Salvaging the Democratic Party

us electionIn February of 2012, Ann Coulter famously said “… Romney will be the nominee and we’ll lose.” Her prescience fell on deaf ears. We Democrats are facing a similar situation this year: we will nominate Hillary Clinton, and we will lose in November. But Bernie Sanders has said continuously that his candidacy is not about him, but rather about a movement, a revolution, and it will be possible to lose the battle but win the war.

3_1Today, the likely outcome will be as shown in this chart. Note that Democrats Abroad have 17 delegates and will vote from the first through the eighth of March. In addition, no matter what anyone tells you, the Colorado caucuses are non-binding so there’s no knowing what the final outcome will be.

If you are a Clinton supporter, you look at the numbers, see a rout, think it will be continued throughout the month and by the end, we’ll have a candidate. If you are a Sanders supporter, you look at the numbers and think that there’s still a chance that momentum will shift and things will level out by the end of the month, especially in light of the newest endorsements  and polling on later states which you see as proof of momentum.

As a Democrat, a lifelong, liberal Democrat, I can tell you that no matter who the nominee is, we need to pull together as a party and move forward. Sadly, if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination and Bernie Sanders drops out before amassing enough votes to pen a minority report, we will lose not the just the White  House, but even more seats in the House, and we will not regain the Senate. And then the question for all of us is Canada, Central America or Europe?

Hillary Clinton is the single worst person our party could run against Donald Trump, who seems to be unstoppable in his quest for the Republican nomination. In a normal year, we, the Democrats would win against a Republican in a landslide. HILLARY CLINTON! The background! The experience! Bubba the Big Dog back in the White House! Plus changing demographics and a built-in Electoral College advantage. But this is not a normal year, and Donald Trump is not a normal opponent. There is a detailed article explaining correctly why Clinton cannot win against Trump. But the arguments relate direct to the match-up between the two candidates, and overlooks the demographic problems that make a Trump victory even more likely. First, Clinton is having trouble with the Hispanic demographic, which may well be surmountable by naming Julio Castro as her running mate. More importantly, turnout is down massively (in some demographics by 30%) over 2008 levels. Neither Democrat is able to galvanize millennials, and overall Democrats are nowhere near as enthused as Republicans this year. This means that Democratic turnout will more mimic an off-year election then a presidential election, and we will get trounced.

A good test of this will be Massachusetts on Tuesday.  The state has more registered Independents than Democrats and Republicans combined. These independents can vote in either primary. Look at the numbers that come out of Lowell, New Bedford, Groton, Acton and the other old mill towns. These areas should be Democratic country because they are mostly white, very blue collar and old mill towns/shipping towns. If the numbers amassed by the Republicans far outstrip the Democratic numbers, well, think about what that will mean in a general. And if we cannot carry Massachusetts (think Mitt Romney as governor, twice, and Scott Brown), we’ll also be in big trouble in Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

What we need to think about is how to drive engagement. Bernie Sanders is great at drawing huge, young audiences, but cannot get them to the polls. I’ve done some research about why this is. My sources are actual millennials. I asked around. And here’s what I heard: the problems facing people in their 20’s relate to student loans, bad job prospects, a lack a hope, and most importantly, a sense that they don’t matter and their votes don’t matter. Many of them feel neither party represents them. Without finding a way to engage them ON THEIR TERMS, IN THEIR LANGUAGE, they’re not coming to the polls in November.

Last year I attended a session on young voters at the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit. After, I spoke with a number of people who work at getting millennials engaged. What I heard, then and now, is that they like to discuss. I was told to set up shop in a bar near a college, get to know the bartender, be willing to pay for rounds of drinks, and leverage social media to get  groups of college kids to discuss issues and politicians. Note the word “discuss” — this is different from lectures or rallies: actual discussions with real answers after listening to the questions.

The one thing that MIGHT be able to used to engage young people would be if Bernie Sanders won 1,192 delegates.  That is 25% of total delegates, and would entitle him to not only 25% of the personnel on the platform committee, but also the right to write a minority report, which could be voted on but would at least serve as a dissent from whatever platform was enacted. Closer to 35% of the delegate count would enable Sanders to claim a growing part of the party, people overlooked by the party, and potentially a growth area. Think about it: if suddenly there was a platform that could be presented to millennials in their language, on their terms, and if they could be convinced that voting not just at the presidential level but down the ballot to reclaim the Senate and get closer to parity in the House, not to mention state and local races…it may be the sole thing that could gin up interest. Finding a way to move the party from its current centrist, pro-business, hawkish platform could cement the movement to which Senator Sanders says he is committed.

For the good of the party, Bernie Sanders must continue no matter what the outcome tomorrow. If you doubt that we need a different platform, or at least a strong dissent, I recommend you read the current platform. When I ask people (and I’ve asked thousands of people over many years) whether they have ever read a party platform, I get blank stares. The platform is what our party stands for, what our elected officials are supposed to work towards (even when stymied), and that which defines us as a viable party. If we stand for pablum, there’s no question that our minions are not excited, not willing to work, and completely disengaged. As individuals, we get back what we put in. We are drawn to that which energizes us, and muddle through our list of “gottas.” We are our party, and we need to stand up and be counted, and bring along others. To do so, we need a party that stands for what we believe in. We cannot get that with a Clinton candidacy unless the progressive liberal wing makes its voice heard.

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