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The DNC – “This Organization is Powered by You!”

The DNC – “This Organization is Powered by You!”
August 30, 2015 Anoa

Our country is at a crossroads.  We can either continue down this path of dismantling the backbone of our society (the working and middle class) or we can change course and rebuild opportunities for American families to thrive. As we exist in a two party system, both groups vie for the attention and support of the average American.  No matter how much certain special interest spend on votes they still need YOU to show up and vote.  Often people are heard saying they are voting for a lesser of two evils. But what if you didn’t have to? What if you could vote your conscience and not against your interest? The National Democratic Party positions itself as being of the people, for the people, by the people.  During a twitter exchange, I was pointed to a “preliminary report”[1] released in February 2015 by the Democratic National Committee (DNC) that examined why Democrats were losing.  The report was authored by the Democratic Victory Taskforce, as group appointed by DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  Although primarily focused on mid-term election losses in 2014, the report looked at historical trends affecting voter motivation and participation.[2]

The national Democratic Party must never allow itself to become a party of Beltway consultants who routinely recommend cookie-cutter campaigns that are detached from the concerns of the people we hope to represent, at the city, state, and federal level. In order to consistently win on every level, we have to reconnect with the reason we want to win—and that reason is the people. The national party must work with and help grow state and local parties, to empower the people to participate in politics, while recruiting and training the next generation of office holders. Democrats must stand for the right of all eligible Americans to be able to register, to vote, and to have their vote counted fairly and accurately. The Democratic Party must field candidates everywhere to ensure our message is heard everywhere. The national party needs to strengthen our state and local affiliates, revitalize our grassroots allies and broaden our appeal to stakeholders and others who assist us in elections. Our focus is not just on the presidential election cycles, but also elections for the US House and Senate as well as state and local offices, including midterm and special elections.  We need to speak directly, in ways that make sense and move people to action, addressing the broad, diverse group of Americans that are receptive to the Democratic Party’s message of shared opportunity and prosperity for all Americans. We know that our message is powerful because our opponents are trying to steal it. Income inequality and the resulting middleclass economic stagnation have become so extreme that even the Republicans are giving lip service to economic fairness—even as they advocate policies that would undermine it.

So why am I talking about a six month old “preliminary report”? In the current dash to the nomination, it seems at times as if DNC leadership has already picked its tribute for the general election.  However, the issues and ideas developed in the “preliminary report” suggest the need for a completely different course of action than the one currently employed by DNC leadership.  The alleged values and political philosophy endorsed by the report’s authors, coincide with one of our current candidates for President.  And it isn’t the presumed frontrunner.  These people handpicked by Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz, wax on poetically about the need for strengthening grassroots activism and engaging a broad spectrum of constituents on multiple issues.  “We believe that both prosperity and political power thrive best when they grow organically from below instead of being imposed from above.” How can the party claim to want a bottom-top movement on the one hand, while seemingly dictating outcomes on the other? Two areas the Taskforce identified needing improvement were in the party’s ability to engage, motivate, and mobilize voters and in its ability to create an accessible and open party.  I don’t know if this plan has been completely scrapped and it’s still business as usual, or if people at the top really think they have made some changes.  What is clear is that there is a serious disconnect between the DNC elite and rank and file membership. People need to be motivated and engaged on a new level and the existing DNC structure seems incapable of doing so.

A primary example of the entrenched thinking within the DNC is the chairwoman’s refusal to address the issues and alleged biases in the established debate schedule. During the DNC summer meeting, the chairwoman said the debate schedule was within her sole purview and essentially there was no recourse for those who objected.  This combined with an exclusivity clause, thus preventing candidates from engaging in debates other than the sanctioned six limits the public’s exposure to other candidates that could be more appealing to the target voter base.  While I’m sure the chairwoman is content with her little Marie Antoinette moment, it does not sit well with average rank and file Americans the DNC needs to motivate.  Being told who to vote for, and who is “acceptable” only further alienates those core constituencies you are trying to energize.

“The circumstances that led to the series of devastating electoral losses did not develop overnight. Instead they have been building over decades as the political system has been irrevocably changed by the passage of McCain-Feingold and the Citizens United decision.”

Despite lofty statements to the contrary, the DNC is not operating as if it is a party of the people.  It does not operate as if it is a party concerned about the damage done by McCain-Feingold and the erroneous Citizens United decision.   The base is not galvanized nor inspired…at least not by traditional leadership and their handpicked choice for nominee.  Instead of worrying about individual political points and personal positions of authority, DNC leadership should be acting in service to the people it is supposedly set up to represent.

In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters that we’ve lost including white Southern voters, excite key constituencies such as African American women and Latinas, and mobilize the broadest coalition of voters possible to not only recapture state houses but also Congress. In order to better understand how to bring this large coalition together, the Task Force recommends – in tandem with the National Narrative Project – that the DNC’s research delve more deeply into the barriers that keep people from identifying with, and supporting, Democratic candidates. This also includes working to better understand drop off and independent voters

In this 50th year since the passage of the VRA we should not be looking for new ways to deny voters full participation in the process. By failing to have meaningful participation through debates and fair dealings with all candidates, the DNC under Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz is effectively suppressing the vote of millions of Americans before the polls even open.  There is nothing open or accessible about a party that disenfranchises those who it claims to fight for.  There is nothing open or accessible about a leader whose basic response is “my way or the highway.”  That is not how positive sustainable change occurs.  If we as a party are to reclaim what has been lost over prior elections, there needs to be a quick course correction regarding messaging and transparency.  Regardless of who we support for the Democratic nominee, we need to make sure our party is staying true to the meaning of its creed and not just being business as usual.  Stop being the supposed lesser of two evils, and start being a positive choice for the people.  Mean what you say.  If this is truly a party “powered by the people”, then listen to what those people are saying.  Being in charge, doesn’t make you automatically right.

I recently received a lovely offer from DNC HQ.  If I donated any amount, I would be entered in a sweepstakes to meet President Obama. Sounds nice enough right? My response was no. I will not donate any money to this entity because until we have real meaningful debates. Why should I donate money for you to turn around and support a candidate that isn’t of the people’s choosing? By failing to have meaningful debates prior to the start of primary voting, the DNC is effectively putting its need for entrenched power and maintenance of the status quo ahead of the people it claims to represent. This is voter suppression. “This organization is powered by you”? All I could think was really? Do you people not see the disconnect between your alleged message of greater inclusion and your actions? Yeah let’s placate the little people while we do whatever we want. No thank you.

Bottom line the alleged values of the DNC are completely out of alignment with the current actions being taken by leadership on a day to day basis.  We cannot hope to reclaim what was lost by continuing to say one thing while doing another. It’s time to come down off the lofty moral high ground the DNC allegedly occupies and get with the people to build a movement for change from the ground up.  Cream rises to the top…and so shall the best person for the position as Democratic Nominee and next President of the United States of America.

[1] http://thehill.com/sites/default/files/democratic_victory_task_force_preliminary_findings.pdf

[2] The report further indicates that a final report would be released in May 2015. It is unclear if the final report was completed or was postponed indefinitely.

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