Saturday, June 23 , 2018, 6:09 am | Fog/Mist 60º


Letter to the Editor: The Democratic Party, Past and Future

As might be expected, assessments and opinions abound (1) explaining the Democratic Party's remarkable loss in the presidential election of 2016 and (2) speculating on what future the party will, or should, have.

HILLARY CLINTON, former Secretary of State, has told us that FBI Director James Comey is responsible for her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump. Presumably, Mr. Comey, an appointee of a Democratic Party administration, is one of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” that Secretary Clinton had previously named as authors of criticisms aimed at her. In this case, we are to understand, an Obama administration department head acted almost alone – and, politically speaking, as a traitor - in trying to assure the election of a Republican.

Clinton and her supporters had earlier claimed success when the FBI Director, following a department investigation of Clinton's email practices, did not name her a criminal. Like Richard Nixon decades ago, she could tell the American people, “I am not a crook!”

Mr. Comey had only reported that the behavior of Clinton and colleagues was “ ... extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

But when Mr. Comey opened up further investigation based on leaked emails from former Clinton campaign manager John Podesta – this only days before November 8 – the Clinton camp and followers exploded in indignation. This disclosure had, they claimed, been initiated by electronic hacking by Russians who passed the info to WikiLeaks in hopes the revelations would win the election for Donald Trump.

The CIA notified various publications that, yes, they had come to that conclusion. No evidence was provided that an independent entity could examine. Julian Assange said Russians were not the source of those leaks; others said there was evidence the leaks were provided by a DNC staffer who could no longer stomach Clinton's stacking of party's arrangements to demean and defeat Democratic Party primary candidate Senator Bernie Sanders.

Above and beyond this confusion, however, arose the smell of Ms. Clinton's newest deceit, in this case as she sought to convince us that the revealed material was not true, regardless of how it had been exposed. She and her cohorts brazenly lied, telling us what they knew to be false, that the leaked material had been forged, doctored. Of course it had not been.

BILL CLINTON, former President of the US, told us that Hillary lost the election because “angry white men” didn't vote for her. He didn't explain why they were angry. He forgot to mention that these same people had previously voted for Barack Obama.

NANCY PELOSI, US House of Representatives Minority Leader, told us that Democrats lost because “ .. we didn't get out the vote. All we have to do next time is make sure our folks get to the polls.” She neglected to explain why so many “supporters” seemed unable – or unwilling – to get to a voting booth.

VICE-PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN told us that Ms.Clinton lost the election in part because “she didn't know why she was running”??!! It's certainly not because she's especially ambitious, he explained; he is sure she agonized over a decision that was reluctantly made out of concern for the country's future.

He neglected to refer to the documented amounts of time she, as Secretary of State, spent preparing for a future presidential candidacy, preparations often made at the expense of department business.

He said that if Ms. Clinton had said, early on, that her email use was a mistake and that she apologized for it, the issue would have evaporated. He referred obliquely to “elitism” but did not speculate as to how her reputation for manipulation, her money-gathering via $650,000 speeches and fraudulent credit card over-charging of campaign contributors, would have eliminated a widespread belief that she is “untrustworthy.”

Biden did elaborate on the failure of the Democratic Party in 2016 to stress what he described as its obvious caring for working class people and its policies in evidence of this. He did not explain how the North American Free Trade policy enhanced production work for Americans and did not detail how Democratic Party policies under Clinton and Obama were obviously great for the little guy.

ROBERT REICH, Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton administration, told us: “The Democratic party once represented the working class. But over the last three decades the party has been taken over by Washington-based fundraisers, bundlers, analysts, and pollsters who have focused instead on raising campaign money from corporate and Wall Street executives and getting votes from upper middle-class households in 'swing' suburbs.

"Democrats have occupied the White House for 16 of the last 24 years, and for four of those years had control of both houses of Congress. But in that time they failed to reverse the decline in working-class wages and economic security. Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama ardently pushed for free trade agreements without providing millions of blue-collar workers who thereby lost their jobs means of getting new ones that paid at least as well.

“They stood by as corporations hammered trade unions, the backbone of the white working class – failing to reform labor laws to impose meaningful penalties on companies that violate them, or help workers form unions with simple up-or-down votes. Partly as a result, union membership sank from 22% of all workers when Bill Clinton was elected president to less than 12% today, and the working class lost bargaining leverage to get a share of the economy’s gains.

“Bill Clinton and Obama also allowed antitrust enforcement to ossify – with the result that large corporations have grown far larger, and major industries more concentrated. The unsurprising result of this combination – more trade, declining unionization and more industry concentration – has been to shift political and economic power to big corporations and the wealthy, and to shaft the working class. This created an opening for Donald Trump’s authoritarian demagoguery, and his presidency.”

Your choice as to which scenario is most responsible for the defeat of the Democratic Party's presidential candidate in 2016 will probably determine your attitude as to what, if anything, that party must do to reclaim the confidence and support of the American people.

If Secretary Reich's views seem probative to you, as they do to me, you will join in understanding that the Democratic Party must be rebuilt, and you will do something to help bring that about.

I am not a Democrat.

I have not voted for a major party presidential candidate since George McGovern with the exception of a vote in 2008 for Barack Obama, support I soon came deeply to regret after his notorious ignoring, or reversal, of almost every significant campaign promise. (I have detailed these reasons elsewhere.)

But the appearance of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as a candidate for his party's nomination galvanized my attention and interest.

Here was a major party candidate who understood the country's major problems and who was devoting himself in an effort to reform our major institutions in a way that would seek to restore political/economic/social fairness and environmental responsibility.

Despite the well documented efforts of the Democratic National Committee, chaired by a former Clinton staff member, to demean and destroy the primary candidacy of Senator Sanders, he achieved, remarkably, 47% of his party's vote.

By any reasonable standard, Bernie Sanders is now the leader of the Democratic Party. During the primary season he promised, win or lose, to promote “Our Revolution,” a systematic attempt to restructure the party from the bottom up by supporting local and regional candidates with progressive views.

He is upholding that promise. At you can see for yourself candidates from across the US “committed to creating a government that works for all of us, not just those at the top” that “Our Revolution” has supported. The organization's achievements and disappointments to date are in full view.

In California, for instance, successful supported candidates were: State Representatives Nanette Barrigan (44th District); Eloise Reyes (47th District); Mayors Jesse Arreguin (Berkeley); Michael Tubbs (Stockton); City Council Members Melvin Willis (Richmond); Ben Choi (Richmond); Rochel Pardue-Okimoto (El Cerrito). Failing to win were: Jane Kim (State Senate 11th District); Dean Preston (San Francisco Board of Supervisors, 5th District); and Micheal D. Jackson (Chula Vista School Board.)

Senator Sanders' organization is preparing a future for the Democratic Party. What does that future hold? What are its prospects?

HARRY REID, outgoing US Senate Minority Leader, was recently asked whom he would support in 2020 for president. “ … It appears,” he said,” we're going to have an old folks' home. We've got Warren; she'll be 71. Biden will be 78. Bernie will be 79.”

But Senator Reid failed to mention - hopefully not from an onset of dementia - that 53-year-old Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota is being backed by Sanders and Warren for the key position of Chair of the Democratic National Committee, a credible platform for party presidential candidacy as was the case with Howard Dean. And Mr. Reid took no note of “Our Revolution” and the party prospects it is advancing.

Furthermore, Mr. Reid seems not to understand that physical age does not necessarily characterize the freshness, youthfulness and vigor of a candidate's outlook: political, social, economic and environmental. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, because of their their forward-looking, progressive views, have commanded waves of enthusiasm from younger voters. This is extremely significant.

In summation, I believe the upshot is this:

If you regard yourself as a Democrat, and you want to see the party regain the loyalty and support of those it once represented, you need to look in the mirror and decide whether or not you are going to do something constructive.

In The Nation (Nov. 2, 2016), Mr. & Mrs. Lawrence Hess wrote: “ ... We will not donate to any of the Democratic Party’s four campaign committees or any allied independent expenditure committees unless and until the party makes meaningful and substantial progressive changes regarding personnel, targeted voters, and agenda. We encourage all party donors, at whatever level, to join us.”

Apart from this, a responsible commitment is to write, as I have done, to Representative-Elect Salud Carbajal, Senator-Elect Kamala Harris and Senator Dianne Feinstein, telling them you want to hear of their support for Sanders, Warren and see specifically their announcement of support for Keith Ellison as Chair of the Democratic National Committee.

These are crucial efforts to make known to all observers, politicos and media that Democrats understand their party must reform in meaningful ways and that you intend to see it done.

William Smithers
Santa Barbara

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