The Future of the Democratic Party

by Hunter Campbell

In 2009, when newly-elected President Barack Obama took office, the Democratic party controlled the Senate with 57 members, and controlled the House with 257 members.

After the votes were tallied on election night, Democrats hold only 193 seats in Congress. Democrats were able to pick up 2 seats in the Senate, but that still leaves them in the minority with only 48 seats. This “win” for the Democrats was like a fresh coat of paint on a totaled car.

The series of losses does not stop there. Democrats controlled 28 governorships in 2008; that number has been reduced to merely 18. In 2008, the Democrats controlled of both chambers of 27 state legislatures, while Republicans controlled both chambers in 14 state legislatures. The Democratic total has taken a death spiral to 11, while Republicans have more than doubled their total to 30.

The bad news gets even worse when you take into consideration what are called “state government trifectas,” which are when a single party controls the governorship and both chambers of a state’s legislature. The Democrats had 17 trifectas in 2009, while the Republicans had 9. The Democrats losing streak continues in the category as well. They now only control 6 trifectas and the GOP now controls a whopping 24. All of this, combined with Republican control of the White House and an impending influx of conservatives into the courts shows the degree to which the Democrats have lost.

The slow and ugly decay of the Democratic Party must end. Too many people suffer when Democrats lose, and the stakes are too high to simply try again in 2 years with the same bad approach. The Democratic establishment ran an identity-based campaign which attempted to brand Trump as all out bigot who was anti women, immigrant, LGBTQ, Muslim, African-America, and much else. Instead on focusing substance, the party tried to court millennials with celebrities like Jay Z, Beyonce, and Lebron James. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party obviously agreed that Trump was a bigot and was his strongest critic in that regard. However, progressives acknowledged that Trump and the Republicans must be challenged heavily on their economic policies —something centrist Democrats ignored— especially Trump’s feigned economic populism that is sure to disappear as soon as he arrives in the White House.

Progressive Democrats and supporters of Bernie Sanders argued, during the primary and after, for the importance of redistributive economic policies and eliminating big money in politics, for abandoning the failed neoliberal economic policies that have hurt middle and working class Americans. However, the Democratic establishment, in bed with corporate interests and subject to the donor class by taking untold sums of campaign donations from Wall Street, corporations, and the million and billionaires of this country, pushed a false narrative: that there is an either-or choice between progressive economic policy and social justice, arguing that focusing on helping the working class of America somehow leaves out those who are not white. That is simply, and undeniably, not the case. A strong, progressive, redistributive economic platform. Democrats must recognize this, and right now there is a clear and concise way in which the party can move forward in a way that will not only fight for social, economic, and environmental justice, but also win elections up and down the ballot, giving the party the power it needs to improve the material conditions of millions of people’s lives.

One way to move the party forward is to elect Rep. Keith Ellison as head of the DNC. The DNC chief is the one who calls the shots in terms of where the party goes from here. Progressive economics and populist campaigns worked for Democrats in 2008, but the regression to centrist rhetoric and the retreat from bold economic policy has crippled the party and discredited it in the eyes of many working class voters. A genuine progressive at the head of the Democratic Party is just what it needs to begin its recovery. Keith Ellison is the first Muslim American elected to and the first African-American elected to Congress by Minnesota. He is also the co-chair the Congressional Progressive Caucus. His opponent for position of head of the DNC was Howard Dean, the former head of the DNC from a decade ago who now is now a lobbyist for big pharma. Corporate lobbying and unlimited corporate money in politics is what has polluted our political system with corruption. Thankfully Dean has dropped out of the race, but that does not mean that the party is free from the corruption that he and other Washington insiders represent. The Democrats must elect someone who represents the future of the party, rather than someone who embodies the failed policies and mistakes of the past.

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