I originally wrote this article for UNC Asheville’s student newspaper, The Blue Banner. It was published February 21, 2017. Digital scan of the issue unavailable.
By Cody Jones, Opinion Staff Writer
If Democrats want to reverse their massive losses, they must refocus their message and their efforts to organize.
Since 2010, the Democratic Party managed to lose approximately 1,000 legislative seats across the country. Republicans now control 32 state legislatures and 33 governorships and they are in complete control of 25 states. Many of those states — including North Carolina — have veto-proof Republican majorities, meaning even if there is a Democratic governor, the legislature can override the governor.
A good first step in the long and difficult process of regaining power is to expunge and replace the ineffectual leadership of the Democratic National Committee. The DNC is responsible for organizing and supporting the Democratic Party at all levels of government.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who began to serve as the DNC chairperson in 2011, stepped down in 2016 after leaked emails revealed coordinated efforts to assist Hillary Clinton during the presidential primaries. The DNC chairperson is supposed to remain impartial during the primaries.
Schultz perfectly exemplifies the embarrassing level of detachment from the poor and working class Democrats have demonstrated over the last few decades.
She received contributions from payday lenders and defended the industry despite the fact lenders often target single mothers and minorities, trapping them in an endless cycle of debt. She opposed the legalization of medical marijuana, effectively denying sick and terminally ill people a form of relief. In an almost comical display of elitism, it was reported she tried to use her influence as chairperson to score seven tickets to “Hamilton,” the Broadway show, through the DNC finance director. Tickets cost around $200 each on the lower end and about $850 a pop for the best seats.
Schultz was then replaced in the interim by Donna Brazile. While Brazile was a political analyst for CNN, she shared debate questions with Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, giving Clinton an unfair advantage going into the debates. Once questioned about her unethical move, it was clear she was sorry for being caught, but not because she felt bad about her actions.
Schultz was ultimately unsuccessful as chair of the DNC since she neglected to properly fund down-ballot campaigns and therefore neglected the infrastructure of the party. But there is some hope. A few weeks ago, Brazile did what many establishment Democrats have avoided: admit failure. She made it clear, “We made some serious mistakes and some strategic errors.” She is right, and it is time to reset the DNC.
By the end of February, the next chairperson of the DNC will be elected. If the Democratic Party hopes to become revitalized, Rep. Keith Ellison from Minnesota is the candidate likely to make that a reality. He has emphasized a bottom-up approach rather than the top-down strategy Democrats have focused on over the last few years. His platform states, “We must energize Democratic activists across the country and give them the tools to build the party from the bottom up. Beyond a 50-state strategy, we need a 3,143-county strategy.” He understands the importance of organization at the local level; it is the keystone of political power.
Grassroots mobilization is absolutely required if Democrats, liberals, progressives and leftists hope to gain any leverage. Centrist Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Joe Manchin are not going to strengthen the party. They are the reason the Democratic Party is in the shape it is.
Instead, people like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders should be supported and their message amplified. Pay attention to their ideas because if there is a platform that will resonate with and inspire people, it is theirs.