No matter who wins the nomination and ultimately the presidency this year, the Democratic Party is in trouble. For almost two decades, after the economic successes of the Clinton administration went sour, after things got rough again for the 99 percent, my party didn't try hard enough to repair the damage. They made enemies on the left and made bullies on the right. And now, when it seems they're finally waking up, both the left and the right are going after them, loaded for bear.
George W. Bush and his cohorts systematically and deliberately destroyed a thriving economy, took away the homes and livelihoods of millions of Americans, and lied their way into a murderous, protracted trillion dollar war. And what did the Democrats do? Not a whole hell of a lot. With all of the excesses and outrages the GOP and the Right Wing were throwing at us, the Dems were in a perfect position to build a movement so big and so strong the painful realities of the Bush years would have been left to the history books and not to the burdens of generations to come.
Instead, leaders of the Democratic Party took us farther away from our Rooseveltian roots, playing nice while the demons haunted us. Their refusal to fight back was a puzzlement, disturbing to those of us who still believed our party could do great things. Then our knight in shining armor--Barack Obama--appeared on the horizon and we thought we were saved at last.
Obama won the 2008 election, riding in on a colossal wave of hope and change, but when the Democrats were given two full years of nearly unencumbered opportunities they squandered them, allowing the Republicans to go on acting as if they were still in charge.
After the Dems lost both houses in 2010, mainly because the voters were fed up and stayed home, the triumphant Republicans found themselves having to share the catbird seat with a gaggle of new and dangerous occupants: The Tea Party. They came in with no governing experience, making demands so outrageous and out-of-touch the Dems should have been able to turn public opinion against them without much fuss or muss. It didn't happen.
In 2012, we won a partial battle but lost the advantages we needed to win the war: Obama won the presidency but the GOP took back the House and the Senate, this time with more anti-government Tea Party newbies, all willing to suck at the teat of the government while threatening to drain it dry.
Aided and abetted by big money donors with ties to the John Birch Society, the NRA, and the religious right, pushing a pro-business, anti-government agenda with help from the Right Wing media, the GOP swept the board, handing entire states over to pro-business, anti-government leaders who promptly went to work finishing the job of shredding what we bravely but foolishly used to call our unalienable rights.
So here we are, Democrats, just months away from our chance to get it back and do it right this time. Our successes during the Obama years are encouraging, considering the Congress they had to work with, but few and far between. We've just begun to build on them and we can't allow them to be thrown away. We have two presidential candidates to choose from. One of them, Hillary Clinton, is the pragmatic establishment candidate, and the other, Bernie Sanders, is the anti-establishment, pro-revolution counterpoint.
Bernie, the Independent, is closest to our populist roots and tells our story best. Hillary, the Washington insider, may be better positioned to build on the populist theme and get the work done. At this writing, it looks like Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination. Then the job begins. We'll be back to Hope and Change but this time it has to work.
We--and I'm addressing Democrats here--have drifted from being the party of good to being the party of good intentions. "We meant well" is a far cry from "We got it done". Our party needs a good swift kick in the pants and they're getting it in the person of Bernie Sanders. People who are disillusioned, disappointed and tired of waiting are flocking to him. Even those of us who are pushing for a Hillary win are cheering Bernie on.(Come on. You know we are. We might grouse at how he's doing it, but he's pressing our leaders to take us back to our inestimable roots. Even if we're not voting for Bernie, we're sitting up and taking notice. It's been a long time coming and Sanders' candidacy is the catalyst to move it forward.)
We owe Bernie Sanders an enormous debt of gratitude and we'd be wise not to forget it. We are the party of populists and always have been. We're liberals, we're progressives, we're white collar humanitarians, we're blue-collar do-gooders, we're pink collar nurterers. We're the unabashed, unrepentant caretakers of our society. That's what separates us from the other party. That's what makes it so imperative that we sweep the election in November. There are people hurting out there and they need us.
If we want to win in November we'll have to work together against the Republicans. There are two parties in a position to fill the big vacancies. Only two. If Bernie's people abandon the Democrats, we'll lose. If Hillary's people stay miffed at Bernie's people, we'll lose. The anger on both sides is going to have to take a back seat once we choose a candidate, just as it did in 2008 when Barack Obama won on a message of hope, the Democrats went on to hold the majority, and Obama's toughest rival, Hillary Clinton, became his friend, his ally, his Secretary of State.
We have a chance to do it right this time. The Republicans should, by rights, be easy to beat. (You've seen their candidates, right?) We have more to offer than they do, but in order to get our message out, in order to draw the most voters, we have to force our leaders to get with the program and agree on what our message is.
Simplified, this is how it goes: Down with Oligarchy! Up with Democracy!
The message may be simple but the execution won't be. But we're Democrats and the other guys aren't. We've done it before, we can do it again.
Emphasis on "we".
(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)