Democratic leaders on the future of their party

What's next for the Democratic party?


In an article for The Guardian this week, several members of the Democratic party wrote on what they believe should be the next steps for their party, after the devastating loss to Donald Trump.

Representative Raúl M Grijalva from Arizona, a part of the House Committee on Natural Resources, believes that the first step is “cleaning house at the Democratic National Committee (DNC),” a sentiment that has been pushed by Senator Bernie Sanders since Trump’s win.

According to Grijalva:

“Without a dynamic progressive committed to a year-round 50-state strategy leading our party – and a DNC staff committed to humble outreach and genuine advocacy for peoples’ needs – we are doomed to repeats of 8 November.”

The Arizona representative explains that the Democratic party’s current “middle-of-the-road thinking” and “rock-the-boat strategies” are tired and stale:

“We cannot rely on the same tired, inside-the-Beltway social media messages and stale talking points that got us here. Nor can we fall for the dangerous notion that if only she’d talked more about privatizing social security, Hillary Clinton might have won over more moderate voters. There is no evidence that such triangulation has any credibility with the American people, and our party needs to recognize that once and for all.

If Donald Trump’s unusual ideology has taught us anything, it’s that many of the political fights ahead of us have nothing to do with the arguments of the past 20 years. Party leaders need to recruit candidates with a genuine understanding of the issues that matter today, from economic insecurity to the future of rural America to social justice to education affordability.

We need to work with grassroots organizations to build a fresh party for the future. Just putting fresh paint on the party that lost the White House is not an option.”

Former South Carolina representative Bakari Sellers discusses minorities and how they voted for Donald Trump in record numbers.

Sellers points out that there is a current argument among the Democratic party on whether they should focus on becoming more progressive and try to win back Obama voters that they lost during this election, or if they should focus more on white voters that supported Bill Clinton in the 90s.

Neither is correct, according to Sellers. Instead, the party needs to “make a positive case to every voter of color of what we intend to do to improve their lives, because simply pointing to the intolerance and bigotry of the Republican party is not enough.”

He writes:

“We must reject stale conventional political wisdom and outreach strategies and embrace non-traditional candidates and alliances to move the party forward. We must own a message of economic populism that embraces not just the white working class but all workers in the economy that have been left behind and who feel like the recovery from the Great Recession has not reached them.

We must do more than commit ourselves rhetorically to reforming our criminal justice system and our immigration system. Instead, we must more fully commit ourselves to reforming both systems. We must be responsive to the voices in the country that are fighting to ensure that every life in this country is valued.”

Political candidate and activist Zephyr Teachout believes the focus shouldn’t be on “what should Democrats do to win?” but what needs to be done to “secure middle class jobs, safe drinking water and respect for all people, regardless of race or religion.”

Teachout, who ran against opponents supported by “privileged princes” such as Sheldon Adelson, believes in taking back control of the party, and the government, from greedy, power hungry demagogues:

“Demagoguery thrives when everyone is lying about power, and as Democrats – as citizens – we must be more honest, we must name the names of the modern princes, from Peter Thiel to Dan Loeb to Paul Singer, who are using chump change to play with local elections and national fear.”

She also discusses standing up for water against corporate power, fighting against fossil fuels, standing up for unions, opposing the AT&T merger, and being “honest about power, and truly stand up for those who have too little against those who have too much.”

Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, discusses the prime voters for Trump that are experiencing “profound economic crisis.”

Taylor writes:

“Of course people are angry. For years, the Democrats haven’t offered a counter narrative. They haven’t said: “These are the villains – the corporations like the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, big agribusiness and telecom. And here is what we’re going to do about it.”

Democrats, by and large, haven’t been willing to take on corporate power in a real way. They haven’t offered a systemic critique of the rigged economy and broken system, and shown that they are willing to fight it.”

Of course, writes Taylor, there are exceptions, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, that have set a path that all democrats need to follow, or they will “keep losing, over and over.”

Ilya Sheyman, executive director of Political Action, discusses how the DNC lifted the ban this year on donations from federal lobbyists and Super PACs, basically letting “corporate money flow in unchecked.” But this didn’t help them win and only “symbolized a deeper disconnect between the Democratic party and the voters it relies upon.”

In Sheyman’s words:

“Voters don’t want a Democratic party that smells like corporate influence. For the Democratic party to reclaim its greatness, it must be its best self: the party of the people.

The first step is to clean house. It’s time for a leader like Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, and for a return to Howard Dean’s winning 50-State Strategy. The inclusive, progressive and populist agenda that emerged from last summer’s Democratic convention was a great one. It’s time to pair it with a surge of investment in on-the-ground organizing and an embrace of candidates who can bring new voters and energy to the party.”


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