Ten months into Trump’s Presidency, Trump’s approval rating is historically low and members of his campaign are under indictment, yet the prospects for the Democratic Party appear bleak. At a time when we should be harnessing the energy of a grassroots movement to revitalize American democracy in 2018, Democrats are beset by infighting and chaos. Most of this is driven by disagreement over what, if anything, the party represents.
The major rift is between bold progressives who want a new direction and the fellow Democrats they see as the Old Guard establishment wing of the party. The two sides mostly agree on about 98% of issues, but have serious differences on key points. One of the main sticking points is the role of corporations in our political system.
The Democratic National Committee has drawn criticism for appointing corporate lobbyists to powerful positions as “superdelegates.”
Let’s look at the numbers. In 2016, there were about 4700 delegates to the Democratic Nominating Convention, including about 700 superdelegates, most them elected Democratic officeholders. Recently, DNC chair Tom Perez nominated a slate of 75 superdelegates, three of whom were corporate lobbyists. One was Harold Ickes, who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House and who has long been influential in the party. One was Joanne Dowdell, who ran as a Democrat for a New Hampshire State House seat in 2012 and is a party donor. Another was Manual Ortiz, who also lobbies for U.S. territories like Puerto Rico.
Three out of 4700 votes is 0.06 percent of the votes, not even a round-off error.
The dispute is a matter of principle, not numbers. Christine Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, has argued that there should be no corporate lobbyists at all appointed as superdelegates and that corporate lobbying should not be what the party is about. That matter of principle is the basis of the uproar over the Perez appointments. I agree on the matter of principle, though the practical effect is nil and certainly not worth a damaging split in the party. Especially since most of the superdelegate appointees are union officials and long-term party workers, loyalists, and donors whose work accords with such principles.
I should also mention that the party is in dire financial straits. At a time when a strong Democratic Party is more necessary than ever, they can’t raise any money.
This may explain the need to cozy up to three corporate lobbyists. Of course, by doing that, Democratic leaders increase tensions with progressives who want a politics completely free from corporate influence. Ready, set, civil war.
Or, at least, that’s the unfortunate narrative emerging – a narrative Republicans are eager to cheer on. They enjoy watching us divide and conquer ourselves. It’s straight out of the Cambridge Analytica playbook. Stoke discord among Democrats and use our differences as weapons to defeat our overwhelmingly common goals. They know the absence of a strong Democratic Party will likely add up to seven more years of dominance by Donald J. Trump and his Republican Party.
Will we fall for it? I hope not, but I only see one way to avoid it. It’s time for the Democratic Party to examine its soul and remember why it’s the only major political party that reflects the progressive idea of our nation – a government of, by, and for the People.
It is also the only major party to accept the founding idea of our nation, that citizens care about their fellow citizens and work through the government to provide public resources for the benefit of all. Whether private lives or private enterprise, public resources from roads, bridges, airports, and sewers to public education and public health, to science and technology – computer science (thank NSF and DARPA) to satellite communication (thank NASA) to modern medicine (thank NIH). The private depends on public resources! Every Democrat knows this truth, and it is assumed by almost all Democratic legislation.
Yet almost nobody says these truths out loud and defends them in public discourse. A short paragraph each, powerful truths, yet there is no Democratic message expressing these truths.
These are among the deepest reasons to be a Democrat. But when you get down to the crucial details of everyday lives, there are thousands of reasons. Let’s hear them!
We start right here, with one simple question: Why are you a Democrat?
I want to hear what you think it means to be a progressive and a Democrat. Let’s engage in some Citizen Research and see what emerges. I can make some guesses to start, but I regularly hear from all corners of our country about new and important reasons – Democrats working for real human needs and against real human disasters due to Republicans. What are your reasons?
I’m a Democrat because. . .