Where Do We Go From Here: Ideas to Reform the Democratic Party

Richard D. Elliott, UMBC:

On Tuesday, November 8th, our country was shaken to the core. A candidate with no experience in politics or the military won – the only President-elect with that dubious distinction – despite trailing in almost all polls and having the lowest favorability ratings of any presidential candidate in American history. Only a week ago, the narrative of a fracturing Republican Party was the talk of Washington. But with the GOP in control of the White House, both chambers of Congress, and the Supreme Court, our Democratic Party faces an existential crisis. How we got here is important to the discussion, but it is more important to discuss how we move forward.

Here are some of my ideas.

  • Appoint Keith Ellison as the Democratic National Committee Chair and Howard Dean as the Vice Chair

One area where we have failed is holding the Democratic Party accountable. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) had their finger on the scale during the 2016 primaries – and their bias was revealed in emails leaked by WikiLeaks after the primaries. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was the co-chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2008 primary bid, showed preference to the candidate she worked for in 2008 over Bernie Sanders. She resigned after this became public knowledge and was replaced by Donna Brazile, the current acting Chair of the DNC. Brazile was also implicated in favoritism and unethical behavior during the 2016 Democratic primaries, but has yet to resign.

To preserve the integrity of the Democratic Party, Donna Brazile should resign from her position as DNC Chair. Her successor should be someone who will support progressive values and who will abide by the ethical standards that we expect from the chair of our party.

That person should be Keith Ellison, a U.S. Representative representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District. Representative Ellison is the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and has been a strong progressive throughout his career. He has the strong support of Senators Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders and would be a perfect fit for the position. He deserves our support going forward.

Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont and 2004 presidential hopeful, has also announced his intention to become the DNC Chair. While Ellison remains the better candidate for the position, Dean would make an excellent Vice-Chair, and he deserves our support in that process.

  • Elizabeth Warren as Senate Minority Leader and Raul Grijalva as House Minority Leader

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the current Senate Minority Leader and House Minority Leader, have done an excellent job. However, in the wake of current events, it’s time they turn over the keys to more progressive Democrats.

Elizabeth Warren would be a better Senate Minority Leader than Chuck Schumer. Schumer, who is currently being groomed for Senate Minority Leader, voted for the Iraq War, opposed the Iran Deal, and supported John Bolton (a warhawk with a target on Iran) for our Ambassador to the UN. Elizabeth Warren has been an ardent progressive ever since she was elected to the Senate in 2013. For instance, she exposed Wells Fargo’s fraudulent schemes, fought for a $15 minimum wage, and oversaw the implementation of Dodd-Frank’s banking regulation. She would be the better leader for this upcoming generation of Democratic politicians because of her policy positions and staunch defense of the American worker.

Raul Grijalva was first elected in 2003 and is currently the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, alongside Keith Ellison. He is also in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, LGBT Equality Caucus, the National Landscape Conservation System and the Asian/Pacific American Caucus. He is a Democrat from Arizona, a state that could potentially flip from red as more immigration from Latin America and migration of educated workers change the demographics of the state. Not to mention, a Mexican-American who wants to defend LGBT rights will be an ardent defender of American values against the hatred and bigotry of conservative rhetoric. He was critical of Arizona’s controversial SB-1070 law that would’ve caused racial profiling against Hispanic and Latino people in the state of Arizona.

With these two staunch progressives in such prominent roles, it will prove to American voters that the Democratic Party is a party of the working class, minorities, and women, rather than a sell-out club for Goldman Sachs liberals and lobbyists.

  • Start promoting progressive members at every level of government

2018 is poised to be an enormous political battle for the future direction of this country. All 435 House seats, 34 Senate seats, 36 governorships, and 7 mayoral positions in large cities will be on the ballot. This gives us the opportunity to move the Democratic Party in the direction of the Sanders/Warren wing, rather than Third Way centrism. If politicians who excite our base are on the ballot, we can make enormous gains in all levels of government. We can make 2018 the liberal equivalent to the Tea Party’s 2010 rise.

If many progressive Democrats run in 2018, the left will be energized while working from the bottom up. Voters will be more motivated to vote if their opinion is reflected in local races. This opportunity should not be wasted on neoliberal favorites in areas where progressives have a chance.

However, the Democratic Party must field some moderate or Blue Dog Democrats in certain areas to get victories. Despite my personal issues with him, Joe Manchin of West Virginia is an example.

  • Working to effectively remove the Electoral College system

Maryland’s very own Jamie Raskin had an idea that would effectively dismantle the Electoral College: having states sign a compact to give their electoral votes to whichever candidate receives the most popular votes. Currently, this compact has 165 electoral votes, but it will not take effect until the states within it have 270 or more electoral votes. The legislation is pending in Michigan and Pennsylvania, which would add another 36 electoral votes to the compact if it passes in both states.

If we can get rid of the outdated Electoral College and move to a national popular vote, the election will no longer come down to who’s more popular in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. This will allow national issues to get more attention.

  • Taking the House and Senate back in 2018 and holding strong in 2020

The strongest impact that the Tea Party has had on our national politics has been giving Republicans control of state legislatures, governorships, and the U.S. House of Representatives. This gave the GOP the power to gerrymander states in their control, making the country that much less democratic. Democrats around the country should work to get rid of gerrymandering, instead having nonpartisan redistricting commissions. Washington, Arizona, and California currently have these.

Without gerrymandering, Republicans cannot abuse the fact that likely Democratic voters are often concentrated in cities and suburbs, while likely Republican voters are well-dispersed among rural areas. The current practice is cutting up states so that Democrats can only run in areas where they will almost certainly win, and Republicans give themselves competitive districts. This form of political rigging must end.

  • An end to large-scale donations and a switch to “crowdsourcing”

Prior to this year’s race, I would’ve told you that money is the biggest key to electoral success. But considering that Hillary Clinton spent more than double what Trump did and still lost, I would now dispute that. The reliance upon donations from Wall Street, Silicon Valley, and Hollywood looks bad to the same anti-establishment folks who voted for Trump. Bernie Sanders raised nearly $230,000,000 in this election cycle, all from small personal donations. His mailing list is invaluable to how the Democratic Party should fund itself henceforth: small donations from everyday Americans rather than plutocratic investments from the wealthiest of Americans.

  • The adoption of a 50-state strategy

In 2018, Democrats have the opportunity to win big in some new states. Backlash against Trump not only by people of color and women, but the youth vote and the white-working class can improve our chances in the Rust Belt states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Hispanic people in the Sun Belt can push Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas further into our hands with more seats in the House. If we can further build our coalition so that Hispanic and Latino people, black Americans, the youth, the white-working class, and suburban professionals all feel included and turn out to vote, we can flip the map blue.

  • Keeping Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the national spotlight

As the progressive left receives more attention, it will become the mainstream image and the mainstream voice of the Democratic Party. Bernie Sanders is already the most popular politician in America, and the use of social media to promote him is undoubtedly one factor. If the Democratic Party can invest wisely in social media and keep their finger at the pulse of our generation, they can make large gains politically.

  • Pursuing progressive politics at the local, state, and national level

One issue that conservatives have with liberals is the ‘tyranny’ of federal power. Luckily, we can use states’ rights to our advantage. For instance, 28 states currently have a minimum wage above the federal minimum wage (exceeding $7.25 per hour). 26 states currently have marijuana legal, whether for recreational or medicinal purposes, despite the fact that marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug. Even if Democrats can’t win back Congress or the White House, we can improve our nation state-by-state through local politics. Democrats at the lower levels can protect same-sex marriage, civil rights, civil liberties, and undocumented immigrants.

  • A united Democratic platform to fight for the following things:

Automatic voter registration in every state, a $15 federally-mandated minimum wage, abortion protected as a constitutional right, the staunch defense of same-sex marriage, a commitment to inclusivity and diversity, the protection of civil rights and civil liberties for all citizens, an end to tax loopholes and the offshoring of corporate or personal income, single-payer healthcare, the protection and preservation of our environment, stronger consumer protections, the guarantee of taxpayer-funded education from preschool through graduate school, and a commitment to renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s