“Wake Up, Liberals: There Will be No 2018 ‘Blue Wave’, No Democratic Majority and No Impeachment”,
“There’s no quick fix for Trump or our damaged democracy—and the Democrats still look hopeless”
“Beyond Opposing Trump, Democrats keep searching for a message”
“Democrats in the Dead Zone”
“Can Democrats Fix the Party?”
Not a day goes by that I don’t read yet another article about the problems in the Democratic Party – no presidency, neither house of Congress and only a third of governors’ offices and state legislatures – and also not a day goes by that I don’t encounter another exhortation or reason or strategy to “resist” Trump and his agenda. It appears that all the Party can do is lick its wounds, point fingers at who or what they think was responsible for its devastating losses and oppose Trump, all totally insufficient to generate the enthusiasm and the votes needed to take back the House or the Senate in 2018, much less the presidency in 2020. “Not Trump” or “Resist” might be rallying cries for the Democratic Party but they are not strategies for winning.
And despite Trump’s record unpopularity and obvious incompetence and millions of dollars poured into them, the Democratic Party is 0 for 4 in recent special congressional elections. How can this be? While it’s obvious that Democratic victory in these four traditionally solid Republican districts would be difficult, another reason for the losses is simply that the Democrats no longer have a clear message other than opposition to the president and the Republican Congress. The latest disappointment, the contest in Georgia’s Sixth District, the lame Jon Ossoff and his DCCC supporters erred seriously with a campaign right out of the vanilla Hillary Clinton playbook – fight government waste, trim regulations, support Israel, promote “civility in politics”, “personal responsibility”, etc – nothing for the guy who’s working two jobs, can’t pay the electric bill, has a chronically sick kid and a pregnant wife and just had his used car repossessed.
Clearly the party needs to stand for something and truly, when I ask myself what the Democratic Party stands for today I am at a loss. This point was perfectly illustrated in the 2016 presidential campaign when what the standard-bearers of the respective parties stood for were in sharp contrast to each other. The authors of “Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign” painfully describe the difficulty the campaign had in even coming up with the reason Mrs. Clinton was running for president. The best the campaign could manage was – “I would have had a reason for running or I wouldn’t have run.” In addition the authors describe a board in the campaign’s Brooklyn office totally covered with sticky notes listing “what Hillary is for” – actually so many that the net result was nothing. So it should be no surprise that the Democratic candidate lost the election. It would seem that at the very least it should be clear what a candidate stands for and why s/he is running for office. And during the the campaign there was never any doubt as to where Hillary’s Republican opponent stood and why he was running. He was going to bring manufacturing and mining jobs back, keep Muslims out of the country, build that wall and “Make America Great Again”.
These thoughts have prompted me to reflect on my own political convictions. Since my early twenties, when I finally shook off the last vestiges of the parental cocoon of Republicanism in which I had been wrapped since childhood, I realized that the Democratic Party best represented what “I am for”:
- concern for the health and welfare of my fellow man;
- concern for the working man and the union that represents him;
- a living wage for a full day’s work;
- limiting the power of corporations and big business and ensuring that they paid their fair share of taxes;
- progressive taxation for individuals with the wealthy paying their fair share of taxes;
- a dignified and comfortable retirement for everyone;
- affordable and adequate healthcare for everyone;
- good public schools and and an education for everyone who wanted it;
- a reasonable “floor” under our society beneath which no one could fall, meaning unemployment insurance, welfare for the poor and Social Security for the elderly;
- a safe and healthy environment through regulation and conservation;
- accepting that we are a nation of immigrants that requires laws that foster a steady flow of new blood and energy from foreign lands;
- a belief that the government can be a force for good in people’s lives;
- promoting the importance of voting, that this right should be guaranteed to all citizens.
It seems that these personal convictions have always been staples of the Democratic Party but if so, why is it so difficult today to shout them loud and clear? Obviously the Democratic Party is ill. Its symptoms are obvious: no clear message, ossified leadership, forsaking its working class roots, selling out to Wall Street, economic issues eclipsed by social issues, writing off the working man and relying instead on the minority vote, representation by corporate Democrats like the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Shumer and Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the “Republicans in Democrat clothing”, cross dressers like Senators Joe Manchin and Heidi Heitcamp. What prescription can we offer to address these symptoms? What can we administer to the Democratic Party to get it well? It doesn’t need some expensive drug to treat or mask symptoms or that produces negative side effects, like identity politics, cultural issues, opposing Trump or defending Obamacare. What the Democratic Party needs is a robust return to the basics of good health – fresh air, good food and lots of exercise. And what are those for the Democratic Party? A return to the principles articulated and espoused by the greatest Democrat of all – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
On January 6, 1941, President Roosevelt gave his “Four Freedoms” speech to Congress, “a vision of the world that would be worthy of our civilization”. He announced simply and eloquently that the United States should dedicate itself to advancing these four freedoms everywhere in the world:
- Freedom of speech and expression, the best defense against the corruption of democracy;
- Freedom of worship, our shield against the forces of bigotry, intolerance, and fanaticism;
- Freedom from want, a commitment to erasing hunger, poverty, and pestilence from the earth;
- Freedom from fear, a freedom dependent on collective security, a concept carried forward with our leadership in the United Nations.
Certainly, the Democratic Party, in reviving and resuscitating itself could start here – embrace of these “four freedoms” certainly compels a robust Democratic response to Trump’s attacks on the press and the environment, his recklessness and ignorance in foreign policy and his racism and bigotry.
Another place for the Democratic party to start should be reviewing and dedicating itself to Roosevelt’s “Second Bill of Rights”, those principles having been included in of all places, the Charter of the European Union. It might be useful to go back to the speech in which they were outlined. In Roosevelt’s words spoken to the nation on January 11, 1944:
“This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.
As our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
—The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;
—The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
—The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;
—The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
—The right of every family to a decent home;
—The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;
—The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
—The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.
America’s own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for all our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”
Incredibly meaningful meaningful principles, aren’t they? Surely here in the wealthiest nation on earth, we ought to be able to guarantee everyone a home, an education, a decent paying job, medical care and a dignified and worry-free retirement. These are principles that the Democratic Party has forgotten and that if they were embraced anew, the Democratic Party would regain its rightful place as the party that really cares about people, the party that for decades stood up for the common man.
Everything in FDR’s “Four Freedoms” and “Second Bill of Rights” can be readily extended and translated to what should be the major tenets of the Democratic Party today – including strengthening Social Security, strengthening unions, increasing the minimum wage, and endorsing single payer healthcare. And all of what the Democrats should stand for is supported by the American people. Poll after poll have indicated that most Americans support the principles enumerated above and oppose the cruel Republican agenda of Trump, Ryan and McConnell. The following statistics tell the story:
- 64% are significantly worried about global warning;
- 71% want the US to honor the Paris Agreement on climate change;
- By a ten point margin (49% to 39%) voters polled oppose removing regulations on businesses and corporations;
- Oppose removing regulations specifically intended to combat climate change by a margin of 61% to 29%;
- 58% want federally funded health insurance for all; 85% of black voters and 84% of Latino voters favor placing the government in charge of managing the health care system in the United States;
- a sizable majority — about three in five Americans — say the government has a responsibility to ensure everyone has health care;
- 64% would pay higher taxes to guarantee healthcare for everyone;
- 60% of Americans would favor replacing Obamacare with a federally funded national health plan;
- 74% are opposed to cuts in Medicaid;
- 61% of Republicans and 95% of Democrats would maintain or increase funding for health care in general;
- a majority of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American”;
- a plurality of voters support “a single payer health care system, where all Americans would get their health insurance from one government plan”;
- 61% percent of Republicans and 93% of Democrats would maintain or increase spending for ‘economic assistance to needy people in the U.S;
- two thirds of the American people say that the government should care for those who cannot care for themselves;
- 70% want nuclear disarmament;
- 72% want the US out of Iraq and Afghanistan;
- 73% want the government to maintain or increase government support for green energy;
- almost 70% favored Obama’s Clean Power Plan;
- 80% approve of Planned Parenthood receiving federal funds for non-abortion health assistance for women;
- 70% of Americans support a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy;
- 60% of Americans support doubling the national minimum wage to $15 per hour;
- 60% are favorable toward unions;
- 63% of Americans say money and wealth distribution is unfair;
- Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to tax policies that benefit corporations and the rich;
- 90% agree that there are already too many tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and corporations;
- 80% agree that it would help grow the economy if the country made sure the wealthiest Americans paid their fair share of taxes;
- voters broadly agree that Republicans in Congress put the interests of corporations and the wealthiest Americans ahead of average Americans;
- 61% say that the wealthy pay too little in taxes;
- 80% feel strongly that Trump should release his tax returns;
- about 80% of voters from both parties want to reverse Citizens United and get money out of politics;
- 70% say that the government should regulate financial services and products “to make sure they are fair for consumers”;
- 79% say Wall Street financial companies should be held accountable with tougher rules and enforcement for the practices that caused the financial crisis;
- a broad majority (77%) says that there is too much power in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations;
- by a 10-point margin (49% to 39%), voters oppose removing regulations on businesses and corporations;
- 66% of Americans believe there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor, an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009;
- three-quarters of all American adults favored Mr. Obama’s decision to re-establish ties with Cuba;
- a plurality – 39% of Sanders supporters backed Palestinians while just a third backed Israel; support for Palestinians has tripled among US youth;
- 92% favor universal background checks for gun purchases;
- 80% favor letting undocumented immigrants stay here legally;
- 60% favor legalization of recreational marijuana;
So, with the American people solidly behind a progressive agenda, my fellow Democrats, let’s get well. Let’s flush the dangerous and corrupting drugs of Wall Street big money and Clintonian centrism down the toilet and get out into the clean fresh air. Let’s stop supporting already doomed Obamacare, get profit out of healthcare and support Medicare for All; let’s support unions and collective bargaining; regulate big corporations and eagerly “welcome their hatred” as Roosevelt did; let’s support public schools and get corporations out of education; let’s fight to get money out of elections; let’s fight for fair taxation for corporations and individuals; let’s reject the cruelty of the Republican budget and support the Progressive Caucus’ “People’s Budget” ; let’s promote peace, negotiate with our enemies and put the military-industrial complex out of business; let’s support women and their right to control their bodies; let’s reject the influence of the pollsters, idea people, analysts and fundraisers like Neera Tanden, Robbie Mook and John Podesta who helped blow the last election; let’s stop beating around the bush with “identity” messages, “stronger together” banners and advocacy of social issues and get down to the reality of supporting our base with an economic message that will bring our voters together – the original Democratic base of American workers, plus our more contemporary base of minority voters. Let’s support all the traditional Democratic issues mentioned above but let’s wrap them all tightly in an economic message that everyone can support and everyone can understand – President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms and Second Bill of Rights. If the Democratic Party is brave enough to do this, to eschew the money and resultant influence of corporations and billionaires and rely on common people as Bernie Sanders so successfully did, we can look forward to a Democratic House in 2018, the House and Senate and the presidency in 2020.