Tag Archives: DNC

We Are The Party Of Opportunity

“We are the party of opportunity for all,” declared Seema Nanda in an exclusive conversation with me late last week. As head of the Democratic National Committee, a post that she holds as we head into the final year and a half before a crucial national election, she is busy planning party strategy at many levels. Her voice did not waver – there was clarity and a sense of clear purpose as she outlined the party position on various issues as we chatted.

After the unexpected defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, the question of what the overall party message will be in the coming months is a burning question in my mind. And, her answer was clear and unequivocal in its message of inclusivity.

“We have a message that resonates with all Americans – truth, opportunity, justice for all people, affordable healthcare and protecting all immigrants.” A positive message that aims to connect with all voters across the political spectrum. Her message was hopeful and inclusive – so I paused and asked her about her thoughts on the Republican message. Here, her answer was again clear and straightforward. “Hateful rhetoric has no place in our party; in fact, no party should appeal to our fear. When one group is attacked, we need to remember that no one is protected. This message stokes people’s fears about all sorts of immigrants.”

Seema Nanda pictured front row, middle

Seema says that she is so heartened with the woke community of South Asians working all over the country on behalf of Democratic candidates. “What I saw in Michigan shortly before the midterm elections resonated with me deeply. I was campaigning for candidates up and down the ballot. South asian community members were actively engaged in campaigning – many had never been politically engaged, but now they were signing up for shifts to knock on neighbors’ doors. They are also signing up to run for office at so many levels – from city councils to school boards to congressional seats. And, even if the South Asian candidate does not end up winning the primary, large numbers of community members are stepping up and doing their part.” This, she said, was a “positive development like none other.”

Also, as voters, she said, “Asian-Americans can ensure a critical margin for victory in countless races in the 2020 elections. They voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in the midterm election in 2018. We need to get the message out to all Asian Americans that we are indeed the party of opportunity; we are a pro-business party,” she declared.

Seema Nanda pictured second from left

When I asked her about the slate of candidates who have launched primary presidential campaigns in the Democratic party, she proudly said, “We have an embarrassment of riches with fantastic candidates on our side. At the DNC, my job is to make sure that the American people hear what they stand for, loud and clear. They are talking about issues that Americans truly care about – healthcare, the environment, gun violence – these are the issues that we should all care about. The fact that we have so many candidates is a very healthy process for the party.”

In focus groups, Americans continue to point out healthcare as being a crucial issue for them. “The availability of affordable healthcare threatens the economic security of millions of people, and the Republican party has been chipping away at the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without having an alternative plan in place.” Moving to issue based policymaking, I ask her about the setback because of the defeat of the new Green Deal. “In fact, the failure of the new Green deal is not really a failure, because we are the only party that is even talking about climate change – the other party is not even at the table. They are denying the findings of climate science.”

Moving to the hot button issue that fills our media channels day in an day out – she says, “Immigration – we have always lead on immigration, and lobbied for comprehensive immigration reform, and our efforts have been scuttled by the Republicans. The President has used his large bully pulpit  to confuse and mislead the American public. Our asylum policies comply with international law. Instead, today those seeking asylum are being treated in a despicable and inhumane manner.” When I pushed her saying that the obfuscation of issues has definitely led to a sea change in opinions of what immigrants contribute in our country, she said, “I agree with you – there are concerted efforts to confuse the issue. But, we are standing by the side of immigrants – we continue to ask about the children in detention. Even lawful immigration has been targeted. For instance, family based immigration which is perfectly legal is now being referred to as ‘chain migration’ an absolutely disgusting term. We need to unite around these issues, not be divided.”

As for nuts and bolts strategies in the coming months, the Rust Belt states are being organized differently this time. “We are on the ground organizing earlier than we did the last time around. One of the challenges we face when we are the opposition party is that after the nominating convention, we only have 5 to 6 months of national campaigning time before we go to the polls. This time, starting this summer, we are training 1000 young people in a special program, and once the nominee is decided, we will be able to ramp up dramatically soon to reach all segments of the population with our message. We are also campaigning for voter access all over the country, including on college campuses so that we hear from all segments, including young voters. Our challenge will be to counteract untruths from entering the election debate. We are on the lookout in cyberspace and we will counteract immediately that appears as lies to discredit our candidates and our policies.”

And, so ends my chat with Seema Nanda – with her articulating a clear, positive message – a message of inclusivity and of opportunity. As the weeks and months roll on, her ability to serve as the backbone in organizing a successful campaign on behalf of the Demoacratic party is sure to be tested at many levels. The American people will be watching the campaign and the party as they take the message of inclusivity and opportunity out to voters.

Nirupama Vaidhyanathan is the Managing editor of India Currents magazine.


Making America Great Again?

Every year NASA celebrates its past glory by inducting an ever-dwindling number of American astronauts to the Hall of Fame at a glittering gala. I had the opportunity to attend the latest one on April 21, 2018 at the Kennedy Space Center, courtesy of Embraer, the Brazilian aircraft manufacturing company. I was also very fortunate to be seated next to Kent “Rommel” Rominger who has logged over 1,600 hours in space shuttle missions.

Growing up in India, in high school and in engineering college, I was captivated by the space missions of American and Soviet astronauts. I would devour  any news, any book, that I could lay my hands on, in those dark days without the internet. Alan Shepard, Yuri Gagarin, John Glenn, Valentina Tereshkova, Neil Armstrong and all the Mercury, Vostok, Gemini, Voskhod, Apollo and Soyuz astronauts were my heroes.

Imagine my excitement when I found myself sitting below that massive Saturn-V rocket and dining with these brave hearts! I was ecstatic.

But I was also sad!

NASA was once the crown jewel of America, and Florida was the proud home of this space giant. From halfway around the globe I knew of Florida only because of NASA, not because it had beaches, was home to Disney World or was a great place to live post-retirement.

Florida  was the home of the world’s premium space research agency that  enriched our lives: from the stickiest Velcro to high technology that eventually fueled the Internet. NASA helped create the demand for high technology to solve problems they faced in space, thus fueling development of new materials and processes. Development in rocket science was directly applicable in defense. And, it provided economic stimulus for Melbourne, FL  and the cities and towns around it. California and Florida were the two states in America which were identified as the home of aerospace research and technology.

Came the 1980s and they killed the space program. Beginning with the Reagan administration, all successive administrations in Washington had enough of this “white elephant” that was spending millions of taxpayer dollars to send one person in space and doing nothing for recession-hit America.

Such was, and is, the myopia of the political leadership of the right and left that they refused to continue with the funding of NASA and keep up the work it was doing to make, umm…America Great.

Disintegration of the USSR took away another incentive of keeping pace with the enemy. Immediately, the economy of the region tanked. The wise men and women making those policies didn’t realize the long term effect of this decision. Subsequently they spent a good amount of the same “saved” dollars to prop up the economy of the region. They offered incentives to bring in manufacturers to revive the economy and it did, to some extent. But they couldn’t bring the glamor, the status, the brand name it once enjoyed.

America stopped on its tracks before finishing the race. It became complacent after its nearest overseas rival folded. It didn’t see the distant rival that was catching up fast. China was already close.

It was said in the 19th and 20th centuries that whoever controlled the oceans, ruled the world. The British built an empire that the Sun didn’t set in, until they ceded the supremacy at seas to US and USSR.

In 21st century, whoever controls the space will rule the world. Does this world want to be led by values which don’t include respect for fundamental human rights? I doubt it.

Unless America converts this “stop” in space exploration to a temporary “pause” and resumes the race, it has no chance of gaining the leadership position it once enjoyed.

Wake up America!

The next time somebody tells you that he or she will make America Great, please ask a simple but pointed question: Will it be done by digging coal or sending American men and women to Mars?

How Can The DNC Rise From The Ashes?

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 polanalysis_donkeyand 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