Don’t Tell *Me* I Need to Change
This is the response I got on Twitter, during a rather predictable tweet convo. This is the tweet that started it:
I wanted to respond to this, because I just don’t see this as the answer, nor the reality.
That spurred a tweet convo with an individual who doesn’t think he’s the one who needs to change or do anything differently. He thinks that Democratic leaders need to just make things work and he should just be able to watch. I do wish they would get out a wand and fix this shit, but it seems we aren’t in a movie where some charismatic person comes on the stage, gives an impassioned monologue, and then everything gets better.
This is the response I got, a ways down in the convo, once we were firmly in the weeds:
I wanted to address this person’s replies, but a tweet thread just wouldn't do. Not when Nancy Pelosi is lamenting the need for a strong Republican party that cares about a woman’s right to choose. The Republican party has been many things, not one of them being a group that ever cared about a woman’s autonomy.
Democratic voters and supporters seem to think that if our party has even a razor-thin margin of victory, our leaders can deliver on every promise, like magic. It seems that the Democratic base has 2 completely inaccurate assumptions. The first is that any majority can run the table, and the other is that we don’t need to be actively involved in the work. I volunteered with my county committee out of college and eventually became the Director of Operations. I saw a pretty clear pattern, even at the county level.
Republicans are rank and file. They don’t care what the platform is, so they will agree on what it is pretty quickly. They pick a leader, and all parrot the same message. Sound good? Not really. I had people on the street telling me that when they got hired to certain departments of the city or county if it was a Republican-controlled office, they were told to change their party to Republican. Their base and supporters were pressured to show up to events and to push their party line. Republicans want power, and that is their singular goal. They are laser-focused on getting it too.
Democrats like to talk about what the leaders need to do, but what about the base? We do have work to do, and acting like it’s not on us to be part of making our party strong is short-sighted. Democratic voters and supporters don’t want to be seen as being part of a cult, or mindless cheerleaders. That makes the Democrats en masse so quick to criticize our own party, that we end up making our arguments against our own strength, instead of against the alternative to our big tent platform.
I was asked what our message is. Well, if you want our platform, you can look here: https://democrats.org/where-we-stand/party-platform/ You don’t want to “boost blue no matter who”, but no one said you should. The thing is, you can’t complain that we aren’t strong everywhere when you at the same time claim that “it’s not my responsibility to compete there”. Democrats are working their hearts out in as many places as we can, but we don’t threaten and pressure our base to help us. We have our doors open, and we hope people will volunteer, but it’s up to our voters to become volunteers. It’s up to all of us to actively work with our party, to make us stronger. We really are stronger together.
I am leading weekly phone banks in one campaign, and helping get field operations running in another campaign. I work full-time and volunteer evenings and weekends. I do what I can because I know the “leadership” doesn’t have a wand to wave. They can’t do it alone. If we want any part of our platform advanced, if we want a say in our messaging, we have to get involved to propose and support the messaging we want.
It’s not easy. It’s not as simple as sitting back and saying “that’s someone else’s job”, but democracy does not run on autopilot. It’s hard work, and it needs all of us to be part of it. We are a Democratic party that consists of many caucuses, and if we want one caucus to be the strongest voice, we need to join those ranks and amplify that voice.
Lobbing criticism at Democrats is easy because it makes us look reasonable and like we can hit ourselves, but it does the real damage of just doing the Republican’s work for them. We have a bigger problem facing us. Want to give the Democrats criticism? Tell them directly. There is no need or use to put it all over social media, and help the press with their both-sides framing that Democrats are all over the place. We aren’t but that noise makes it look like we are.
We can have 1 of 2 things. We can have a party that works together to amplify the many priorities we have, and we can work to elect as many Democrats as possible, or we can just keep criticizing our own party. People will stay home, vote 3rd party, and Republicans will destroy our democracy.
I agree with many who say the Republican party is lost. They are a cult. Let them die off. Stop electing them, and let the Democratic party transform their big tent into the new parties that will represent the people. The moderates, the liberals, and the progressives. This should spurn a conservative group, though if their ideology is a performative fiscal responsibility that involves cutting social welfare and giving tax breaks to the wealthiest, I won’t buy it for a minute. But that’s on them. Democrats need to stop worrying about what Republicans should be and start focusing on what we are.
I agree that we need better messaging. When Democrats ask “what is our message?” I want to ask, “What is yours?” What we need to do is amplify the values detailed in our many priorities, with specific examples of help/harm to people. We need to speak in “how it affects people” terms, not abstractions. That is how we, as a party and as a nation can build our message together. A budget should be a reflection of our priorities, so let’s start there. What do we want to invest in?
From everything I’ve seen, the Democratic party wants to invest in the people. Our rights, our economic opportunity, our education, our health care, and our environment. That is our message. Just because it’s not articulated into some shallow catchy slogan like “let’s go Brandon” doesn’t mean it’s not a much better message. It does mean it’s on us to critically compare our message to the Republican’s messaging, rather than what we think our messaging should be in a magical world with wands.
This work is not just on the leaders. It is on the Democratic base. Every registered Democrat has a stake in this, and if we do mean to be part of this party, we should be making sure we take part in its care.