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It did not play out as expected for the Democratic Party with a Republican President-elect getting ready to enter the White House. Democrats were hoping for a strong showing to win the House and the Senate. Instead, the numbers are very different. Out of 435 House members, we now have 188 Democrats versus 247 Republicans, and 44 Democrats against 54 Republicans in the Senate. Those are not the only numbers! We will also see changes on the Supreme Court bench and the gerrymandering will continue.
So the headline in the story of this election—the Democrats just got a whipping!
Now the question is—how do they pick up the pieces, rise and thrive? What can the Democratic National Committee (DNC) do to get their political machinery back on the saddle? What would they see and learn if they peered into the inner recesses of the party soul? Questions need to be asked and answered in terms of strategy to reset its fortunes in the coming years.
1) DNC’s Image is Tarnished: Perception is everything in a politics. How about the DNC try acting swiftly disassociating with everything that is dishonest thus sending a strong message to the electorate? Is the party exhibiting ethical values, and fostering a culture that will reward those with such values? Is this going to be a party that is willing to change and respond to the needs of the people or will it be responsive to corporate America funding it’s campaigns?
2) New Leadership—Fresh Blood. It is time for the DNC to place leaders in the front that will reflect those values and walk the talk. Was the DNC doing enough to encourage new leadership or was everyone just saying “aye” to the establishment? Disband the old party machinery! Bold ideological shifts via bold leadership! Promote strong independent voices, and reward expression of new ideas and vision.
3) Think of the America of Today and It’s Values. What does America need? Are the core values based upon the needs of America and the electorate? Listen hard and adopt the values, after all the party is there to serve the people. Is this the party of a “rigged economy in bed with Wall Street?” The party may need a serious policy shift and grassroots efforts towards winning back the electorate that went with Trump. Is everything perfect enough that we continue business as usual? Or is the electorate disillusioned with DNC’s policies and politics and doesthe party needs to focus upon real change?
4) Bold and Open Communication. If the DNC does not listen to voices that question assumptions, it creates an echo chamber, and eventually there is a price to pay. Some Democrats think that they lost the general election in June with the Hillary Clinton nomination. As they raised their voices, they were targeted, ignored, insulted and others even attempted to brainwash them to favor the establishment story—unbelievable as it may have been—it is true. How do we deal with people who are calling attention to the issues? When California’s Bernie delegates were protesting at the Democratic National Convention, many expressed dissatisfaction with them, and their voices were suppressed. But, when there is a peaceful expression of protest, they should be heard and lessons learnt.
5) Address the Economic Needs of the Middle Class. Bernie Sanders brought attention to this recently. “I come from the white working class, and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic party cannot talk to the people where I came from.” Is this the party that will question the system and seek to make it better? There are so many unemployed Caucasian white men in Middle America. Jobs have disappeared for those that do not have college degrees. The burgeoning population and the issue of immigration, a changing world, is a real problem affecting them and Trump was speaking to that at packed auditoriums. Is the party going to eschew corporate interests for economic-justice?
6) An Elitist Party. No group can be ignored! Yes the party appeals in urban America, but that has to change quickly. Is this the party that will flaunt expensive Armani jackets hoping for miracle wins, or will they rub shoulders with the blue collar worker, crafting out an agenda that will meet their needs?
7) Obsession with Culture. Is this the party that will flaunt “progressive values” as achievement, or will economic prosperity be the barometer? Are the democrats obsessed with social issues like abortion, equal pay for women, and climate change? But, it is time to question whether this progressive “stuff” hampers the party message. How far will this branding carry you with the segment of the electorate who have jobs, food, housing and a desire for a renewed economic vitality on top of their minds? Here is proof: Whites without a college degree, made up a third of the 2016 electorate; Trump won them by 39 percentage points. Half of these voters said the economy was the most important issue, 14 percent said immigration, a majority opined that international trade reduces American jobs.
8) Education for the Masses. Focus on education can single handedly create a rich vibrant happy economy. How about massive funding for college education that includes trade school and tiers beyond the community college programs? Mimic the success models from other parts of the world.
9) Integrity and Democracy: Kill the Super Delegates. The electorate wants integrity and true democracy. Can the DNC once and for all kill the Super Delegates, and kill the primary caucuses? Can the DNC simplify the primary election that currently varies from state to state and prevents the majority from having their say?
10) Introspect on Working-Class Resentment of the Poor. That is not classified as racism. The DNC needs to understand the context. Supporting dole outs are not helping the party in its positining. Is this money thrown into a well or is it really providing value?
In conclusion, “should’ve would’ve” are part of so many social media feeds, with everyone chiming in as they search for answers. We hear slogans like, “let us stay united,” “let us continue the revolution,” “let us change the electoral college,” “let us blame the Bernie guys,” “let us blame the ones who stayed at home,”—the list is long. But, this is the moment for the Democratic party to introspect and learn from within. The media bemoaned that the the Republican party was in shambles before the elections, but, as it turns out it is the DNC that needs to resurrect. Was Trump’s win a fluke or a tactical shortcoming from the DNC—the attitudes and answers will decide whether this party gets re-built or whether it will remain decimated
Indeed, George Santayana’s words cannot ring truer for the state of the DNC today—“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Rishi Kumar is a Saratoga City Councilmember and an executive board member in his 2nd term with the California Democratic Party, who is passionate about political engagement, political empowerment and advancing ethical standards in the political system. You can reach Rishi via his website www.RishiKumar.com