Thanksgiving—a time for football, food, and family. A time to reflect on our gratitude. A time to say, “I’m thankful for…” And I’m thankful for living in the United States of America. A nation which may have lost its moral standing a few weeks ago, but so wholeheartedly believes in the underdog rhetoric, that maybe this is the scene where everything looks dark for our hero. And I’m thankful I have the voice to help that hero recover. Help make America great again.
So it is time to turn the Democratic Party from a sclerotic cliché into a real progressive voice. From a party that we Millennials support simply because the alternative is unimaginable to a party we can be proud of, not dejectedly sigh, “Well, I guess that is my platform…” To a party that no longer represents a number of corporations layered with a façade of social justice. To a party that can take on Trump and his minions nimbly and effectively. To a party that makes change.
The Tea Party ruthlessly hounded down the few moderate Republicans, and forged a newer, angrier, meaner Republican Party. They excited their base with pageantry and showmanship, allergic reactions to reasoning, and finger-pointing. They may have seemed silly in their tricorn hats, but they got the party they wanted—Republicans toed the line, or they got primaried.
We, as progressives, need to take a lesson from the Tea Party to render our own version of the Democratic Party. Here are 10 steps that we can take to shape our future:
- All Democratic leaders need to vocally and openly support the water protectors in North Dakota. You don’t excite your base by sitting on the fence, or giving lukewarm thumbs-up. You proudly stand against corporate greed and abuse of power. You put the protest on the front page every day. You fight and bleed with them. This your future base will remember. This shows your principles. This shows your strength and dedication to a better world, one that no longer needs to repeat the mistakes of the past. Oh, and if you don’t, we primary you out.
- Get new leadership. Nancy Pelosi has to go. Thank you for your service. You presided over a very stressful time, but you also did little to express a vision for a new Democratic Party. We can no longer rely on California’s vision of the party, but one that incorporates a changing America (yes, I love you Cali, but I think we need to expand our methods). Pelosi is the old guard. Schumer, too, but if he fights, and fights hard, then we can live with it. Tim Ryan—work to expand the base. But the Democrats need fresh leadership across the board. A losing team doesn’t simply rotate the players and hope to start winning.
- Re-engage on poverty. Construct a comprehensive anti-poverty plan. Talk to those folks in Trump country, talk to those folks on the West Coast. Talk to the cities. Talk to the ‘burbs. Talk to the country. Learn what can fight poverty in America. Don’t simply sprinkle the proposal with vague ideas and continuation of staid themes—go big. Seek change. And then, put it to a vote. Force the people to watch Republican leaders vote against improvement. Or maybe it works. As a horrible human being once said, “What have you got to lose?”
- Listen to the people. If you know your own people, go out amongst Trump country—white America, the suburbs, rural areas—and treat them like the special snowflakes they want to be. No one wants to hear a problem, but everyone wants to tell somebody—be that somebody. Listen and ask, what could make you vote progressive? What changes do you want to see? But be honest—don’t try to wow folks with policy, but truth. And if their positions are incompatible with what it means to be progressive, if they don’t want to hear truth, then they will always vote for the strongman, the liar, the goldbricker. But those you can change, change.
- Find new thinkers. Right now, liberal thought leaders are nitpicking Trump’s win and the rise of the alt-right, nationalism, and hatred. Let them do so, and let’s find some other people. I believe we are, all of us, tired of reading the same moderate voices for so-so progressivism for the last decade. And the current, “Who are we? What do we do?” finger-pointing is inane. I’m tired of being told how the concerns of failing Ohio cities should dominate my thinking, and should be incorporated into everything I do. Of course, I care that the Midwest is dying; that West Virginia has deep, intrinsic troubles; that the South continues to slip. But I too have my concerns—which are equally valid. I get to be a special snowflake, too.
- Take on the banks. Old Democrats think they can still be a mildly conservative party, cozened with friends on Wall Street, while feeding the youth drips and drabs of social policy. Fuck that. Bernie exposed the anger we have at those bankers and brokers who amortized and gambled our future away. Obama did not prosecute a single banker for the Recession—it’s one of his great failings. The new Democratic Party has to be willing to jail the very people they depend on for money, because we can’t let America simply become a feeding trough for Goldman Sachs.
- Don’t let the conservatives frame the debate. We see this too often, progressives allowing a debate to get framed on conservative terms: Moral outrage over a wall then gets parlayed into how can we afford a wall; support for unions into how do we reform unions; anger over a police shooting turning into a background check on the victim. These are major failures, especially in our current post-fact era. The Tea Party came to power not because they sent their best and brightest to engage on MSNBC, but their gutter slime to slink onto Fox to shift the debate. New progressives have to focus on both moving the base left and never letting conservatives shift the argument.
- Use technology. The alt-right took over the Tea Party chaos because many of their members are extremely savvy with new technologies. We nominated a candidate who doesn’t know how to use a desktop computer. There’s a gap. Mind it.
- Fight Trump tooth and goddamn nail. We should see in the coming months much of the old guard Democrats giving way to Trump and his ilk—some of that will come from the 100 days honeymoon, but the rest will be Democrats thinking it’s just business as usual. It’s not. The minority party now has the leeway to become the obstructionist party. Push against everything, and be vocal. Make this sad sack of a President run crying to his Twitter feed about how unfair it is. Make him tweet his tears at 3am every day. See who can piss off the Cheeto more—Saturday Night Live or the Democrats…I hope it’s the latter.
- Support your constituency. Stand openly for human rights. Stand for LGBTQ rights. Stand for minorities’ rights. Stand for farmer’s rights. Stand for worker’s rights. Stand for children’s rights. Stand for the rights of those with disabilities. Stand for immigrant’s rights. Stand for something. We don’t need the craven. We don’t need the spineless. We don’t need those who twist and turn like a rat in a maze. We need leaders. We need strength. We need to see ourselves walking side by side with history, and knowing we are America.