5 Reasons Democrats Must Abandon Party Unity (For Now)
(With permission) by: Gabriel McArthur
President Trump’s first 100 days have been an absolute disaster for progressives and liberals alike. ICE raids, hate crimes, borderline fascism, and a hurricane of Tweets have bombarded us on a daily basis since Trump’s bleak inaugural address and Republicans in congress have taken full advantage of the ensuing carnage. Now that the obvious has been stated, it’s time we move on to behavior that we have much more control over; our own.
The Democratic Party is at its weakest position of power in decades, and while Russia has been a convenient scapegoat for our presidential woes, a slew of leaks can hardly be blamed for our lack of majorities in state houses, governorships, and both chambers of Congress.
Now, there might be a thousand different reasons for this, but instead of encouraging a robust and admittedly uncomfortable phase of self-examination, Democratic leaders seemed too focused on two things: Establishing a stark contrast between Democrats and Republicans/Trump, and securing party unity.
Here are 5 Reasons this strategy is not only misguided but potentially fatal to the party long-term.
1:) Been There, Done That
Much huffing and puffing has been spouted over relitigating the primary last year. Many Democrats will tell you that we must put the past behind us in order to fight Trump’s dark nature effectively. Some longtime Dems will even admit the primary wasn’t fair, but it’s in the best interest of the party to get along and remember we’re all fighting for the same causes. Except, they told us the same thing while the skewing was happening in real time, and we were absolutely not fighting for the same causes.
At the Democratic National Convention, Democrats were not allowed to bring in any outside signs or banners. That didn’t stop us. By now I’m sure you’ve seen the seen the Anti-TPP, Anti-War, and Anti-Fracking signs that were smuggled in by Bernie Sanders delegates but what you didn’t see were the many Clinton delegates who either blocked our signs or tried to snatch them out of our hands altogether.
The bottom line is, when the Democratic Establishment calls for unity in the face of dissent, what they’re really demanding is obedience. They insist that we have no substantive reasons to disagree with any Democrat because our real enemies are the Republicans. This strategy didn’t work, and it’s time to retire it.
The reality is, progressives know exactly where the GOP stands, and we desperately want to fight them. We just don’t want ineffective Democrats leading the charge, and it is our duty to replace them with folks who can sway those who voted for Trump purely because of his populist message. Which leads me to:
2:) We cannot allow leading Democrats to concede populism to the GOP
Time and time again, populist candidates have been cast aside by the Democratic Party in favor of someone they considered “safe”. Nearly seventy years ago, FDR’s former Vice President Henry A. Wallace ran for the presidential primary against Harry Truman, an establishment figure. Wallace ran on a platform almost identical to Bernie Sanders, speaking to the pains of the common man. By most accounts, Wallace was the more popular candidate among average voters, but party insiders overwhelmingly opposed him. Harry Truman won the nomination, the presidency, and ultimately his place in history as the man who murdered millions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
2016 was hardly the first time a populist candidate ran for the Democratic nomination. After all, the very existence of the superdelegate system was a response to 1972’s contentious national convention as a way to cement more control over proceedings. What set 2016 apart from those past debacles was how quickly information spreads across the country.
The internet has opened up a forum for Americans to discuss their hopes and despairs alike and while it may seem we are deeply divided, there is a basic truth that unites us. We all want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families, and economic conditions aren’t maximizing our chances to do that. If we as Democrats have any hope to succeed in the future, we must address this concretely, and without platitudes, or the GOP will prey upon it.
3:) Internal Criticism is key for growth
If the wide receiver of a football team misses the game winning catch, you would never hear a coach abandon critical analysis in favor of “team unity”. If your child fails their math test, you would never avoid questioning why they didn’t pass it simply because you’re family. If an employee fails to meet a deadline, you wouldn’t expect a manager to ignore it to protect the image of the company.
In virtually no other scenario would you demand to simply move on without examining why you didn’t meet your goals, but that’s exactly what leading Democrats expect us to do. It defies common sense, and hopefully the examples above illustrate that.
4:) If we don’t have this fight now, we will have it at the worst possible time
Party unity, if organically manifested, means that the vast majority of the party is active, energized, and clear in their collective mission. We failed in 2016 because those conditions weren’t present and it will never happen overnight.
Fighting out our differences now will be the first step in creating those conditions. It will allow us to examine where our priorities are, and allow the best ideas and candidates among our members to rise to the top. Any attempts to manufacture agreement will inevitably sow the seeds of resentment in those who are silenced. If we allow everyone to speak, they might be more willing to go along with the direction decided by the majority.
As it is now, progressives everywhere are being told that if they speak out critically against party figures or procedures, they surely must be an ally of Trump. If they reject the strategy of being purely critical of Republicans without offering positive legislative alternatives, the subject of debate centers around the first half of that sentiment instead of the latter. Purely stated, this is gaslighting.
When Democrats tell their own members “if you’re not with us, you’re against us”, any and all common ground that could have been found through uncomfortable but constructive dialogue is lost, and electoral victory with it. In short, resentment built in off years over silencing progressives will reach a fever pitch at the least opportune time (2018/2020).
5:) The Republican Party is far from united, but holds power anyway
People forget, but the Republican primary was as cutthroat as it gets. Leading Republicans failed to take Trump’s obscene, irreverent campaign seriously until they realized it was far too late. Once they realized he was gaining momentum, they tried everything they could to stop him. From parading Mitt Romney around as the voice of reason, to Paul Ryan’s refusal to endorse Trump for months after he won the nomination. Several Republicans even threw their support behind Clinton. As a last ditch effort, they tried to run an establishment Republican as a third party candidate to siphon votes away from Trump. This caused severe animosity between Trump voters, tea-partiers, and down-ballot Republicans and still, they won it all.
If several Republicans can survive standing against their own nominee, that illustrates the whole emphasis on party unity as faulty. In fact, this amplified the appearance of Democratic demands to fall in line. It made us look like lemmings to the average voter, and bred the image that Democrats will ignore severe failings from within for no other reason than to look stronger than we are.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, we can learn something in all of this. The first step is acknowledging there’s a need to learn in the first place.