Did you get a survey from the Democratic National Committee lately? The DNC sent me a survey today, and I was so enthusiastic about responding that I filled it out right away and drove it over the the post office for late afternoon pick up. I know my thoughts matter to them (I’m just sure that Debbie Wasserman Shultz and Donna Perez were reading my blog all last summer and fall!) Sure, it’s a push poll and a fundraising attempt, but it’s less crass than that GOP poll circulating a few weeks ago, so that’s something. And since they are paying for the return postage, I felt compelled to fill it out.
At the end, they asked for money (of course), but since I think my money would be better spent in a thousand other ways, including buying cigarettes for a bum or starting a fire in my fireplace this cold March day, I declined. I did, though, offer some specific ways that the DNC could win me back:
Fight like you want to win. It’s politics, not a second grade tetherball championship. Even lifelong Democrats think you are wimps. Yes, Kellyanne Conway is probably demon-possessed and she’s unusually talented and bold at riling up racism, but this isn’t new. Did you think that DT wasn’t going to lie, cheat, and steal his way as far as he could go? Of course Russia was going to interfere, voting machines were going to mysteriously break down, and voting among black and brown people was going to be suppressed. Or, to say it differently, nominees get security details because they are likely to face assassination attempts–don’t ask secret service agents to risk their lives protecting candidates when you won’t even protect Michigan, a state in which the Republican governor allowed his own people to be poisoned.
Need inspiration, dear DNC? Perhaps this scene of gratuitous violence from Road House will help. Yes, I want you to rip out the GOP’s trachea. Okay, not literally. But if you expect me to wear a pussy hat and march in the street, I expect you to go to Congress and throw sand in the gears of Republican efforts every single day. This includes the Neal Gorsuch nomination, you pathetic bunch of Neville Chamberlains. Note: I’m calling you that because you are LITERALLY allowing Nazi sympathizers into our government.
Stop relying on voters of color without doing anything to serve their interests. Conway was clear about strategy: publicly reject people of color in order to energize white voters ranging from colorblind racists to white nationalist extremists. The GOP has seldom been clearer in its hostility to people of color. Instead of coddling undecided whites, energize the reliable base of people of color by addressing their needs and sharing power with them. Suggestions: districts where their votes matter, access to voting booths, potable water, a public beatdown of the Nazi sympathizers in Trump’s clown car, support from HBCU that turn out so many black professionals, and support for the amazing entrepreneurial activities of people of color, including immigrants. Those are the easy things, the ones that won’t scare off moderate Dems. The party also needs to support radical prison reform, radical changes to policing, the abolishment of the death penalty, and incredible investment in minority-majority public schools. Sure, the GOP has deliberately shut out voters of color, but that doesn’t mean that the Democrats don’t need to earn their vote. And as touching as it is to say that these issues are all our issues (It’s true! Racism hurts us all. We’re stronger together!), Democrats need to be explicit that the point of addressing racism isn’t to make white liberals feel better: it’s because racism hurts people of color and only white people can make that stop.
Support senior leadership’s transition to retirement and cultivate new voices. Demographically speaking, Baby Boomers are going to hold our society hostage to for another 20 years, so the DNC is going to have to force some folks to step aside. On the one hand, I love that the two major candidates this year were both past the traditional age of retirement; HRC’s nomination was all the sweeter because she experienced the kind of sexist barriers to success that younger women don’t seem to believe existed. And, to be clear, this isn’t an argument about their “stamina” or “health”–just code words for agism and ableism. On the other, the DNC is missing out on the chance to develop and support new talent.
Being a politician of the Baby Boomer cohort doesn’t mean you have to support the neoliberal agenda that has left so much of America in a “sea of despair,” but if you want to move forward, you need to understand how the policies of the late 80s, 90s, and Oughts contributed to our current suffering.
Jobs. Yes, Trump was lying when he promised to bring back coal and manufacturing, and you’d have to be dope to believe him. But it was a narrative that worked to win coveted votes in western PA and eastern Ohio. (Odd how the votes of this region are coveted but, since the death of John Murtha, little actually gets done to improve life there.) The reason why the counterevidence–that Obama prevented a Depression, that his masterfully brought us out of the Great Recession, that life is better, economically speaking, than it was 8 years prior–was also kind of a lie. Sure, not technically, but few of us felt it was true, which is what matters in politics. More importantly, lots of voters–the precious white working class but also people of color–saw the big wins go to the top 1% and saw their own economic status continue to slide. When Clinton uttered lies similar to Trump’s–about rebuilding manufacturing, for example–voters had no reason to believe her because Democrats have failed working class and poor voters. It’s time to talk about the wonders, not just the anxieties, of automation and how, if we adapt, we can free people to use their talents in ways that enrich life, not just in ways that produce garbage. Take economic anxieties seriously by providing a vision of the future, not nostalgia about coal mining, for crying out loud.
Support pro-life candidates in states where they will win. As more states enact laws aimed at restricting the right to and access to abortion, Democrats need to be honest with themselves: most people support a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy under some conditions, but most don’t support it under all conditions--and younger voters oppose abortion in what Democrats might see as surprisingly high numbers and with surprising intensity. Trump, despite the fact his claims to be prolife are laughable, won some voters who were otherwise repulsed by his candidacy simply on this issue. In lots of states, prolife candidates are the only ones who are going to win. A pro-life Democrat in office is better than a pro-life Republican. (See Fight Like You Want to Win, above.) If pro-life Democrats could win in places like Louisiana, Mississippi, or Kansas, they could then make the case for other Democratic priorities–things voters in these states might want but can’t make happen because they won’t vote for a pro-choice candidate.
Is this throwing women under the bus? Only if you think that women are better off being governed by Republican pro-life politicians than Democratic ones.
Above, a map of the US illustrating which states are fully controlled by Republicans (25) and which have a Democratic governor facing a veto-proof Republican majority (2). In contrast, just eight states are controlled by Democrats or have a enough Democrats in the state legislature to prevent veto a Republican governor. The map comes from Daily Kos.
Give me a candidate without the baggage. Joel supported HRC in the primaries, and I supported Sanders. Sure, Joel was probably making the grown up decision, but maybe that is because he gets to work with grownups who generally see government as a respectable enterprise. I study conservatives, right-wingers, and extremists who see it as a cosmic battle and who vote in very high numbers. They were going to hate any Democrat coming their way, but they actually think that Clinton is Satanic. So I didn’t see much hope of any of them moving to the Democrats–and much opportunity for Trump to rouse them to vote (as he did during the primary). Though Clinton won a near-record number of votes, lots of us were lukewarm about her.
Key here is that some of Trump’s supporters LIKE his misogyny and history of sexual assault. Each time Clinton pressed on these (and they things that outraged decent people and should have, in a world run by grown-ups, disqualified Trump), Deplorables laughed. They want a man who will “grab ’em by the pussy” because they hate women and they like sexism. Trump’s sexually predatory behavior rallied some of his troops and wasn’t enough for others to abandon him (Jason Chaffetz, you buffoon, if your daughter doesn’t abandon you in the worst nursing home she can find in your old age because of your exploitation of her, you should consider yourself lucky)–but it was very hard for many Democrats to argue against such low character while also making the case that Bill Clinton should once again be housed in the White House. No, we weren’t voting on Bill. No, it’s not fair the Hillary is judged on her husband’s behavior. But I’d carry pepper spray around any slime ball with either Trump or Bill Clinton’s history.
What do you want Democrats to know? Share your ideas by sending the DNC mail at 430 South Capitol Street SE, PO Box 96585, Washington DC 20077-7242. If you are represented by a Democrat, be sure to contact them at their local offices and attend their town meetings. And make sure you let them know that you’ll be canvassing for and voting for the most progressive primary candidate in the next election.
Now that we’ve sat with the debacle of the election, the failure of the Electoral College to do its job of preventing unqualified people from achieving office, and the first months of a Trump administration, what do you wish Democratic party leadership would do?