Rebranding the Democratic Party
The Democrats have hit rock bottom. It’s time to make a comeback.
The day after Donald Trump won the Presidency, a lot of people were asking “how could this happen?”. There were also some Bernie Sanders supporters who immediately began to yell, “we told you so.” Those select people obviously don’t care much for the country to say something so ridiculous. Donald Trump presents a real threat to this country. Now, those don’t represent the majority of Sanders people in my experience but they are a vocal minority.
In my view, there are a lot of factors that went into Secretary Clinton losing. Her high unfavorable numbers, her lack of campaigning in the rust belt, racism still being very much alive, and of course the letter released by James Comey a week before the election. We could debate the causes of her loss for hours. But, I am not here to do that.
I want to talk about where the Democratic Party will go from here. Let’s be honest, Democrats have lost a lot since Barack Obama was sworn in. It’s natural for the minority party to gain seats but Democrats have managed to lose the House, the Senate, the governorships, and state legislatures. Obviously, the Democrats need to get to work.
Resetting The Party
The Sanders movement is real. They want wholesale changes to the Democratic party, at least those who are remaining with the party. Some have already packed their backs and are back to being an independent or joined the Green Party. I believe they do bring some great ideas to the table and I simultaneously disagree with them on some other things. After this election cycle, the Sanders coalition deserves a voice.
The Obama coalition also deserves one. I consider myself more a member of this group. A coalition where we embrace diversity and civil rights for all. Some are calling it identity politics nowadays. Sure, call it that. Make sure to also call out anyone who speaks on the “white working class”. That, too, is identity politics.
At the Democratic National Convention, the Democratic party released its most progressive platform ever. The Bernie Sanders campaign had a real effect on that. We need to build off that platform going forward.
First, we must determine exactly what the party wants to stand for. The party needs some core beliefs to bring to the people. This starts with economic policy, health policy, and education policy. We need to spell out for the American people exactly what we will do to help them.
Economic Policy starts with a strong social safety net. Providing individuals and families with a sound base is key to having a successful economy and society. I’d like to see the party eventually push for a universal basic income but politically, I don’t think that is a viable path right now. Instead, we must make sure that programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social programs are first priority. This includes providing paid family leave to parents who decide to have children. Families should not have to decide between raising their newborn child for the first few months and going to work every day. Let’s give families the financial security they deserve when bringing new life into this world.
Going from there, we need a higher minimum wage. It currently sits at just $7.25 per hour nationally. There is a fight across the country for a $15/hr minimum wage. I agree with that crusade but at the same time I recognize the strain that might put on smaller states and rural areas who have a low cost of living. I believe in raising the minimum wage nationally to a $10–12 range and then pegging it to the cost of living in each state and/or city. Not only do I think this is a better economic approach, I also believe it is a better political approach. A lot of Americans hear $15 per hour and they start to feel it’s unfair that someone suddenly makes just as much as them after they worked their way up the ladder.
Next up in economic policy is investing in our infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded the United States a D+ in infrastructure. They estimate that the country needs to invest $3.6 Trillion by 2020 in order to get the country on safe footing. This is a huge opportunity for us with interest rates low. Let’s do a little bit of borrowing and begin to rebuild. This can be used as a federal jobs programs. Millions of jobs will be created through investment. Roads, bridges, levees, and so much more need repairs.
Health Care Policy
The Democratic party has always owned the health care debate. Republicans usually are only on the end of opposing changes to the system. It’s rare for them to come up with their own vision, mainly because there is no viable way other than the approach with the American Care Act or a single payer system.
We need a single payer system and the Democrats should fight for that. Health care should be a right of every citizen in the United States of America. It goes hand-in-hand with our other ideas of having a strong safety net or starting point.
The difficult task is how we can get there politically. I believe that may come through the introduction of a public option under the current system. It’s impossible to just switch over to a single payer system overnight. The process will be gradual but it has to happen as jobs will continue to be lost to automation and an increasing number of people will lose health insurance.
When it comes to education, it starts early. Strong investment in public schools across the country and a national standard will ensure that all students are getting a great education. Teachers should be paid well. They will determine the future of this country through education.
We have to work to end the disparities in our educational system. Black and brown children receive a lower quality education than their white counterparts. Kids living in poverty face many different struggles than wealthier kids who tend to go to private schools and receive more attention. A focus is needed in impoverished areas to assist children in breaking out of that situation.
Tuition costs and loans taken by college students are at record highs and still climbing. I like the approach of President Obama in providing free community college to students who do their work and graduate in timely fashion. But let’s extend that to trade schools as well. Not every person is meant to go into college. We can help a kid learn how to weld, do electrical work, or do plumbing. Let’s give people options.
For those who continue their higher education for a Bachelor’s degree or Master’s degree, the Federal government can invest more through grants to prevent massive debt taken out by students.
I am open to the Bernie Sanders view of providing free public tuition to students with the same standards as President Obama’s community college plan. But, we also need a plan to help the millions of students who already carry tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. We can allow students to refinance to the lowest possible interest rate and we can also shorten the length on the Student Loan Forgiveness Program. Giving individuals freedom from this debt stimulates the economy by allowing them now to use that extra money to invest in housing or start a business.
The time to end mass incarceration is now. We must put an end to the war on drugs which is really a war on communities. Black Americans have had generations ruined due to overzealous policing. Let’s reform our drug laws and other mandatory sentencing laws and also improve policing from the top-down. A police force should be diverse and represent the needs of the people they protect.
The Democratic party cannot run from protecting our most vulnerable in this country. Just because some within and outside of the party believe we lost the presidency due to ignoring the white working class, we must not turn our backs on Muslims, immigrants, and other minorities. Let’s stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and reject the notion that they are a hateful group. Let’s protect a person’s right to practice Islam here peacefully. Also, we can prevent families from being torn apart by not deporting DREAMers or other upstanding undocumented workers.
We must work on extending voting rights to every American citizen. There should be no laws preventing former felons from voting again. We need to rid the country of voter ID laws which disproportionately affect African American and Latino communities.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on climate change but I do know enough to understand that our environment is going through major shifts and humans are contributing to that. We set records every year as the average temperature continues to rise.
We need to continue the work that the Obama administration has done in getting the rest of the world and ourselves to cut back on emissions and extend the life of our planet. We cannot wait any longer to act.
It feels like we have been waiting for an eternity for this clean energy revolution. And we are on the cusp of it. But, we first need to rid the government of big oil interests so that we can move forward with solar, wind, and other clean energies.
Money in Politics
If there is one thing I am most grateful for from the Bernie Sanders campaign, it was the commitment to getting big money out of our political system. The Citizens United decision was a disaster for this nation. A strict limit on campaign contributions and the elimination of super PACs would go a long way in preventing a person with a lot of money having too much influence on an election.
The Bernie Sanders campaign and even the Trump campaign to a certain extent that you can be successful without big money interests backing your campaign.
I am only going to touch on domestic policy and there are also a host of other topics I can touch on such as financial regulation and housing. The areas I did touch on are what the core beliefs of the party should be.
The federal government should be in place to provide opportunity for all Americans, not just those born into favorable situations. Families should not have to declare bankruptcy and sell their house due to medical expenses. Individuals should not have to pay back thousands of dollars in debt to receive a solid education.
It’s simple to me. Let’s give every American citizen the tools to be successful. We take care of each other’s basic necessities and allow people to reach their full potential. Maybe some want to work their way up the corporate ladder, maybe some want to open a business, maybe some want to become an electrician, or maybe some want to run for public office one day.
The messaging of the Democratic party needs to be better. Promote this idea of equal opportunity for every American but also mean it through policy. Don’t get into trivial debates on whether the tax rates on high incomes should be 35% or 40%. We will lose that debate every time because the vast majority of people want lower taxes. The Republicans win on tax policy.
We are not in need of a revolution as some suggest. We are in need of a rebranding. The Democrats win on almost every issue with the American public. Let’s act like it and win some elections.