An Open Letter to Howard Dean, Keith Ellison and Jamie Harrison

I write you this letter hopeful that when whichever one of you becomes the next chair of the Democratic National Committee, you have a plan in place to hit the ground running and reclaim both House of Congress from the Republicans, and then the White House.

In my political life, I have been both a Republican (chair of the College Republicans at my University)and a Democrat (Committeeeperson in the quintessentially white, working class Pennsylvania exurb). As such, I believe, I know what it takes for us to meet the goals I’ve outlined above. I appreciate your indulgence as I list them:

1- Do not fall into the “we don’t know the white working class” trap. Liberals and the media have been spending the past few weeks furiously handwringing over whether the Democrats sufficiently listened to the white working class. “We didn’t know what they needed.” “We were elitist.” “We ignored them.” Hogwash and nonsense. We’ve known what the working class needed for years. We’ve never stopped talking about or fighting for the working class. Sure, we’ve spent time with Wall Street, but that doesn’t mean we’ve ignored Main Street by any means.

2- Do NOT be humble. We have a record of accomplishing things for the working class (Health Care Reform, the stimulus, saved the auto industry, just to name three things in the past eight years) and have ideas for expanding those accomplishments (Tuition free community college,restoring unions, protecting workers from wage theft, equal pay for women, etc.). The Republicans have stood in our way each and every time we’ve presented our ideas. And then they lie about it, saying Democrats don’t care or don’t listen. We need to…

3- Be Honest — Trump won by blowing smoke up the working classes…y’know. We’re better than that. We should be honest. Those manufacturing jobs that went to China and Mexico, aren’t coming back here. They’re going to India, Pakistan and Africa. And that’s a good thing for the American worker. Automation has made it too cheap and easily to produce things. Why pay somebody $25 an hour to do the last couple of steps of a job that was done by a machine, when you can pay somebody a few cents or a dollar? We have to talk about and demonstrate how we can create new, high-paying jobs for the 21st Century. We have to talk about retraining. Entrepreneurship. And we have to talk about the lean times that will come and the plans we have to keep the working class from being left behind.

And, then…about the candidates you present…

4- Let your candidates break out of the mold. We do not need central casting candidates. No more candidates whose entire lives and personas have been processed through the filters of a million consultants. We need people to run. Just folks who have personalities and histories they are not afraid to show. Trump won these folks over because he seemed authentic. Let’s win them back by being authentic.

5- Recruit! Recruit! Recruit! Get out there and find people to run! For every race at every level! For every Republican-held seat that goes unchallenged by a Democratic voice, you have a 100, 1000, 10,000 Democrats who aren’t engaged. GET THEM ENGAGED. Run. What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll win?

6- Can the “white working class thing.” You’ll note throughout this entire list, I rarely mentioned the “White working class.” That’s because the Democratic party’s focus should be on The Working Class. White working class people have the same needs as black working class people, Latino working class people, Asian working class people. etc. When you fight for any of their rights and their lifestyles, you’re fighting for all of them. Sure, identity issues are real and should not be ignored or shortchanged. Calls to do so disrespect our common humanity.

But when you fight for the core issues: better access to better schools, better pay, better health care, financial security and stability, you are guaranteed to create a rising blue tide that lifts all boats. And, that, I believe, is the foundation of the Democratic Party, and how we win back a majority in the House, Senate, statehouses and the Presidency.

Thank you for your time,

Travis Johnson