For Democrats, Cleaning House Means Pelosi And Schumer Too

Without the presidency, congressional leadership will be the face of the party.

The definition of insanity is doing what the Democratic Party is about to do. In the wake of a massive, nationwide rebuke of the party’s direction, the Democratic Party is about to reinstall the same party leadership in the House, and in the Senate and have D.C. pick a new DNC chair. This is madness!

Let’s review the “success” of the current Democratic party leadership. Since 2010 we’ve lost the House, the Senate, 900 state legislative seats, and now the presidency. Republicans have trifectas (control of the state house, senate and governorship) in 24 states. 34 states have Republican governors. In sum, Democrats are now completely irrelevant to governing in most of the country. We’ve spent years laughing at the GOP for becoming a regional party of the South. Please take a look at this map of state-level control and tell me which party is the regional party. The urgent task of reform so we can begin winning and offering solutions again starts now.

As I recently argued, we find ourselves in this situation because we failed to offer coherent solutions to voters facing down an economic apocalypse. We forfeited our claim to be the party of working families by throwing ourselves at Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and didn’t even pretend to care as we lost race after race in the vast heartland. Call me crazy, but I don’t think Wall Street’s favorite senator, Chuck Schumer, and San Francisco Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi are the ideal people to address the economic anxiety of middle- and working-class Americans and credibly call for reform. I don’t say this to disrespect either one of them, both of whom are dedicated public servants and legislative tacticians. The problem is that they can no longer serve simply as legislative tacticians; without the presidency, they will now be the face and primary messengers of the party. Can anyone argue with a straight face that these two coastal elites and longtime denizens of insider Washington are the right look for a revitalized Democratic Party?

We forfeited our claim to be the party of working families by throwing ourselves at Wall Street and Silicon Valley, and didn’t even pretend to care as we lost race after race in the vast heartland.

At the DNC, the need for change is obvious. Candidates for DNC chair are already emerging and playing behind-the-scenes Washington parlor games to get their names into circulation. Instead of restoring credibility to an unhealthy organization, D.C.-led DNC chair appointment would reinforce some of the existing aforementioned problems. Look, I’m not saying we would be preparing for the inauguration of President-Elect Sanders right now if the DNC had done their job properly, but clearly they failed in their role as neutral arbiters because they were led and staffed by Clinton-aligned insiders. To even begin to undo the damage we must have an open and transparent election for DNC chair and for the DNC vice-chairs. This is not a process that should happen over the holidays with a bunch of donors weighing in and no chance for the grassroots of the party to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the would-be candidates. We need to promote a healthy debate and let everyone throw their hat in the ring. This isn’t a new and novel idea either. Back in 2004, candidates for DNC chair ran public campaigns which culminated in the election of Howard Dean. Indeed, the very problem with the 2016 presidential nomination process is that we neglected to do that; insiders circled their wagons around a fatally flawed candidate instead of letting alternatives emerge naturally.

The entire job and purpose of the DNC is to win elections. So when considering the next DNC chair, we must identify someone who has a demonstrated track record of winning in states that are now red, and who understands enough of the party machinery to be effective but who does not hail from the inner sanctums of Clinton-world. Someone like populist Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio or Minnesota Sen. Al Franken could fit the bill, or the fiery former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner. Congressman John Yarmuth has found a way to win in Kentucky while championing progressive values. Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard showed remarkable courage and independence by stepping down from the DNC when she believed they acted unethically. There are plenty of folks to choose from, but it must be a choice, not an anointing.

Folks, there’s a lot of thinking and a lot of work to be done. The very first step, though, must be conscious consideration of who will be the top faces and leaders in our party over the next four years. We are trusting these individuals to lead the resistance against Trump, do big thinking on radical economic change and figure out how to win again. This is not a decision to be pushed on us by D.C., or to be made by a quick voice vote with no debate.  It’s time to fight. Who’s ready to lead?

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