The end of the Democratic Party as we know it?

Chamba SanchezBy Chamba SanchezDecember 23, 2016

“Crisis,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, “is the turning point….the decisive moment.” This is the challenge for the democratic party, endeavoring to find opportunities in these trying times. It will require courage, vision, and action. So far, the actions were taken after the election telegraph a message that this party is not moving towards that direction. Democrats have been playing a counterproductive blaming game, “the FBI director killed our momentum with emails inquiry,”  “The Russian tipped the scaled for Trump by releasing Podesta’s emails,” “The Electoral College is anti-democratic,” etc.

The party of FDR finds itself in its worst governing position ever.-starting next year, Democrats will control “ 31 legislative chambers and 15 governorships. Moreover, at the federal level in all three branches, Democrats are in the minority as Republicans will have a chance to tip the scale in the supreme court by adding a new conservative justice.  There are profound problems of leadership, vision, and complacency. The decision of the Senate Democratic leadership to change the rules of the filibuster back in 2013 was insane.  They might have thought that they were going to be in power forever.  Now, the President-elect can nominate whomever he pleases to the different essential departments in the executive branch, and there is nothing that the Democrats can do to stop him.  At least, they had the wisdom of not changing the rules for Supreme Court justices’  nominations.

I vividly remember the day before the presidential election, pundits and experts in the political firmament were writing obituaries for the Republican Party.  “Republicans are on the road of perdition,” some of them said, “They have ignored minorities, and the party will not win presidential elections with just old white voters,” others argued.  Yes, how can the Republicans win voters in a rapidly changing America, when they refuse to realign the party’ vision to the contours of a more pluralistic society, many voters asked themselves.  It was the Republican Party that was on the brink of collapsing we all thought. Now, it is the Democratic Party that is having a soul-searching, and its future looks bleak if nothing is immediately changed.

Should the election of Trump be read as a firm rejection of what the Democratic Party stands for? That is, the belief that America as a community is best when it is more inclusive and where those who work hard and play by the rules can do whatever their talent allows them to do to move up on the economic ladder. The latter is what leaders in the democratic party have failed to understand, or at least they have ignored. People in this country are working harder than ever, and yet they are still not able to provide for their families. Overall, the party of FDR has always focused on the message of fairness for everyone willing to work hard.

Nevertheless, focusing solely on fairness is naive or lacks a profound understanding of the problem. There is no fairness without opportunity. Indeed, workers in this country are unable to provide for their families in this “Uber” or “Wal-Mart” economy. This new economy gives no opportunity for workers to provide for their families sufficiently. This new “gig” economy, as it is often called, creates tremendous opportunities but it created tremendous challenges for workers in this country.

Economic mobility virtually does not exist in America, and most workers feel that Democrats have abandoned them. Many workers believe that democrats have gotten too close to corporate power, and they no longer fight the unchecked corporate greed.  Sanders pounded Hillary with this claim in the primaries.  Ironically, workers starving for opportunities embraced an economic message coming from a billionaire presidential candidate who sleeps on a golden bed and rides on a golden elevator and who shows no signs of eloquence or ability to articulate a complete policy thought.  Latinos also feel disappointed as President Obama promised comprehensive immigration reform and gave them comprehensive immigration enforcement instead.

The structural problems of leadership in the democratic party are deep and broad. When rational beings are in a hole, they stop digging. It appears that the Democrats are asking for a bigger shovel. One would think that the Democrats would have engaged in a search for new leadership with more innovating ideas. No. They recently elected Nancy Pelosi as the minority leader for the House of Representatives for the next two years.  Democrats needed strong, clear-eyed leadership with new progressive policy ideas that could animate the rank and file. Everyone thought Democrats were going to shake up and refocused. Instead, they re-elected Pelosi.  A nod to continuity at a time when continuity was not warranted.

These problems are also at the local levels. In the State of California, California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, an old guy who has been there forever. He is on his way out, and the guy who will replace him is Chair of the Los Angeles CountyDemocratic Party, Eric C. Bauman, another guy who has also been there forever. There is no leadership development at this party.  The democratic party in California also needs to have an internal revolution. What they have in place is not sustainable; that game blatantly being played of going along, getting along, and wait for your term has to stop.

The process of reassessing what happened in this past presidential election must be robust, and Democrats must have the courage to make the needed changes to get back in the game.  To go aggressively after the uneducated white voters and continue overlooking the needs of minorities in their party will be suicidal.   Hillary lost because many Latino and Blacks voters stayed home. One might argue that Trump’s approach to Blacks and Latinos in that speech on a hot day in Ohio sometime in August in which he told them point-blank. “‘What do you have to lose?” might have worked. Trump told these two groups, “you live in poverty in neighborhoods that are more dangerous than war zones.

Furthermore, these cities have been running for Democrats. Give me a chance.” Latinos and Blacks might not have had the courage to vote for this man and might just have decided to stay home, which might have been equated with voting for him, specifically in those states where that Hillary lost by thin margins.

The time has come for a new generation of leadership, and for the Democratic Party, it cannot come soon enough.

Thank you for reading.

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Sources Consulted

“Crisis.” Entry 1 and 2. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 9th ed. 1988. Print.

Johnson, Jenna. “Donald Trump to African American and Hispanic voters: ‘What do you have to lose? Washington Post. 22, August 2016. We. Accessed 22, Dec. 2016. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/08/22/donald-trump-to-african-american-and-hispanic-voters-what-do-you-have-to-lose/?utm_term=.e01378110442>.

Martin, Jonathan and Alexander Burns. “Democrats at Crossroads: Win Back Working-Class Whites, or Let Them Go?” New York Times. 15, Dec 2016. Web. Accessed 15, Dec. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/15/us/politics/democrats-joe-biden-hillary-clinton.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur>.

Opinions. “Cory Booker, Zephyr Teachout and more on the Democrats’ future.” Washington Post. 18, Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 20 Dec. 2016. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cory-booker-zephyr-teachout-and-more-on-the-democrats-future/2016/11/18/5e20a65e-ace2-11e6-977a-1030f822fc35_story.html?utm_term=.0b1d85f65caf>.

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