Without the advantage of the presidential bully pulpit, it falls upon the Democratic congressional leadership and the Democratic National Committee to frame a vision that will attract and motivate voters. At a time when the country desperately needs a loyal opposition and citizens are highly motivated, both have failed miserably.
In the six months since Donald Trump has become president, Democrats have offered no ideas, no strategy, and no message beyond opposing Trump. We ridiculed Republicans for not developing a plan over the past eight years to replace Obamacare, yet where is the Democratic plan for infrastructure improvement, tax reform, fixing Obamacare, climate change, housing, and more? Yes, we are the minority party in Congress and our legislation won’t pass, but the optics of offering solutions are important, and so too are the optics of not offering solutions.
Let’s look at the House Democratic congressional leadership. The top three positions are filled by people in their 70s. Since last week’s special election in Georgia — which Democrat Jon Ossoff lost — there has been party buzz about whether Nancy Pelosi should continue as Democratic minority leader. This is important because she is on television every night as the public embodiment of the Democratic Party. She has been the Democratic leader in Congress for 14 years, but for only four years has the Democratic Party controlled the U.S. House. Pelosi says that she, “is worth the trouble,” is a great fund-raiser, and a master manipulator of legislative intricacies.
But Pelosi is two other things: She’s a loser and she’s selfish. Is Pelosi really the only one who can raise money or articulate Democratic principles? And what good is filling the coffers of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if the party doesn’t win.
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The Republicans aren’t kidding when they say they are thrilled to have Pelosi as the opposition leader. Just to prove it they spent millions of dollars on TV ads in the Georgia election that simply tied the Democratic candidate to Pelosi. It may not be fair but she has become a divisive symbol to voters. Pelosi is not bigger than the party, and she has had her shot. Remember, politicians rarely relinquish power voluntarily.
House Democrats can’t do it alone. They need their Senate colleagues and both need the Democratic National Committee to support their vision and to strengthen the party’s political infrastructure.
However, it seems like Party Chairman Tom Perez has been invisible since his election. There is also a growing chasm between the centrist wing and the more liberal Sanders/Warren wing.
The Sanders people have reason to distrust the national party given its actions before the Democratic Convention and what they view as a slap down of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison by the Clinton/Obama party operatives.
It is true that Ellison would have been a flawed choice for party chairman given his track record on Israel, but the perception of a rigged party persists. The disruptive scene at the Democratic State Convention in California between the various factions last month hopefully is not a harbinger of things to come. Perez did appoint Ellison as his deputy chair, but the both have work to do.
And speaking of selfish, there is the ongoing, nagging problem of Hillary Clinton trying to re-litigate the results of the 2016 election. Every time she speaks, it only serves as a reminder to people of the failures of her campaign and the Democratic Party to articulate issues of importance to the American people. Worst of all, like Pelosi, Clinton sucks the oxygen out of the room, making it harder for younger elected Democrats to get air time and make their voices heard. She should take her cue from President Obama, who exemplifies dignity over whining, while he bides his time to speak out.
I don’t know how other Democrats feel about the party, but my emotions alternate between depression and anger. If they want to inspire people, they need to offer ideas. I was given the opportunity at a young age to affect the direction of the party, but what I see now is leadership standing in the way of the next generation of American leaders. If they won’t get out of the way, younger Democrats need to kick the door down — the country can’t wait.