Democrats, Your lack of imagination is going to kill us.

Ashley Fairbanks
Oct 20, 2017 · 6 min read

This week we got the news the DNC Chair Tom Perez purged the party of a bunch of people that supported Keith Ellison and Bernie Sanders. For many people that fell into those camps, this news was a terrifying sign of the party going in the exact opposite direction from where we need it to go. We are doubling down on a losing strategy.

Democrats lost everything in the last election because the Party doesn’t seem to understand or care where the American people are at. Moderate Democrats don’t know how to talk to the actual people. The Ivory Tower of the party is out of touch with the world, and is relying on nonexistent party loyalty to win elections.

It’s not working. And it’s because we don’t know how to dream.

The Clinton campaign showed one failure of vision and messaging after another. While young people and progressives were inspired by Bernie Sanders, establishment Democrats rolled their eyes and ran to the middle. Their confidence in their message, that Hilary was qualified, that Drumpf was awful, was so inflated that they couldn’t see the forest for the the trees: People need something to believe in.

Democrats need to realize that no amount of big donor money will win voters that are uninspired by your candidate and message. If we want to win back our country we have to be bold.

We have to overcome the critical lack of imagination and the repeated failures to fight for our values. We can’t afford to lose more seats in the midterm elections. Losing will have especially dire consequences for the vulnerable populations in our county. But in order to win, we have to change course.

We are losing, but we don’t shift our strategy.

Lack of imagination in the party has lead to wide-spread Democratic losses across the board. Under President Obama, Democrats lost over 1,000 seats in Legislatures across America, falling to an all time low in representation. We lost Congress. And of course, we lost the White House.

After the loss of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Party did a survey and realized it was losing it’s base, and completely shifted strategy. Kidding. They elected Tom Perez, a middle-of-the-road establishment Democrat with ties to the Obama and Clinton adminstrations. Instead of uniting the party and using new energy to move to the left and build a strong, bold progressive vision for America, the party is doubling down on the politics of oatmeal.

What are we afraid to lose, when we have already lost pretty much everything? When people across America are actually dying because of the shit-show that is the Trump presidency? Why can’t Democrats stand up and fight for something, anything, like parts of their base (and so many outside of the party) are desperately begging for?

Why do we refuse to make the implicit explict? Why do we distance progressive social movements instead of bringing them into the fold and incorporating them into our vision.

It’s shameful.

We can’t keep running races the same way we did 30 years ago. The world has changed, and we are failing the American people by losing to a party that is bold enough to lie, cheat and steal their way to the top.

We are condescending towards anyone with new or different ideas.

I was a Bernie Sanders delegate to my local caucus, my state convention and eventually the Democratic National Convention. I have never felt more condescended to. As a person that has been active in the political sphere for the majority of my life, I had never before seen so many political operatives totally dismiss so many people. Even my political mentors repeated toxic narratives that reenforced stereotypes of who Sanders supporters were; uninformed idealists with a lack of knowledge about “how this all works.”

Instead of stopping and asking why people were supporting Sanders, the Democratic establishment just presumed anyone not on the Clinton train was stupid.

Instead of stopping and asking why people were supporting Sanders, the Democratic establishment just presumed anyone not on the Clinton train was stupid.

Sound familiar? Maybe because it’s what Democrats do in all major national debates. And they don’t just make this assumption about people on the left. It’s also how they explain why people on the right don’t get on board with their policies. They are all just stupid hicks, right? It’s not our responsibility to educate them or even talk with them like people.

Except, that isn’t how you win.

What needs to happen?

Excuse my language and my reinforcement of the patriarchy, but there is no better way to put it:

Democrats need to grow a pair. And fast.

We have to escape the grasp of corporate donors and start working for the people who need someone on their side. As an Indigenous woman, it’s been clear that the Democratic party cares more about its big donors than it cares about my life. We have to change that reality.

We need to recognize where the energy in the party is, and where it is outside of it. Look at social movements. The establishment needs to realize that Millennial voters aren’t lazy or stupid, but are actually deeply committed to their values. There are reasons why voices like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters and Al Franken resonate with people.

They believe in something and they are willing to fight for it.

Anyone who has a hope of winning in 2020 is going to have to be someone who can go beyond the status of a political paper doll with graham cracker policies. They need to be someone who can lay out a bold, dramatic vision for a world that is the opposite of Drumpf’s.

We aren’t just losing races. We are losing our country. White supremacists, radical-right Republicans are winning hearts and minds because they give people something to believe in. That thing might be totally awful, but it shows that people need something to lock their sights onto.

We aren’t just losing races. We are losing our country.

We have to give them that thing. We have to give them something to believe in. We have to have candidates that are human beings, who go beyond what people expect from politicians. We need candidates that use plain language to talk about hard issues. We need candidates that don’t build a platform solely at the advice of well-paid consultants searching for a safe-middle. People these days see straight through that bullshit.

Most people don’t know what they actually believe in, at the surface. You have to craft messaging that prompts them to look inside and find those values. You craft a narrative that starts with values and walks towards a candidate.

You can’t shove another person in a suit down their throat and call them stupid if they don’t swallow.

The odds.

The most vulnerable people in our country cannot survive eight years of Drumpf. People in Puerto Rico are already dying at his hands. Democrats must realize what is at stake. If we can’t pull this together, people will continue to die. Families will be destroyed.

What do we believe in?

Let’s fight for that thing. Let’s leave it all on the field. Let’s put our hearts into winning elections to protect our immigrant neighbors, the children in our public education system, our trans brothers and sisters. Let’s remember the victories we have won and use them as fuel to fight to keep them.

Let’s win elections to change systems, not just butts in chairs.

The era of the corporate Democrat must die.

And if the party can’t change, it needs to die too.

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