Sunday, April 23, 2017

Re-building or Re-Making the Democratic Party

Whither thou goest Democratic Party? These are trying times for those who embrace the jackass label. The challenge is to step into the best of the traditions of the party of Jefferson and Jackson, a/k/a the party of the people , without becoming a caricature in the process. That may require some adept maneuvering which the new party leadership has not yet demonstrated. 
   The road show involving new Chair Tom Perez and almost standard bearer Bernie Sanders did not entirely inspire recently. Sanders was cheered , and Perez was booed. It was a shaky lift off at best. Many of Sen. Sanders supporters, predominately young, obviously still " Feel the Bern", but it is a tough task for him to transform that passion into one that will build the Democratic Party. Part of the problem is that Bernie himself confesses to being an independent, not a Democrat. That limits his credibility as a preacher for the party. Why join and support a party that he won't join, although he supports Its goals. There is something inherently flawed about that message. 
     And Tom Perez, for all of his Hispanic bona fides and Labor Cabinet Secretary credentials, has all of the charisma of a thin, raspy voiced, college economics professor . In short, he hasn't the looks and the charm of a Marco Rubio, or the passionate persuasiveness of a Ted Cruz type. I think the party needs a better spokesman, but even more importantly, it needs a. convincing message. Just railing against the idiocy of Donald Trump is not enough. 
     In my opinion, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, would have been a better choice. He is young, sincere, charismatic, a good speaker, and he has a message, both personal and political. The Democratic National Committee chose not to embrace the new, but clung instead to the old, and its slip is showing as a result. And the decision to continue Nancy Pelosi in the House as Democratic leader may have been  an appropriate recognition of her leadership skills, but it is still viewed by many as a throwback to the old guard, Hillary, etc.
   If the Democrats are serious about taking 
back the House in 2018, they have to provide some new leadership and a new message. Criticizing the "do nothing Republican Congress" will help, but something positive is needed. 
     Sending Vice-Chair Keith Ellison out on the hustings with Bernie Sandra was not much better than Perez, although at least he wasn't booed. We still need to do better. Enlisting grass roots elected officials like Mayors,  who have connectivity with their constituents is a good idea. Developing a concise pithy message is even more important. I always tried to explain the difference between the two parties this way to my college aged government students.: 
Republicans say, " I've got mine...go get your own", while Democrats say, "I've got mine, can I help you get yours?" Therein lies the difference in the approach of the two parties, in a nutshell. Back in the Clinton days, the message we were told to convey, as Surrogate Speaker's, was a three worded one: " Opportunity, Responsibility, Community." Ensure opportunity, promote responsibility and develop as a community. It worked out pretty well back then. 
   But today, we Democrats need a new slogan. Something that gets right to the heart of the matter. So , the slogan could be " Republicans have got theirs...Democrats will help you get yours...and keep it. " I think that works. What do you think?