A Modest Proposal to the Democratic Party Leaders

Debra Kirschner
Dec 20, 2016 · 7 min read

Your leadership has never been more important. Right now there are more Democrats ready to participate in organized movements than there ever have been in my lifetime. We feel our democracy is being threatened and we will not go down without a fight. Please do not squander this powerful energy. As you move forward, and pick a DNC leader, please hear from as many of your most committed supporters as possible about what matters to us. I’ll start…

First of all, enough with the blame game. We have work to do. Hindsight is 20/20. While we are seeing things more clearly — why don’t we use that hindsight productively and find the right lessons. There were things we did wrong and there were things we did right — as evidenced by the fact that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million. Let’s remember we are not only the opposition party, but we are the majority party under minority rule. Do not hide out and lick wounds when it is time to be visible and fight.

I would like to focus on one particular lesson. Stop letting Republicans control the narrative.

Right now, in an unprecedented (as well as unpresidented) move, Donald Trump is rallying in only the states he won. Could there be anything less patriotic? We cannot let Donald Trump be the only person visiting states and letting the press follow. Democrats should plan and quickly implement a highly publicized 50-state tour. We should be talking to voters in all 50 states about what matters to them. We don’t have to do it his way — in Mussolini style rallies. Let’s do Town Halls and have back-and-forth conversations. Bernie Sanders recently had a very productive visit to Wisconsin that aired on MSNBC. Democratic leaders from every single state should hold these forums in a coordinated way and work to air on multiple networks, including local stations, and utilizing social media and a unified hashtag. Democratic leaders must speak with North Carolina voters about their newly elected Governor being stripped of his rightful power. Democrats must be in Flint, Michigan talking about the water crisis. Speaking of water, Democrats must travel to Standing Rock as well as other parts of North Dakota to speak to about the Pipe Line. And Democrats should ABSOLUTELY be in Indiana, talking to workers from Carrier as well as Rexnord. And right when Paul Ryan goes after Medicare, can we please be speaking to seniors in his home state of Wisconsin? We should never refer to any states as red or blue states. And we must visit all 50. Maybe one per week, for a year. We can call it the Unity Tour, or the America First Tour or better yet the “We the People” Tour — since our constitution will likely be under assault. And we can publicize by pairing Democratic leaders with 1–2 celebrities in each state who have some sort of personal connection to that state (e.g. born there, have a farm or residence there, are exceptionally popular there, and not just actors and musicians, writers, sports figures — anybody that means something locally.)

Furthermore, each of these events should include veterans and/or active service members who can weigh in on conversations about foreign policy and national security as well as domestic issues. Imagine Kentucky voters, who are on active duty, weighing in on Russia and the pressure that could put on Mitch McConnell to stop obstructing a full investigation. Imagine Utah voters who are Veterans discussing international conflicts of interest and the pressure that can put on Jason Chaffetz as Chairman of the Oversight Committee. Remember the Veterans’ Town Hall that aired on MSNBC last summer, which included both Clinton and Trump? Most of us remember what a terrible host Matt Lauer was — but what we should remember instead is how thoughtful and important the veterans’ questions were. These town-hall-style conversations should be challenging and emotional. These are difficult times — and competent leaders can handle difficult, nuanced conversations. We must hear from those who have put themselves on the line for this country and will likely be asked to do so again by an incoming, corrupt administration.

Democrats must also be vehement Constitutionalists. Trump shows no respect or understanding for our Constitution, only disdain. He violently fights free speech just like all his favorite dictators do. He emulates the way his pal Putin punishes dissenters, scientists and the press. He ran on limiting Freedom of Religion. We must publicize every time our Constitutional rights are threatened — and not just the first amendment. For example when Trump preaches about “stop and frisk” we can point out how this violates both second and fourth amendment rights. We must continue to call voters’ attention to the emoluments clause as Trump’s conflicts of interest will be in direct violation if he and his family will not divest their businesses. We must bring Constitutional violations through the courts at every turn and publicize these cases and their meaning — and quickly — while the federal courts still contain judges appointed by President Obama. And why not hand out pocket constitutions at all of our events? Somebody will sponsor this.

Part of taking back control of the narrative is to stop falling into traps that are set by conservative think tanks. For example, please stop using the term “white working class” immediately. We support the working class. Period. This “white working class” subset is a construct that was not designed to help Democrats — or the working class. To separate whites out as a group helps sell trickle down BS by creating a sense that whites will be forgotten without hierarchical proposals like tax cuts for billionaires. Millions of dollars have been put into think tanks to sell this idea to create this divide, and it seems to have been money well spent. Let’s not help them sell their deeply flawed, racist terminology to prove that we care about these voters too. Let’s instead continue to champion policies that truly benefit the entire working class, including jobs and infrastructure bills, the protection of Medicare and Social Security as well as education reform, equal pay for equal work and family leave.

Please also stop worrying about “Identity Politics.” All politics is identity politics — just ask a woman, or a woman of color, or a trans woman of color, or a Jewish or Muslim trans woman of color… you get the point. Republicans criticize so-called Identity Politics with ridiculous phrases brought to you by expensive think tanks like “political correctness run amok.” Yet the campaign that won by exploiting Identity Politics in disgusting ways was the Trump campaign. And now, the self-proclaimed “least racist and sexist guy you know” has appointed the most racist, sexist and homophobic cabinet in recent history. As a result, hate crimes are at an all time high. The vast majority of Americans are sickened by these attacks. Most Americans absolutely do not want to be associated with the KKK — and they do not like accusations that they are Nazis-by-association. There is a segment of the population that is racist and violent and newly emboldened by the Trump administration — and that is frightening. It will be our responsibility and moral obligation to fight against bias attacks and to stand up for those who are threatened. We must always actively seek bipartisan repudiation of these attacks. Being on the right side of this fight will ultimately win popular support. Everyday Americans do not want to live in a nation filled with hate. When laws are made to repeal the rights of women, LGBTQ, minorities and immigrants, we must obstruct a regressive regime and continue to fight for equality.

We must never let the backlash against progress intimidate us into acceptance or normalization of hate.

We also must remember that the majority of the people that voted for Trump were not excited about doing so. Most of his voters simply considered him the lesser of two evils. Even while we do not agree with that calculation, we must understand it. While Trump has a ridiculously loyal segment of voters that will always believe whatever he says and support whatever he does, no matter how crazy, they are not the majority. Voters who were unhappy with all of their choices in 2016 will look for more inspiring choices in the future. We MUST be the ones to offer inspirational candidates and policies in every state.

We can and should listen to voters that feel they have been forgotten. We can and must consider how and where our policies have left them out. We also must show how and when we do fight for the working class — where we have succeeded and where and how we our efforts have been blocked. Throughout the race I never heard Hillary Clinton or her many surrogates speak about popular Democratic initiatives that were blocked by the Republican-led Congress, for example. We must shine a light on Republicans in Congress as they seek to destroy Medicare and the Affordable Care Act and public education and the environment. And we must always show when and how Donald Trump leaves working people in the dust.

In summation — when in doubt, do the literal opposite of whatever Trump does. When he has fascist propaganda rallies to only select voters who support him, we should have democratic back-and-forth conversations and speak with all types of voters, in all 50 states, and listen and learn from their concerns. When he assaults the Constitution, we fight with every legal means available to protect it. When he pushes racist policies and looks away while hate crimes are committed in his name, we will stand up for equality, shine a light on hateful attacks and punish offenders to the full extent of the law. Whenever he lies, no matter how often, we must fight for the truth with everything we have. The narrative, and more importantly the reality, must be that we are the true patriots.

Now who wants to speak next…

Debra Kirschner

Written by

Independent Filmmaker best known for writing and directing THE TOLLBOOTH, currently in development for her next feature film, MALLWALKERS.

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