defeat white nationalism.

Many of the Democratic candidates have made clear that they understand Trump's role in elevating and inciting white nationalists and have directly named him as one. They recognize the literal threat when he calls neo-Nazis "very fine people," describes immigrants as "invaders" in ways that mirror the manifestos of several mass shooters, and enacts racist policies that endanger the most vulnerable among us, from mass detention of immigrants in inhumane conditions to efforts to reduce nonwhite political power through the 2020 Census.

But calling out the president for his racist rhetoric and policies isn't enough on its own. He is making his mark and it will leave a scar. Any candidate seeking to replace Trump needs to show that they fully comprehend the dangers of white nationalism, can address how it has grown from the fringes to the mainstream, and lay out a comprehensive plan to defeat it. They also need to articulate how they will lead a diverse coalition that can exercise the political power needed to put their plans into action and heal the damage the president has caused. Tonight is a prime opportunity to hear from candidates about their vision for leading our nation in an all-hands-on-deck effort against bigotry and hatred.

What should those who care about defeating white nationalism demand from candidates? First, any plan to counter white nationalism should include proposals to combat the cultivation of violent right-wing extremism online on platforms like 8chan, where the El Paso shooter reportedly posted his racist manifesto. It should also hold tech companies accountable for the profits they make from extremism, and include programs that help people leave the world of white nationalism and fund robust anti-bias education in schools. Policies that ensure federal law enforcement agencies research and track violent white nationalist groups instead of surveilling and tracking black civil rights activists or profiling Muslim people are also essential. Police departments, armed forces, and other government agencies cannot be places where white nationalists find a foothold and build power. And undoubtedly, these steps must be combined with comprehensive policies to reform our nation's gun laws to keep weapons of war out of hateful hands.

Along with policies that directly combat white nationalism, candidates must go a step further and lay out the interconnected policies of economic opportunity and civil rights that are also key to protect communities targeted by violence and discrimination. This includes reducing income inequality and raising the minimum wage, expanding access to health care, ending gerrymandering and strengthening voting rights. The best way to defeat white nationalism is to build a shared future in which all of us can thrive.

To be sure, a number of candidates have put forward policies that address some of these challenges, but they haven't explicitly connected the urgent need for these policies to the rising white nationalist movement that has captured significant political power and threatens our lives. Building a strong multiracial democracy and movement for progress is both the only alternative to white nationalism and the only way we can defeat it. Above all, presidential aspirants need to explain how they will build and sustain such a movement; which they will need behind them to win in 2020 and beyond.

Prioritizing the defeat of white nationalism is an urgent moral imperative, and it's also politically feasible. A wide range of Americans—not just progressives—are horrified by mass shootings and other instances of white nationalist violence and will be motivated to support leaders who show they are committed to addressing an ideology that threatens our lives and our democracy. The moderators and candidates taking part in tonight's debate owe it to our nation, particularly to those who live every day directly threatened by white nationalism, to do their part to advance this crucial conversation.

Ginna Green is the chief strategy officer of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action

The views expressed in the article are the author's own.