Stop Blaming Russia:
Here’s How to Fix the Democrats
12/19/2016 by Dylan James Harper
The Democrats have many internal problems to deal with, politically, and ethically, if they ever want to win elections again. This reality is what’s made some of the recent discussions of Russia so frustrating. Russian hackers did influence the election, there is no reason to waste breath denying that, but it seems like the influence was rather minimal, all things considered, and far less significant than the core problems with the Democratic Party. These problems can be broken down linearly, and looked at one after another, the impact of all the issues becomes clear.
The first problem is branding. The Democrats lost in part because virtually no one believes they are a party that represents anything other than an alternative to the Republicans. The GOP’s brand credibility isn’t high either, but they’ve been far better at weathering the storm, and playing from behind. Obstructing, backing horrendously unqualified candidates at local, state, and federal levels, and being shamelessly partisan, even when it means going against centuries old standards, isn’t a great look, but it guarantees that the key base will be there for the GOP, and in elections like the one that just occurred, that’s all they needed.
Meanwhile, the Democrats, who clearly felt they had the demographic advantage to win a razor’s edge war of core demographics, realized too late that the groups they were counting on, women, Latinx individuals, black individuals, and the poor, have lost faith in them. No one wants to come out to vote for a candidate they don’t believe in, running on behalf of a party they don’t believe in. The Democrats have offered the demographics that were supposed to keep them in the white house for decades next to nothing to maintain their loyalty. Holding them hostage at the threat of a Trump presidency wasn’t enough in 2016, and that’s not likely to change.
The Democrats need to rebrand themselves as a champion for those who feel cheated by the system. That’s going to need to be backed up by actual policy and political action. They need to stop saying they’re willing to work with Trump, and start opposing him on behalf of the groups who will be most harmed by his presidency. This should occur rhetorically, but politically as well. The GOP just demonstrated how effective obstruction can be. Republicans obstructed President Obama for eight years, and it’s yielded them all three branches of government. The Democrats should work from that exact playbook and prevent Trump from accomplishing anything he wants to by any means at their disposal. The legislature isn’t filibuster proof, and the Supreme Court is likely to be very cautious in how they rule, given their missing justice and the current political climate. The climate has never been better to play obstructionist, and it would be an important political and symbolic move for the Democrats.
Along the same branding lines, they need to get better control over who is leading their party. Many people that don’t fully understand politics think they should open up their primary. If anything, this election proved it’s too open. Bernie Sanders had no place in that primary. He hurt Clinton’s chance, and his attempt to become a leader of the Democrats will further hurt them. He would have lost as well, and is in no way the answer to the Democrats problems, but there’s little doubt more people like him will try to run for president on the Democrats behalf. Clinton was a bad candidate by the end, but she was by far the best realistic candidate on the table. That’s a problem. If the Democrats have any desire to change the way they are perceived, running more leftists is going to be a start, and that’s going to mean locking up their primary power structure in a way that doesn’t let middle class white primary voters force the party to go in the wrong direction. This also means starting at the local level, which is related to the second major problem with the Democrats.
Stop losing state and local elections. Right now in North Carolina, arguably the most gerrymandered state in the Union, the Republicans are gutting their entire political infrastructure to prevent a newly elected progressive governor, and state supreme court justice from making any changes to the state’s electoral system. The Democrats are doing next to nothing to prevent that, politically or rhetorically. There is no reason President Obama shouldn’t be in North Carolina demanding political action to stop the obvious power grab. Even if it’s unsuccessful, it’s still crucial to be visibly opposed to the Republican strategy of voter suppression. The GOP has won the state and local election wars easily, and the Democrats haven’t helped by not making these a priority. They don’t spend a lot of resources or political capital, and it’s cost them.
If the Democrats want to exist in the future, they should lean hard into winning governorships, state senate seats, mayorships, and anything else that holds influence at the state and local level, particularly over how states and localities run their elections. This might be somewhat broad, but it’s very linear problem and the data demonstrates this; the Democrats don’t spend their money or political capital on state and local elections, they lose these elections, the newly elected Republican state and local officials create election rules that suppress voters, it becomes more difficult for the Democrats to win in the state, they use that as justification to not prioritize those elections.
Finally, stop getting into bed with people that don’t reflect any strain of leftist ideology. How many people on the left endorse, even worship, guys like Elon Musk, or Travis Kalanick, who are both now aiding Donald Trump? How many writers ostensibly on the political left have defended the so called “sharing economy” that further subjugates the working class? How many cultural heroes on the left like Jon Stewart, or Seth MacFarlane, helped create an environment where someone like Trump was so easily normalized, and his overtly bigoted rhetoric became so easy to ignore? This too is tied in with branding, but it goes beyond that. Not every one of these people directly hurt the Democratic brand, but all hurt the party. The Democrats need to set a hardline where they simply won’t tolerate any third way style apologia for anything conservatives endorse or find acceptable.
The Democrats are a bad political party, in every way. Ethically, the only thing they have going for them is that they’re not the Republicans. Politically, they’ve hemorrhaged what should have been a huge demographic advantage. Culturally, they’re thought of as losers, and rightfully so. The Democrats do not deserve anyone’s support or loyalty. They’re a political party that’s so far away from the radical change necessary that it’s easy to see why so many see them as indistinguishable from the Republicans. They are, however, not the GOP, and they’re sadly the only entity with the political infrastructure necessary to prevent horrific policy, ranging from environmental regulations to trans bathroom bills, from coming into being. It’s not that they shouldn’t be abandoned, it’s that they can’t be abandoned, at least not without doing what will likely be irreparable harm. Thus, it’s crucial to hope for their improvement. Fixing the above issues is the way forward for them, and what anyone who any sort of progression, or even just a workable stopgap from regression, should advocate for.
Dylan James Harper is the Chief Political Editor for CSuiteMusic
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