The Democratic Party:
What Happened, and What We Ought to Do Next
By. Raimondo Graziano
~ Written after the 2016 Presidential Election
One of the jobs of any public servant is to work to not be blind or deaf to the needs of all Americans, and to get at the root of issues that some use to promote racist and bigoted agendas. For many people, the root of their concerns lie in their wallets, if their wallets are unaffected, then their propensity for holding Washington and its denizens’ accountable falters. This election has shown that many Americans are not happy or encouraged by the direction of the country, and I believe at its heart there is an economic and educational deficit in this country that is adversely affecting people leading to scapegoating, and an opportune moment for opportunistic demagogues. And this issue is not isolated here, mind you, the rise of populism and what the president has called “crude nationalism” is evident throughout Europe. The West is deeply troubled.
The Democratic Party was ousted from executive power this past election. Not only this but we did not regain the Senate as we thought, we did not attain control of the house, we lost two Governorships and Republicans control the most state legislatures in over eighty years. Much progress made these past eight years is going to be targeted by the incoming administration. What the Democratic Party does next is vitally important if we are to continue to strive for progress, and ensure that our country remains both competitive internationally, and just at home. The party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt is no longer the party of today. And it carries equal weight to say that the party of Abraham Lincoln is no longer the party of the Republicans today. Both parties suffer from their own institutional ailments and corruption as well as a campaign finance system which rewards the wealthy with political favors and influence on Capitol Hill. Though today I want to talk about what it is that the Democratic Party must do in order to cement itself as the party of America’s future, a future for all Americans. With that being said, I do not argue that the party I reasonably align with is wholly right in all the beliefs they hold. No, to have movements and groups of differing opinions and varying, different solutions to many issues facing the globe is beneficial to the continued expansion of our democracy and our ideals, both at home and abroad.
There is a great want for progressive reform on taxes, Wall St., education and other aspects of our American lives. However the vast majority of our legislatures and courts are in the hands of a party opposed to such leaps and bounds of progress. They advocate for the scaling down and dismantling of many programs aimed at helping those who are worse off, and reforms that have been made to reign in the greed and excess of Wall St. While we are passionate in our ideals, policy proposals and hopes, there is little movement on these issues from elected officials concerned with reelection and campaigning, and from the people, too disinterested and too far removed from the political process to care. Firstly, the Democratic Party needs to respond more fully to voices of the people, and the people this time around weere looking for change. Senator Sanders is a populist, though not self-described. President-Elect Donald J. Trump, is a populist, diagnosed by the pundits. They both rose dramatically in the polls, and their message resounded with the American people. While one spoke of progress and hope for ‘a future we could believe in’, the other spouted xenophobic, and vitriolic nationalistic ‘America First’ rhetoric, reminiscent of the words of isolationists and nativists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While one party embraced the latter, the former was cast aside and not given the ample amount of attention he and his supporters believed they deserved. The merit of a man was not what mattered in this election. Rather, the nomination of the candidate for the Democratic Party was assuredly Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, though despite the many warnings signs and past scandals, some warranted and others not, the party choose to in closed circles, acknowledged that Secretary Clinton would be the nominee. Many even going as far to assume that she would ascend to the presidency itself. They were woefully arrogant, boisterous and in the end, wrong. They could not feel the national mood and temperament, or rather, they simply ignored it certain in their own political machines and dynasties, certain in their infallible structure. Again, wrong. The election quickly shaped up to be an ‘establishment versus the people’ prospect, and the people it seems have won out. Because of the blind arrogance of Democratic party elites, not only did they lose the election but they may have alienated a group of Americans, the youth, because of the blatant disregard for Senator Sanders, his people and his ideas. For many including myself, this was my first Presidential election, my first opportunity to vote, and having watched the campaign closely, to see only three candidates on the Democratic stage was disheartening. It was as if the party had already decided who their nominee would be.
While the Republicans had a field full of candidates all vying for the nomination. And now we are here – While the Republican party is united, the strongest party in eighty years, the democratic party is in disarray reeling from an election that ‘couldn’t happen’, and without a true unifying leader. Arrogance and a sense of certainty in one’s chances sunk the party, and sunk progress for the next four years. Possibly more, considering the unified Congress and the possibility of up to three supreme court nominations. So what is it we do? Well, for one, crying and wallowing in our defeat is not an answer. And justly so, neither is pointless violence aimed at expressing or displeasure, that’s only symbolic. We have to make sure we understand this simple truth – We’ve got people, and institutions who we are obligated to defend and uphold now more than ever, as a clear and present threat to our ideals as a nation emerges.
At the national level we must advocate for candidates that choose to distance themselves from large moneyed donations, and lobbyists, for candidates that have proven track records in their writings, and in their character, as to what they will stand for and advocate for in congress. Much of this, is left out of our hands directly, though indirectly through protests, through leaflets and letters and a general unrelenting pressure on our representatives, we can then enact slow, and I know it’s hard to face the prospect of incremental change, but we can exert a pressure which can lead to change within our political system.
At the local level, we have a greater ability to engage with our representatives on a personal level. Therefore it is vital to encourage our students, both young and old to become involved actively in local government as well as to foster an understanding and appreciation as to how the government works. Small, and local civic groups can reach out to community members going door to door advocating for causes close to home, as well as taking down gripes and concerns constituent members may want to have addressed. Likewise with the help of those in office we can leverage support from private businesses to invest and help to solve the issues facing our communities, after all, these businesses are run by those that live near to our homes and these people are concerned and willing to help to prop up and bolster their towns. People and businesses, just need the right push and encouragement to fully get the job at hand done. Individuals are more likely to lend a hand and to engage in the political process, if they can understand that what we all do, on our own and in private, affects us all together. Most importantly, it is time we begin using our technological capabilities not for leisure or fleeting pleasure, but for political action. Though it is done on a small scale on social media, the power of media as tool for journalism, truth and advocacy is immense. Imagine all of our social media platforms, that billions of people use daily, used in the context of political activism. If we moved away from the idea of social media as a form of human contact and started to engage with each other physically as we used to, and more as a tool of our untapped collective potential, then I believe we will be better off because of the immense power of this creation I’m not sure we fully grasp. Many people blame social media for our detachment from each other, and for our obsessions with pictures of ourselves and material things. Perhaps social media has perpetuated this. Perhaps we are simply using it wrong. In 2018, the number of individuals actively using social media is expected to reach almost 3 billion. Never in our history has a technology and a tool been so wildly available, and so shamefully misused by so many. There are tools, and moments that define generations and peoples, and this very well could be one of them. The question is, do we use it to further our progress and hope for a better world for all, or is it our downfall and the denigration of a once great people? With such a wide breadth of knowledge and information at our disposal, why then are we using it for what can only be described as trivialities in the grand scheme of things? Does it not seem then, that we are wasting time, letting hours pass on and not seeing the potential for greatness?
Politics as I see it, is personal. Though for many, what happens in Washington is the domain of that storied city. What happens in Washington, and in every capital, is our business, as this is a country that can only thrive on engagement of the people.