By Kevin Knox
America has never needed the Democrats more than they do right now.
President Donald Trump and the Republican Party are in full control of all branches of the federal government and they’ve already begun pushing their agenda forward.
Just take a look at some of the members of Trump’s cabinet. Our new Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, is a former Goldman Sachs executive. Politico reports that OneWest Bank, which Mncuchin co-owns, once foreclosed on a 90-year-old woman because she was 27 cents short on her mortgage payment, squeezed victims of Hurricane Sandy for as much money as possible and has been accused of discriminating against minority borrowers.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that the new Secretary of Education has never attended a public school in her life and her career history shows she has never worked for any school – public or private. During her confirmation hearing, she refused to promise that she would not strip funding from or privatize our public schools.
At the recent CPAC conference, new Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt said those who wish to see the EPA abolished are “justified.” Huffington Post reports that Pruitt has sued the EPA at least 13 times over environmental regulations, and he told Fox News in 2015 that the environment would be “just fine” if the EPA did not exist.
Meanwhile, Politifact reports the Democratic Party has, over the last eight years, lost over 900 state legislatures, 11 governors, 13 Senate seats, 69 House seats, and the Presidency.
Bearing all this in mind, it is clear that the times call for an organized and united opposition to this administration’s brand of far-right wing politics. A strong progressive counter to the regressive policies of the new administration is needed now more than ever. The results of the 2016 elections make it clear that the “moderate” politics of Hillary Clinton and the current Democratic leadership has failed miserably.
But amongst the centrist leadership of the party, there is no introspection occurring, no recognition of the need for change. Instead of taking the lessons of the past eight years to heart and pivoting towards a progressive alternative to the Republican agenda, the Democratic Party has chosen to wage war with itself.
Centrists within the party, largely backed by Wall Street, want to stay the course and remain as moderate as possible on most issues in order to achieve “incremental progress.” For instance, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CBS last December, “I don’t think people want a new direction,” and delivered a tone-deaf message that basically amounted to “all is well, nothing to see here, move along!”
However, the more left wing, grassroots elements in the party feel this tactic has failed and that it’s time for a new direction. Keith Ellison’s campaign for the Democratic National Committee chair personifies this desire among the left.
There is little desire for compromise between these groups. The centrist leadership is far too concerned with placating their financial backers and the progressives are fed up with being forced to compromise on issues they’re most concerned about.
But while these factions tear each other apart, Trump and the Republicans find themselves free to run rampant and pass whatever legislation they desire unopposed. The fact that almost every one of Trump’s incredibly unqualified cabinet appointments was easily confirmed by Congress shows this.
This infighting needs to end. Democrats need to unite and present a coherent opposition to the Republican agenda or else the Democrats’ losses will only continue to grow. Currently this party is the only political party capable of defeating the Republicans and it will never be able to do that if it continues to spend the next four years cannibalizing itself.
Going forward, the Democratic Party will have to do more than pay lip service to the progressive wing. They are going to have to allow them to lead the opposition. Bernie Sanders’ campaign and his actions since the elections prove that he and his supporters are capable of leading a strong opposition to Trumpism. It’s time to give them their chance.
At the same time, the progressives need to understand that abandoning the party because of this split will only cause more problems than we already have. Yes, Tom Perez – another party insider – was elected DNC chairman, but that’s not the end of the world. Frankly, Perez isn’t a bad choice, despite not being our choice. He has a solid Progressive track record and immediately appointed Ellison as Deputy Chair upon his election.
If you find that politicians are not living up to your standards, vote them out. Don’t abandon the party outright. The stakes are far too high to gamble with third parties, none of whom have ever been able to gain more than 5% of the vote in modern presidential elections. Transforming the Democratic party from within is the only viable option we have and if this doesn’t happen soon, eight years of Republican domination will be inevitable.