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Dear Democratic Leadership: Here’s How You Win

in Political Thought by

Dear Democratic leadership,

Today an article announced that the leadership of the Democratic Party has laid out their agenda: Win back the House and investigate Trump.

Please, I’m begging you. Listen to me: This agenda will NOT help you win.

If your focus is simply to win, then you will lose. If all you are doing is vying for power for the sake of being in power, people will not flock to the polls to support you.

Just as your 2016 election strategyignore battleground states in the general election, focus all of your rhetoric and talking points on bashing Trump and his followers rather than tell people who Clinton is and why we should support her, and offer only empty concern and superficial policies rather than real, substantial solutions to the struggles Americans facedid not bring you an electoral victory in November.

When 20% of American children are living in poverty, your focus should be on helping those families put food on the table and ensure that the utilities stay on, that they have a house to live in, and that there are good jobs that pay a living wage for struggling parents. Focus on these goals, and people will know what you stand forwhat you fight forand the votes will come.

As poverty, foreclosures, and hunger among the nation’s elderly continue to rise and as the GOP works to increase healthcare and drug costs for those 65 and older, fight to make sure that everyone can retire and live out their later years with dignity and security. When you tell everyone you can and whenever you can that you are doing everything you can for America’s aging generation, then people will know that you are on their side, and they will vote for you.

When tens of millions of people are facing the prospect of losing critical healthcare because of skyrocketing costs, put your energy into figuring out how to deliver truly universal coverage in the most cost-efficient way. If Democrats once and for all solve the problem that is the American healthcare systemnot just tinker around the edges, which is what Obamacare doespeople will take notice and will work to get you elected by getting more people to the polls.

When our schools are fighting for the most basic funding while Republicans are working to funnel money to the communities that need it least and away from those who need it most, you need to be battling every day for every American kid to have access to quality education and the opportunity to build a good life for themselves. If you do this, people will know what it means to be a Democrat and will proudly cast their vote for anyone with a (D) next to their name.

When our young adults are struggling under crushing student loan debt, a stagnant economy that offers very little in good entry-level jobs, and a cultural narrative that continually denigrates them, our Democratic elected officials need to work to relieve the burden of those with prohibitive student loan payments, make college affordable for all, revive the economy by supporting industries set to explode (e.g., renewable energies, technology), and begin changing the way we talk about and to our nation’s emerging leaders. Give the next generation your care, respect, and attention, and they will take heed and throw their energy and support behind you to make you the leading party for at least the next forty years.

But when your #1 issue focus is Russia, something that feels distant and abstract and reeks of Washington political game playing to the millions of Americans struggling to keep a roof over their heads and the utilities on, to feed their families, to get the healthcare they need to survive, to find a good, steady job that pays a living wage, you are not talking to voters.

You are talking to yourselves.

And there’s not enough of you in your narrow echo chamber to win elections.

Democratic leadership: Stop focusing on what YOU want, and start working toward what Americans NEED.

THAT’S how you win.

A Time of Great Challenge and Adversity: A Look Back at 2016

in Election 2016 by

For the last two months, I’ve been mostly muddling through the days, swimming in a sea of thoughts following our elections. While I’ve completely accepted and absorbed the consequences to these results, I’ve been racing through my mind about the many pathways and outcomes we may soon have to face.

Despite the enormous gulf that exists between us, we must not degenerate into demonizing our fellow citizens. One cannot blame people for voting the way they did. Despite what I might think about their choices, we must respect the will of the people and join together as Americans. For those who refuse to do so, I ask you to remember that no election result is permanent and those who fought you this cycle might as easily become your allies in the next election. Voters can change minds, in other words, so diminishing them for their choice is never a way to go about conducting politics.

Our feelings of frustration are better directed at the Democratic Party, the candidate herself, and the campaign she ultimately ran. While they may never admit it, the date of September 10 will always be seared in my mind as the date the election was sealed. For it was on this date that Mrs. Clinton called “half” of President-elect Trump’s voters “deplorable.” A comment so flippantly made, so carelessly delivered, with the added distinction of being prefaced with the words, “You know, to be grossly generalistic . . .” All above a little podium sign that prominently displayed in purple and white “Stronger Together.”

How could any person expect to lead a country—much less win an election—after saying such remarks as these? Any person thinking forthrightly about the qualities of leadership and governance would do well to remember the lessons of this sad episode. More was expected of the woman candidate running for president, it’s true. And some of that double standard was indeed very unfair and biased, to be sure. But I also must believe that some of those expectations were a result of the competency and experience that were her supposed calling card.

2008 should have been a clear lesson that this also was not a winning strategy with the broad electorate. To be sure, experience in governance is a good thing to have. But experience may also be predicated upon poor judgement and lead to equally bad consequences, making such qualifications as useless as choosing a novice. With anchors such as the Iraq War, the intervention in Libya and the nonintervention in Syria, one could be forgiven if the Democratic nominee had all the foreign policy hallmarks of a Republican over her opponent. Perhaps this heightened the contrasts this election year, though I doubt it.

When answering a question from a young Muslim woman in the second presidential debate about how to combat the rise of Islamophobia in our land, Trump’s response was (paraphrasing), “Radical Islamic terrorism is a problem, and Muslims should report on other Muslims about suspicious behavior, like in San Bernardino, or Orlando, Paris, or 9/11.” The Clinton response was no more comforting, if not downright vague: “Thank you for your question. I’ve heard this question many times before.” After invoking the names of Captain Kahn and Mohammed Ali and then reciting some rhetoric about the American ideal of tolerance and respect, she said, “We need our American Muslims to be part of our eyes and ears, on our front lines.” The woman later responded that the answers, other than delivery and tone, were not much different from each other in substance and meaning. Me neither.

How did we get here? That I believe is the most important question we can ask ourselves this day. While the decisions and results of the candidates and their campaigns will vex none but historians and biographers any longer, this should not mean we should easily forget what we all witnessed and endured this year.

We must earnestly look back to see how a nation of laws and norms end up nominating and electing among two of the most unpopular people in the country. Is it any wonder that turnout dropped to the level as that of 2004? Why was the media so derelict in its duty to give fair and equal representations of all candidates? Why were our great journalistic bulwarks so mistrusted on one end and so painfully slow to grasp the realities on the other? Could these not be related in any way? In the coming weeks, I’ll do my level best to review these issues one-by-one and to seek a framework to learn the hard lessons from this campaign. From this, I’ll also try to provide a window into the past to provide not only comfort but also perspective for these times.

We will soon face these challenges together, as a country should. And like it or not, all countries must overcome these great periods of challenge or else silently fall into the dust bin of history. Lately, I have searched our great volumes of history in search of any parallels in our nation for moments of great tragedy and adversity. For those who think this is the greatest test our country has faced, let me remind you of the American Civil War.

Living in the twenty-first century, few scars of that terrible conflict can be seen on the landscape or in the streets. But the frightening figures should be known to us all. Lasting nearly four years, millions of men, women and children were made casualties, orphans, or refugees from the fighting. All done in the name of southern independence, emancipation, or simple conquest, depending on one’s viewpoint. Whole families and communities were torn asunder, heroes and villains were prevalent on both sides, and to this day, evidence of its impact can be seen if one looks carefully. Battlefields are one piece of evidence, but perhaps our latest election results could also be seen as yet another.

In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, Cassius at one point says, “How many ages hence, shall this our lofty scene be acted over, in states unborn and accents yet unknown?” So must we too ask this question about our current state of affairs, here and the world over. I look forward to having this conversation with you and finding out from the journey ahead. We might not see the fruits of our labors, but let us begin.

 

Stop the Corporate Democrat Lie: Progressives Must Refuse to Concede the Narrative

in Election 2016 by

Here’s the story and we’re sticking to it. Because it’s true:

The Democratic Party colluded with the Clinton campaign to elevate Clinton and to suffocate Bernie Sanders’s exploding grassroots campaign for the party’s nominee for president. And if they had not, Bernie Sanders would likely now be our president-elect instead of Donald Trump, and Democrats would likely have a majority in both the House and the Senate.

As we all reel from the shock of Trump’s election as president of the United States, we ask: How did this happen?

The Democratic Party. They did this. They did it to themselves. They did it to their country. They did it to the world.

Despite the fact that Clinton had decades of problematic baggage and was, at best, a weak candidate and that her candidacy only continued to weaken as more information came to light about her and her inner circle.

Despite the fact that Bernie Sanders polled as one of the most popular, well-liked, and trusted politicians in modern history and consistently held double-digits predicted leads over all Republican primary candidates, including Trump, far outpacing Clinton.

Despite the fact that thousands of Sanders’s supporters warned the DNC and all its establishment superdelegates that coronating Clinton would result in a Trump presidency and the loss of critical down-ballot races.

Despite all this, the Democratic Party machine closed ranks, pushed aside and silenced Sanders supporters, and elevated an unelectable candidate as their nominee when we could have had a landslide candidate.

We’d like to think that this loss will be the Democratic Party’s come-to-Jesus moment. That after they did everything in their power, including dictating the mainstream media narrative for both candidates, perhaps the Democratic Party will see the error of their ways now that, as Sanders’s supporters predicted, Trump has defeated Clinton.

But don’t count on that happening.

People in power like to stay in power. And admitting that their very occupation of that power is their—and America’s—downfall would mean that they would have to willingly, for the good of all, give up that power. And they’re not going to do that.

Instead, the Democratic Party elites will try to take control of and distort the narrative.

They will blame third-party candidates—in particular, the Green Party’s Jill Stein—for “stealing” the votes from Clinton, implying that if Stein had not been on the ticket, then all those votes would have gone to Clinton.

In fact, the New York Times’ Paul Krugman started spinning the lie immediately, tweeting, “Btw, Jill Stein managed to play Ralph Nader. Without her Florida might have been saved.” Regardless that even assuming that EVERY Green voter in Florida—people who are disgusted with the corporate oligarchy and moral equivocation that are Clinton’s hallmarks—had voted for Clinton, Stein’s 63,156 Florida votes wouldn’t have come close to closing the 131,695-vote gap between Trump and Clinton in the Sunshine State.

But let’s also remember that those voters chose third-party alternatives precisely because they’re sick and tired of dynastic politics that recycle the same myopia of policy possibilities—none of which offers the majority of Americans any real relief from the economic pressures our rigged economy puts on everyday people or seriously addresses the crises our world faces.

(By the way, the whole Nader-caused-Gore’s-loss-in-2000 narrative? That’s a myth, easily debunked here and here and here, among many other places. Do your homework before trying to rehash that one.)

Or perhaps Democratic Party loyalists will blame the media for amplifying Trump’s every move, for making him the focal point of the entire primary and general election. And they will do that while ignoring their own role in coordinating with the media to promote Clinton and dismiss Sanders during the primary. They will make the mainstream media take the downfall even as they played that same media like puppets during the primary.

Or they will blame James Comey and the FBI, the same James Comey they lionized back in July when he came under attack for absolving Clinton of any criminal charges as a result of her choice to use a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

They will blame the Russians. WikiLeaks. Millennials. Minorities, even (just watch, someone will do it). And, of course, they will blame Bernie Sanders.

They will blame everyone but themselves. They will refuse to take responsibility for their actions, and thus, they will continue to make decisions based on hubris and outdated perceptions of U.S. and global dynamics. And they will do so at the expense of the American people and the world.

If we let them.

So we must not let them take control of the narrative. When they engage in their roulette wheel of a blame-game, shut it down. Give the facts. Don’t let them off the hook.

We cannot take back our country, create a just economy, fight discrimination, and take aggressive steps to address climate change until we clean out the Democratic Party.

And we do that by telling the truth.

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