Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 11:27 pm | Mostly Cloudy 44º

 
 
 
 

Letter to the Editor: Progressives, Let’s Begin

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, assessing the results of the recent presidential election, said, “The Democratic Party lost it's soul.” (theguardian.com, Nov. 18, 2016)

In a recent post here, I quoted at length his judgment (“The Democratic Party once represented the working class … Not any more.”) and included his detailed description of Bill Clinton/Barack Obama administration policies that ignored – or actually acted to harm – the economic well-being of those who had once been the party's treasured constituents.

All media outlets now are full of Democrats' finger-pointing at those “responsible” for their humiliating defeat, quickly followed by universal outrage and indignation at the cabinet appointments that President-Elect Donald Trump is making.

Regarding the first, I wholeheartedly agree with former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden: “You are only a failure when you blame others for your mistakes.”

Regarding the latter, I suggest that fulminating, marching, posting and chanting anti-Trump slogans is wasted energy. It relieves feelings but accomplishes nothing.

It may feel good to sign email petitions to remove this or that appointee but, in view of overwhelming Republican control of both houses of Congress, it's as effective as spitting into the wind.

Former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank, who lived up to his name, once said something like, “if all the marchers would actually organize in a way that would affect the vote of their government representative, I'd have a lot more respect for them.”

That is the heart of the matter now.

For the Democratic Party to regain its soul, and thereby hope to reengage working class loyalty, it must now begin - and must persevere - in its selection of influential personnel who intend to uphold policy and legislative decisions that will once again make the party the progressive champion of those who, enraged at government's ignoring their sorry plight, have lashed out in support of anyone who's not been connected with their oppression and deprivation.

The only presidential aspirant who wanted to deal with the matters cited by Secretary Reich is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Though Sanders failed to achieve the Democratic Party nomination, he received an impressive 47% of the vote, all the more remarkable since the party's influential operatives did everything in their power to emasculate his potential with the rank and file.

Bernie Sanders is now – and should be – the leader of the Democratic Party.

Mark Halperin, a co-host and political analyst on MSNBC, said, “It remains to be seen whether Sanders intends to lead the party or to be just a gadfly.”

I agree with this opinion. I think Sanders' decision in this regard is crucial to the near future of the Democratic Party, and I think you and I have a sizable role to play in determining

Sanders' role and in determining that future.

No. 1: We who care about this should write a letter to Senator Sanders, telling him that his continued leadership is crucial for the Democratic Party's future and that for him to shy away from this role would betray all those who supported him in the primaries and all those who have since realized that the party must change in ways he has described.*

No. 2: We in California's 24th Congressional District recently elected Democrat Salud Carbajal to the United States House of Representatives. He will take office on January 20, 2017.

Each of us needs to write a letter to Representative-elect Carbajal. We must tell him that a successful future for the Democratic Party depends on its reclaiming its legislative/policy recognition of the needs of our working class citizens as put forth by Senator Sanders in the presidential primaries; that we want Mr. Carbajal to contact Sanders immediately and notify the Vermont Senator that it is vital for the party's future for the senator to assume and maintain party leadership and that as a newly-elected California representative, Carbajal will support the senator's leadership and would like to be regarded as a loyal ally in the good fight.

Furthermore, it now appears that an important personnel selection will point the way the Democratic Party intends to move. Progressive Keith Ellison, a black Muslim, is running for Chair of the Democratic National Committee. He is supported by Senator Sanders.

The Sanders-Ellison coalition, representing an intent to change the current priorities of the Democratic Party, is opposed by a Nancy Pelosi/Chuck Schumer alliance, who want to continue politics-as-usual.

We must ask Salud Carbajal firmly to support Sanders-Ellison. **

This is a beginning. It should go without saying that legislative Democrats and progressive private organizations are expected to combat and resist President Trump's most scurrilous proposals and appointments. And if in 2018 there is considerable disillusionment among voters nationwide about a Trump administration, progressive Democrats may make some headway in their percentage of congressional seats. But if this is not the case a four-or-eight-year struggle faces those who would like to see Democrats prevail.

I am not a Democrat. I am – and have long been – a political independent. But I saw in Senator Sanders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elect a national leader who understood most of the basic political/social/economic problems strangling our supposed “democracy.”

Nothing would please this independent more, however, than to see the party of Franklin Roosevelt once more support and enhance the basic, reasonable aspirations of its people.

William Smithers
Santa Barbara

* Senator Bernie Sanders, 332 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510

** Salud Carbajal for Congress, P.O. Box 1290, Santa Barbara, CA 93102

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