A Few Steps to Party Unity

by Jason Frerichs

Unity is the hot buzz word that is all the rage among Democratic Party circles.  We often hear that we are a fractured party and that we need to unify so we can heal as a party.  These are true statements.  We are a fractured party, particularly in Iowa.  The presidential caucus ended in a statistical tie.  We then suffered a loss of epic proportions in the general election.  Only 6 out of 99 counties went blue.  Counties that hadn’t been red since Eisenhower went red for Trump.  We can do some soul searching, ask ourselves why, and come up with a plan to fix it, or we can remain entrenched in our ideological camps, be that progressive, centrist, or other. Doing that will likely lead to a repeat of the losses of 2014 and 2016.  We need to unify. How do we do it?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but the following are a few ideas I’ve put together:

Step 1: Stop being a jerk on social media.  Seriously, just knock it off.

aaa

The photo above is the first thing I saw when I checked Facebook Thursday morning.  Ms. Powell isn’t some random internet troll.  Before Thursday, she was the lead social media strategist for a company that provides campaign messaging for Democratic candidates. Several members of the IDP Progressive Caucus noticed this post and sent screenshots to Ms. Powell’s now former employer.  I’m not sure what saddens me more.  That fact someone who calls herself a progressive would wish an on-air death of a candidate she didn’t like, the 73 people who “liked” that status, or the others who made a barrage of comments that were even worse than the original post.  When you are a well-known activist for a candidate, the actions you take online reflect upon your preferred candidate.  I am certain that Secretary Clinton would not appreciate being associated with Ms. Powell’s behavior.  Whether or not you think Senator Sanders would make a good president, one cannot deny that he brought millions of new people into the party and campaigned his tail off for Hillary.  The vitriol towards Sanders and his supporters has got to stop.

 

Step 2: This one goes out mainly to my fellow Sanders supporters.  Stop it with the “I told you so” posts. 

It isn’t helpful and they aren’t necessary.  I agree we need to do some serious soul searching as a party and a frank discussion of what went wrong and how we fix it must be had.  However, constantly putting Clinton supporters on the defensive will not help further that discussion.  The results of the election show that she was likely the wrong candidate but there are some folks who will never agree with that.  Some people are of the opinion that it was instead the perfect storm that led to her loss of the majority of electoral college votes.  They are entitled to believe that.  We can agree to disagree about that and still work together.  Stop posting the articles that state Sanders would have hypothetically beaten Trump. I’ve read those articles too but it’s pointless to argue about it.  Sanders himself has refused to answer the question of whether or not he could have beaten Trump.  He says it’s a pointless conversation and we need to move forward.  Dealing in hypotheticals will not prepare us for the reality of today.  That reality is that Trump is going to be president so it’s our job to make him a one-term president.  This is an all hands on deck situation.  There aren’t enough members of either of our factions to defeat Trump on our own. 

 

Step 3: Take your phone out of your pocket.  Now throw in the garbage. 

If you look at the Facebook page for Iowa’s largest county party, it’s a cesspool of insults, name-calling, and bullying.  Think of how much we could do if instead of wasting our time insulting each other on a Facebook page, we went out and participated in some real political action. Political action does not take place through social media.  Most people are Facebook friends with people who share similar views.  If all your political action takes place on social media, you’re just screaming into an echo chamber.  Instead, pick up the phone and call your state representatives. I call mine once a week regardless of whether or not there is a pressing issue.  Also, please be respectful when you make those calls.  If you call Chuck Grassley and scream about what a horrible person you think he is, you’re just making the left look bad.  Your behavior reflects on the causes you support.  Making these types of phone calls as part of a coordinated action does work.  The most recent example is millions of people calling to complain about Republicans wanting to gut the committee that governs congressional oversight.  Millions of people called and they backed down.

 

Step 4: Democrats must become a party that revolves around issues

Focusing on the issues is the only way for unity to happen.  By sitting down with our fellow Democrats, having a face to face conversation, and working together on some issues, we will stop seeing people as the “other” and being to see them as allies.  The vast majority of Democrats believe in a $15/hour minimum wage, free or reduced college tuition, universal healthcare, a woman’s right to choose, marriage equality, justice for racial and sexual minorities, etc. We need to work together on causes we feel passionately about and organize coordinated action.  We must also encourage people to be assigned roles in which they would be more likely to produce successful results.  I’m a middle-class white man.  I am not the person who can or should lead the charge for racial justice.  I can be an ally but I cannot be a leader.  There are other areas where I can lead.  I have $30,000 of student loan debt so I can help lead the fight for economic justice.  I am a respiratory therapist so I can help lead the fight for universal health care.  Everyone has a passion and a skill they can contribute.  I’m issuing a challenge to all PVI readers.  If you were a Sanders supporter, invite a Clinton supporter out for coffee.  If you were a Clinton supporter, invite a Sanders supporter out for coffee.  Sit down with each other and discuss the issues.  See where you have common ground.  My guess is that you will agree on at least 90% of the issues.  Maybe more.

8 Comments

  1. This is one of the best pieces I have read very good I hope everyone pays attention to this thank you for your efforts

    Like

  2. 1. Yes 2. Yes 3. Talk calmly, clearly, and politely to your grandpa. “No, don’t worry. African-Americans will not riot and loot your assisted-living facility if Obama loses to Romney.” (Actually, I said this to my elderly father-in-law.) 4. Yes.

    We need to focus on broad-based issues supported by most people, rather than looking for corner-cases on which we can fight among ourselves. As Bernie often mentions, most Americans agree with Democrats on the big issues. We will fail America if we waste our time, energy, and money on continued in-fighting.

    Recently, I’ve been reading a book about Facism. Two things caught my attention. 1)The collaboration of Conservatives with Facists to elevate Hitler and Mussolini to power within the existing political process. 2) The in-fighting between moderates and the left that prevented them from working together to defeat the Conservative-Facist alliance.

    As a Bernista, I say Stronger Together.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent, Jason,

    Was it Mark Twain or Will Rogers who said:
    “I don”t belong to any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.”

    I’m not asking because I don’t know. I’m asking because I think we all could benefit from looking it up to get some idea of just how far back in history this all goes.

    This isn’t a GenX vs. Millenial thing, although it feels that way sometimes. It’s not even a Clinton vs. Sanders thing, or even a thing about who gets to own the word “progressive.”

    These are simply the most recent iterations of a knack for coalition building that this party only displays in spurts – those spurts often followed by our biggest and most sustained successes.

    My only suggestion is that it is not exclusively up to traditional Democrats and supporters of Secretary Clinton to reach out. Coffee invitations are welcome from Sanders folks as well.

    Like

    1. You are correct. If you look at the article again, you’ll see that I wrote that Sanders supporters need to reach out to Clinton supporters too 🙂

      Like

  4. Agree with all this, but there’s more. It is not just Clinton supporters demonizing and ridiculing Sanders supporters. The reverse happens as well, and speaking as a county, district and state delegate for Bernie, and as an elected Democrat, cut it the hell out, wouldya?!?!

    The other thing we need to do is recognize that the Republicans are not our enemy, they are our opposition. Try to keep in mind the words of the greatest Republican: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Too many Republicans think we are enemies because they don’t know us. Let it be said, some of the division comes from what they DO know about us. We tend to support issues and groups they feel insulted, if not downright threatened by.

    There’s no solving that easily or quickly. But what we can do is find common ground on issues that people of ALL groups are effected by in their daily lives. Not the “recreational” outrages, but things like: Where are the good paying jobs? Where is the help for those who can’t find them, and can’t meet their bills and everyday needs as a result? What do we need to get people trained for good jobs that are going unfilled? And what could we do for people who are working but still not making ends meet?

    I think we need to start with work issues because I believe conservative people of modest means honor one ethic above all: the work ethic. They have convinced themselves that we liberals do not honor any work ethic, and we haven’t shown them any different. All kinds of resentment flow from that, but I think we can overcome a lot of it if we keep the conversation focused on issues that everybody knows matter here and now.

    A lot of resentment stems from people in our regions feeling ignored because of our habit of focusing on groups they do not belong to – other identity groups here at home, or global issues they feel far away from. Donald Trump won the presidency by saying the hell with all those folks, I want to focus on YOU. But he won’t. We have to, and we have to be very careful in our approach.

    Like

  6. Don’t throw out the social media. This can be of positive use, like broadcasting this article. Posts on social media can be concerning positive issues solutions. Persons who may not be able to talk over the phone, door to door canvass or have limited mobility of leaving their homes can use the social media and email for good causes.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s