Friday, February 10, 2017

The Two Ultimate Lessons for Democrats from 2016

Democrats are trying to figure out what to do, what to change in their game plan, to regain Congress in 2018 and the presidency in 2020.   There are various scenarios that people are putting together on how they can turn things around.

I have written after past elections, and I wrote in a post after this one, “The Perennial Search for the Democrat’s Mission,” that Democrats need to drop identity politics and instead come up with an all-inclusive, cohesive vision of America’s future that people will respond to.   They must be clear where they want to take America and how they’re going to get there.  And that path must include a better life for all Americans.

But there is an even larger lesson to be learned; a point that distinguished the Trump campaign from all the others, including most past campaigns as well.  Trump won because he made people believe that he listened to them, to their suffering and questions, and he took up their cause with great vigor, a vengeance, fighting the establishment to right the wrongs.  

His anti-establishment and anti-elite rant was so appealing because many white working class people felt, with good cause, that the establishment had failed them despite having mouthed platitudes to them for decades … rural Americans had hardly been addressed at all.  And the elite who run the establishment were not in touch with their (white Americans’) suffering as opposed to people of color or other minority groups who they perceive as getting lots of attention.

If Democrats want to once again become the majority party, the party of the people, the lesson is not, as some are saying, that they need to listen and respond to the suffering of the white working class.  Yes, they definitely need to do that.  But they need to do that in the context of listening to all the people.  

Democrats need to show that they are there for everyone and that they can deliver for everyone.  They have to show that it doesn’t have to be one group’s interests v another’s.  They need to come up with a cohesive vision that works for all Americans and which all Americans respond to.

That’s why I’ve proposed the following Mission for the Democratic Party:

"To bring to life the promises set forth in our Declaration of Independence.
To build a country of greater opportunity where:

* each and every American has the best chance to experience the promise 
‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with 
certain unalienable Rights … Life,  Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’;

* government meets its responsibility as set forth in the Declaration …  
‘to secure those rights’,  within the constraints of fiscal responsibility; and

* all citizens have a shared responsibility to support the government’s efforts 
 to secure those rights and promote the public good, each according to his ability.”

Democrats have gotten too cozy with big money, big business, big banks.  You can’t have it both ways.  You can’t please those interests and the people at the same time because unfortunately the goal of big business is all about making money.  Sometimes their interests are not in conflict with the general good, but often they are.  There is no social conscience or social purpose involved in corporate decision making, unless it helps them make money.

And so, in other posts of mine such as, “What Drives Policy Decisions? - The Theory v The Reality” and “Our Failed Economic/Social/Political System,” I urge Democrats to shake up the status quo of how the country is run.  To change it from money/big business-centric to people-centric.  Obama pledged to get rid of the overwhelming influence of lobbyists and big business/banks, but he ended up doing neither.  

Bernie Sanders had the right idea.  His movement should not be allowed to become a mere footnote to this period of Democratic Party policy development.  Instead, it should be the core of a well-thought-through soft revolution that truly puts the country back in the hands of the people rather than big business.  Big business will still have a place at the table as they are an important part of the well-being of our country; but they will not be a controlling force. We must reestablish “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” 

Trump campaigned on doing just that … putting the country back in the hands of the people.  But his cabinet appointments show clearly that he is doing just the opposite.  He has put the foxes in charge of the hen house.  And the Republican-controlled Senate supported those appointments against almost unanimous Democrat opposition.  Democrats need to label Republicans for the hypocrites they are and remind the American people of this betrayal and its implications on a regular basis.  This cannot be a forgotten moment in history.