Thursday, December 01, 2016
Mourn, then organize
I don’t have much doubt that the primary internal factors that will drive the incoming Trump administration are the need for adulation and the desire for money. I’m going to try and ignore the President-elect's unhealthy and chronic search for approval and hope that those in better position than I will be diligent in following the money.
Based on his early appointments, the early signs are not good about the money flows. As Ohio's senior Senator Sherrod Brown tweeted with respect to Steven Mnuchin, the President-elect’s pick for Treasury secretary, Trump “isn’t draining the swamp [but] stocking it with alligators.” Voters who wanted fair play in government are instead getting rough riders in Treasury and Education [Betsy De Vos], with other, equally ruthless picks undoubtedly to follow.
If we can be sure of anything with Trump, it is that he will overreach at some point. If he is slow to do so, the kinds of people he is selecting will do the overreaching for him. Either way, the question is whether his opponents will be able to mount an effective counter, which brings us to the question of the Democratic Party.
Yesterday, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi turned back a challenge from Youngstown-area Congressman Tim Ryan. Pelosi has proven herself to be a tough leader, but some observers think her ability to steer Congressional Democrats to be effective grassroots champions is hindered by her second-in-command, Steny Hoyer, a Maryland representative who entered Congress with a liberal reputation but appears to have gotten much too cozy with corporate lobbyists.
The Democratic Party needs a serious makeover. Lip service to progressive values while chasing corporate cash can no longer be the game plan. Bernie Sanders may not have been the perfect messenger — such may not exist — but his message was certainly closer to the bold direction much of the electorate wanted to see.
The battle for the Party's new direction may now be shifting to the struggle over the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison would be a disruptive force to the old order, which alone is reason enough to consider him. He is also young, articulate, knowledgeable, and quick on his feet. And as both a black man and a Muslim, his very presence at the table would speak volumes.
Shaun King made a forceful argument in today's New York Daily News about just how white the post-Obama Democratic Party remains in all the ways that matter. For me it evoked comparison to my autumn reading about the history of black Republicans in the middle half of the twentieth century. If I had to pick a single takeaway from my study, it would be how loyal black Republicans remained in the face of GOP hierarchies that at campaign time woefully underfunded any outreach efforts to black communities.
You'd think the Democrats might do better by their black folk, and they do with respect to picking candidates. But that's not the case when it comes to money, the sacred milk of politics. How people spend their money speaks volumes about their values. This was clearly on King's mind when he wrote "we must come to grips with the overwhelming whiteness of the Democratic Party." Before you say he's being hyperbolic, consider his evidence:
"Of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Democratic Party between 2010 and 2012, less than 2% of that was spent on vendors of color of ALL other ethnic groups."
Is there a third path? Many disillusioned local Democrats are exploring that possibility. At this point they are mostly Bernicrats, and there is no reason to assume they will be any more egalitarian in their approach than the major parties. But at least they are addressing the issues that the major parties square dance around.
The Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus meets tonight starting at 6:30 in the Newburgh Heights Village Hall, 3801 Harvard Ave. on the agenda will be a series of short presentations on issues that should be of concern to all voters, including Black Lives Matter, reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, the assault on public education, and global climate change.
I dropped in on Monday's NAACP town hall meeting (more on that soon) and was dismayed to hear a Bedford Hts. councilperson talk about getting ready for the 2018 election. 2018? Doesn't she understand that at least in Ohio it's always political season? There are no off-days, let alone off years. Municipal elections and judicial contests will take place all over Cuyahoga County next year. Tea Party success in "off" year elections and down-ballot races are what poised them for victories in state legislatures, redistricting, and Congressional races.
If you aren't at the table, you are on the menu.
Now more than ever, it is critical to think globally and ACT locally.
Mourn, and then organize.