Democrats 2020 – Not the Person, but the Program

By Julianne Malveaux

Now that the midterm elections are over, and Democrats are savoring their victory, more than a dozen Democrats say they are considering running for President in 2020. The Democratic Party needs to get its act together if any of them has even a prayer of beating the clown that white conservatives love to love. The fact that Republicans stole an election from Stacey Abrams in Georgia suggests that our electoral infrastructure isn’t what it ought to be. The fact that Republicans in Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina are attempting to change electoral rules suggests that the Party and civil society organizations need to spend some money ensuring fair elections. From where I sit, the focus on personalities is poorly placed. We ought to, instead, think both about our election mechanics and an economic agenda to empower the majority of our citizens who live in an economically precarious situation.

Too many of us struggle to survive on the minimum wage, and too many unions have seen their influence erode in the face of hostile legislation. Too many do not have access to health care. Too many cities and states are willing to offer exorbitant tax breaks to attract a few jobs. Meanwhile, our infrastructure is crumbling, our environment is decomposing, and civility is a thing of the past. There’s a lot of rhetoric, but Democrats have to explain what they stand for more clearly.
Democrats have been so reactive, so anti-45, that they’ve not spun out a positive agenda. Oh, they say they stand for a living wage, for criminal justice reform, for access to health care and education, for racial economic justice (actually, they didn’t say that I did), and more. But too often, Democrats have gone with the status quo instead of looking at the changing needs of our nation. And the party is expert at grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, failing to support progressive candidates who sometimes upset the status quo.

Now, former Vice President Joe Biden says he is the most qualified person to be President. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren took a blood test to prove that she is 1/1024 Native American, falling for 45’s BS. New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, also known as Spartacus, is considering the race, as is the incandescently intelligent California Senator Kamala Harris. There are another couple of dozen potential candidates, from the very well known to the lesser known. Democrats run the risk of having a Republican-style circus during the primaries unless the field narrows. Already, two who were considering the race have dropped out. Nobody will miss Michael Avenatti since many of us did not know why he was in the race in the first place, but former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, who has just announced that he will not run, might have brought gravitas to the primaries. Patrick told Obama advisor David Axelrod that “It’s hard to see how you even get noticed in such a big, broad field without being shrill, sensational or a celebrity, and I’m none of those things.”

Our current President is shrill, sensational and a celebrity in his own mind. Democrats should not attempt to replicate that level of insanity that 45 brings to the table. The issue, also, should not be one of who is the most sensational, but who has the most focused program, and the basis of the Democratic program must be economic justice for working Americans. Back in the day, we used to say, “It’s not the man, it’s the plan.” In gender-neutral terms, it’s not the person, it’s the program. For Democrats to build on the momentum of the midterm election, they must drill down on communicating dynamic economic programs.

I’m encouraged by folks like LaTosha Brown and Black Voters Matter. They are doing ground up, not top down, organizing, going into communities and focusing on the races they deem essential, which are not always national or statewide races. When people come out for a key local, they will also vote in the “big” races. But too often the Democratic Party focuses only on the biggest elections, with an agenda people can’t necessarily identify with. Democratic Party leaders need to sit down with Black Voters Matter as soon as they can and learn how to connect with the voters who can make a difference in 2020. Or, they can continue with business as usual and experience the consequences.

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