Major donors to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump must be feeling pretty high as they prepare for the world after January 20, while those of us who backed Hillary Clinton are struggling to make sense of the disaster.
As a 25-year supporter of both Mrs. Clinton and her husband, her stunning defeat carries a particular sting. I’m not a person who is accustomed to making losing bets, and this one was about as sure a wager as I’d ever encountered. Here was a supremely qualified candidate running first against a foe-of-the-week plucked by the media from a field of Keystone Cops who turned tripping over their own shadows into an art form. Then she found herself running against a man who, simply put, was the most abominable figure to ever run for our country’s highest office. How could she lose?
Well, we now know that black swans are indeed native to the United States. While sadly, Mrs. Clinton’s political career may be over, the Democratic party lives on – with a future, at the moment, that is by no means bright. Zombie movies show more signs of life. The challengers to Mrs. Clinton for the party’s nomination did not at the end of the day provide an appropriate alternative as determined by the voters, there appears to be no one on the horizon, at the moment, at least, who offers a compelling argument against the kind of guttural populist appeal, despicable though it may be, that Mr. Trump is making. (True, Bernie Sanders gave her a run for my money, but let’s not forget that, until the primary season, Mr. Sanders was not a Democrat.)
Like many of my friends and associates, I am a life-long Democrat. We have a rock-solid commitment to supporting the political party that we so strongly believe offers the most promising vision of America, one that recognizes the proper role of government, the importance of compassion and the value of diversity. We are committed – after a period of sober wound-licking ― to rejoining the fight against a retrograde administration that has vowed to roll back everything we won over the past eight years.
“The Democratic Party is still the right vessel on the right course, but it has taken some hits that require urgent repairs.”
But supporters need a commitment from the Democratic Party before they will be willing to open up their checkbooks. We are not asking for much. I still believe the Democratic Party remains the party of the future of the country in its appeal to the middle class, minorities, urban concerns, issues of fairness and equality and the like. Republicans who fail to recognize that they owe their current good fortune to the electoral equivalent of an appendix – a vestigial organ better out than in – are more arrogant than the Democrats who thought all Mrs. Clinton had to do was show up to win.
No, the Democratic Party is still the right vessel on the right course, but it has taken some hits that require urgent repairs. Among others, they are:
1. Reorganize the Democratic National Committee under new long-term leadership. The former DNC head, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, got a raw deal in the WikiLeaks scandal and in the long run did not provide a unifying role. The committee now needs an equally strong captain to take decisive steps at the national level to unify the party and engage new faces in constructive dialogue – including people from rural America and, at the risk of seeming self-serving, more people from the business world, both of whose voices often seem unwelcome.
2. Have the new blood establish a set of policy priorities that can unite the party and bring it to more of a centrist position. No more pandering to the ultra-liberal wing in an attempt to neutralize the right. As we saw in the latest election with the candidacy of Jill Stein, and in 2000 with Ralph Nader, the far left votes how it wants no matter what the party platform – to devastating effect.
3. Rebuild the party at the local level to cultivate the national leadership of the future. Most importantly this means making sure no race, no matter how small, goes uncontested even if it means supporting candidates who are long shots to win. After all, DNC stands for Democratic National Committee, not Don’t Not Challenge!
4. Adequately prepare to seize the initiative before the next redistricting takes place after the 2020 election. Involve many key gubernatorial and state legislative officials over the next several years to prepare ballot initiatives to create independent commissions before we are preempted by the GOP.
5. And finally, here’s something we can learn from the president-elect: Party officials should think like entrepreneurs. They should be prepared to take risks and be open to new ideas, while avoiding the beltway bias that convinces them that others around the country don’t know as much as they do about policy, politics and how to win elections. As a venture capitalist, I invest in people and ideas that are fresh, vibrant and willing to disrupt the market. As a political donor, I like to see the same energy in the people I support.