What’s Next?

We’ve had one full week to digest the results of last Tuesday’s election. In that time, President-elect Trump and his transition team have begun their work assembling a new Cabinet and White House staff. Congressional leaders have returned for the lame-duck session, where they will soon hold internal leadership elections.

All throughout the election cycle, conventional wisdom held that the Republican Party would emerge from this campaign in shambles. Would they then become the party of the Alt-Right, embracing Trump’s populist message? Or would they return to the conservatism of the party of Lincoln and Reagan?

Many of us who are active in politics believed that the Republican Party would enter 2017 struggling to unite behind a leader and a message that resonated with today’s America. Boy, were we wrong.

Instead, the Democratic Party now faces an identity crisis. As President Obama prepares to leave office, we are struggling to find a message that will carry us forward as a party. For the first time since George W. Bush’s presidency, Republicans hold the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives.

It is clear that our message of hope and progress, of unity and opportunity for all, was lost amid these fierce populist currents. Instead of uniting the middle class on our platform of economic growth, we lost out to a man who promised to bring jobs back and protect the American working class.

Never mind the gold letters on his buildings or the tacky chandeliers in his hotels. This is a man who ordinary people truly believe speaks for them. They viewed his brashness, his vulgarity, and his utter disrespect of our political institutions as honest, authentic, and straight-shooting.

We can rally against the hatred and bigotry of his campaign. We can fight against the appointment of white nationalists and anti-Semites to his senior staff. We can lobby against harmful legislation that is sure to reach the House floor.

But we cannot deny the fact that this man — this utterly unqualified, fear-mongering, racist, sexual predator of a man — has won the Electoral College and thus the Presidency. On January 20, he will become our President.

We must now decide what we stand for as a party. We cannot simply be the opposite of the Republican Party, rallying our cause around a negative message. We must work to build a party in the image of a changing America, working towards a common good.

We must fight for what is right and never waver in our commitment. We must work to represent all Americans, listening to their fears and concerns so that we might make their lives just a little bit better. We must learn from this election cycle, understanding that no election can be taken for granted.

The next Democratic National Committee Chair faces a daunting task, yes. But he or she will also have the unique chance to unite our party, and our country, around a common message.

Whether that message embraces the fierce progressivism of Bernie Sanders or the staunch pragmatism of Martin O’Malley, we will work towards creating a better future for all Americans.

Moving forward, one thing is certain: we will not back down from this fight, and we will continue to build on the hope and change that the past eight years have brought us.