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Voices / Column

Where is the vision for a better future?

At a time when the Democrats should be about to launch a vigorous, inspired campaign designed for a major takeover of Congress, why are they poised for self-defeat yet again?

Elayne Clift writes regularly in these pages about politics, women, and social issues.

Saxtons River

Ever worry about this? “What if we gave a party and no one came?”

Right now, I’m worried that many of us are invited to support a party that we don’t really want to be part of and don’t feel good about voting for — and the disturbing thing is the problem is of that party’s own making.

When Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and others blathered about “A Better Deal” recently, I, and I’m sure others, despaired.

It’s not just about the economy, stupid! I wanted to tell them. It’s not just about the middle class and working (white) people! It’s not about more of the same blah, blah, blah we’ve heard since the 1990s.

And I’m not sure who’s writing their copy, but what were they doing using a Trump-loaded word like “deal”?

At a time when the Democrats should be about to launch a vigorous, inspired campaign designed for a major takeover of Congress, why are they poised for self-defeat yet again?

When will the leadership realize who their constituents are and understand how they are failing them? Where is the vision for a better future, not a better deal?

To put it another way, where is our next “Yes We Can” moment? Without a bit of inspiration, how can the majority of us come together as a nation that can feel proud of itself again as we regain our stature in the world?

* * *

To illustrate just how pathetic the Democratic party is right now, consider this: An extensive online search for “Democratic Party platform” yielded the campaign rhetoric and plan for 2016! It’s 2017, and we’re heading into a crucial election year.

Where are you, Tom Perez? Keith Ellison? Nancy, Chuck, et al.?

Enough with the continuous calls for contributions. It’s time to tell people — people of color, people explained in the book Hillbilly Elegy, people terrified of losing their health care, the LBGTQ community, women, and others who once trusted you — what you stand for.

It’s time to tell them what you’re going to do to ensure that their futures are healthy, safe, and yes, economically sound, while also ensuring that their Constitutionally protected rights are not going to be snatched from them behind closed doors by a creeping and creepy autocracy.

* * *

Speaking of creepy, how could any Democrat in leadership possibly dare to violate women’s right to control their own bodies by endorsing anti-abortion candidates? Are they really ready to throw women under the bus for a few votes?

And what’s next — embracing racist candidates? Homophobic candidates? Islamophobic candidates? I doubt it, which underscores the point that betraying a major constituency is, in this case, tantamount to political pimping.

“There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates,” according to Rep. Ben Lujan (D-N.M.) who declared that “we need to have Democrats that can win in districts across America.”

Yes, Mr. Lujan, there is a litmus test — or there once was. It was meant to ensure that all Democrats would stand for the principles and values for which they were once known and trusted.

So, sorry, Nancy Pelosi, the fact that you grew up in a “very devout Catholic family” whom you loved should have absolutely nothing to do with your political position on women’s health and reproductive rights and choices.

Bernie Sanders? Sorry, but backing Heath Mello to serve as mayor of Omaha, Neb., is not okay given that candidate’s anti-choice legislative background.

Such endorsements represent political prostitution and showcase misogyny writ large, which the Democratic party and its frontrunners might realize as they see contributions dip dramatically and polls become troubling because many former supporters understand what a huge betrayal the leadership just handed us.

* * *

Yes, “raising wages and incomes of American workers and creating millions of good-paying jobs” is important. So is lowering the cost of living “for families,” but let’s not forget the multitudes of young and single people out there, or women heads of household, or disenfranchised, appropriately angry, and afraid minorities.

Yes, “lower prescription drug prices, crack down on monopolies and the concentration of economic power.” But where is campaign finance reform? Where is climate change, environmental integrity vs. oil drilling in treasured national parks and polluted waters, the urgency of infrastructure, support for science and research, a viable, well-articulated health policy that fixes the flaws in the Affordable Care Act?

Where is the commitment to ensure safety nets like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid?

Where are women in your plans?

In other words, where is your 2017-18 policy platform?

* * *

Writing in The Guardian recently, columnist Jamie Peck said that the Democrats “seem more determined than ever to bungle their comeback from 2016’s humiliating defeat.”

From “small-thinking policy proposals” and “slogans that read like satire” to their “quixotic obsession with wooing ‘moderate’ Republicans and the rich to the detriment of progressives and the poor,” Peck wrote, “their strategy is, at best a wet fart. At worst, it’s a plan to sell out everything they once stood for.”

I’m with Jamie Peck and other thinking Dems who’ve simply had enough.

At this point, who among us can say we’re still coming to the party? The question now is: What are Democrats going to do about it?

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Originally published in The Commons issue #424 (Wednesday, September 6, 2017). This story appeared on page E1.

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