The Future of the Democratic Party

The future of the Democratic party is at stake. If they want to find a path forward, they need to listen to the voices of the people. Rather than responding to a poll, signing a petition that’ll get filed away in a box, or filling out a form that may or may not be seen by an intern, here is my voice. The Democratic party can do with it what they please.

Those in positions of power must admit that the people owe the Democratic party nothing. Establishment Democrats shouldn't tell us to be happy with what we get, or that we’re being unfair by demanding better. Democrats should not feel comfortable right now. They’ve lost an unconscionable number of seats in the last decade. We’ve seen what it looks like when key victories from President Obama’s time in office–the Affordable Care Act, the Paris Agreement–are under attack from the very people who’ve taken those seats.

The future of the Democratic party looks brighter with progressives as part of it. Understand why we supported Keith Ellison for DNC Chair; understand that Bernie Sanders did more in a year to bring young people into the orbit of the Democratic party than many Democrats have done in a lifetime; understand why we’re challenging those who try to fruitlessly please both sides.

What do progressives want? I can only speak for myself, but I believe Democratic values should be built on lifting everyone up. Democrats must first work for the most vulnerable. In the last decade, these are people who have lost their jobs or homes, graduated with mountains of student debt, or have been unfairly targeted by the criminal justice system. Nowhere on that list should be people who’ve contributed a lot of money to the party or its favorite candidates.

We’re telling you what issues are important to us when we march and speak in support of Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, and the fight for $15. You can choose to listen or not.

Democrats cannot waiver from progressive stances when it comes to addressing issues like job creation, income inequality, a woman's right to choose, debt-free education, and criminal justice reform. Universal health care should not be up for debate. The rights of women, people of color, and LGBTQ people should not be up for debate; many of us fear the current administration. Don’t dismiss our passion as too extreme when our core human rights are at stake. As Sarah Jones wrote for the New Republic, this party “has lost its moral clarity.” It’s time to find it.

Voters everywhere respond to messages from left-leaning populists, including in those very areas Democrats so desperately need to earn back in 2018 and beyond. Recognize that. Maintain a healthy sense of humility, and understand that the people make the party, not the other way around. To do that, the leadership on the left must recognize that constructive criticism is not tearing the party apart. Trying to quiet our voices tears the party apart. We will disagree at times, but debate is healthy. As one Clinton campaign staffer told The Hill, progressives “aren’t just criticizing, they are saying, ‘We have ideas and we want to help make a change.’”

Dismissing those with different opinions won’t grow the party. Dismissiveness is the crack through which charges of elitism creep in. Characterizing passion as second-rate or misguided will drive progressives further away. And as we’ve seen, taking votes for granted because “Donald Trump is worse” does not win elections. Here’s a better idea: Do the work first, then show the receipts. Show the people you understand their concerns by being in their communities.

Let people get angry. Harness that energy and focus it on the local level. The grassroots Indivisible movement is showing us how to keep important topics at the forefront of the national conversation. Don’t tell us to save our energy, to acquiesce to the will of the party.

Listen to the people in the streets and amplify their voices. They can do more to organize thousands through free social media platforms than the establishment can do with billionaire donors and closed door meetings on Wall Street. Support the people who inspire others to action–this is how you grow exponentially.

I don’t live in a bubble. I’m Midwestern born and bred, and living the last few years in California only expanded my viewpoint of what it means to be American. We cannot ignore one to placate the other. That’s what many Democrats have done for far too long.

By my count, a single presidential candidate held more than one rally within driving distance of where I lived during the 2016 presidential election–a pocket of Los Angeles county that, believe it or not, can often lean more red than blue. That candidate’s name? Bernie Sanders.

If a future star of the progressive movement lived down the street from me, Democratic leadership wouldn’t know because they hadn't been there to meet her. They didn’t bother talking to us because the data said we were a rounding error on the electoral map.

Now imagine I’m a voter on the fence–a person whose vote doesn’t just count for president, but for city council and state representative, by the way. Or consider that nearly all my family and friends live in Ohio, where my political passion could translate into action in a critical swing state.

Democrats lose by ignoring people like me.

Earlier this year, the DNC sent out a survey asking what we wanted to see from them in the future. In response, I made this plea: Raise up new voices in the party, new voices in the movement, and represent the underrepresented.

Billionaires like Betsy DeVos and Peter Thiel don't need more representation in government; minimum-wage workers, mothers, and teachers deserve that voice.

People at the margins are often told to wait our turn, that we’ll get ours next time. That time is now. Listen to people in both Akron and Los Angeles. We’re all important and we’re showing you that we’re ready to be active. We’ll keep showing up in the streets and at town halls, sending emails and tweets, and making phone calls to ensure you do not forget: We’re here. We demand our voice. And we’ll see you at the ballot box.

Andy Newman