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.
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.
Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus