Ugh. The next presidential sweepstakes has already started. They’ve barely finished counting votes from the midterms and already there are [stupid] political rants on social media about the Democratic headliners for next election. It’s almost as bad as hearing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” in September.
Once upon a time these discussions were along the lines of “my candidate is better than yours;” now it’s you’re not a true progressive if you don’t support [fill-in-the-blank]. Pffft. The argument for ending that argument amounts to two words: Donald Trump.
The activist group MoveOn has asked subscribers on its out sized email list who’d they like to see as the Democratic candidate in 2020. I suspect this straw poll is more about engagement and fundraising than it is about flexing political muscle.
“I don’t know/obscure candidate” triumphed over 33 other potential real candidates coming in with just short of 18% of the responses. Beto O’Rourke (15.60%), Joe Biden (14.95%), Bernie Sanders (13.15%), Kamala Harris (10.02%), and Elizabeth Warren (6.42%) were the next five choices in the poll.
I proudly admit to being in the “I don’t know” group. I “like” a lot of candidates. I kinda-sorta feel like seeing somebody other than an old white dude at the top of the ticket. But I’m waiting to hear who has the capability to a) get us past our national nightmare–currently in progress– and b) accomplish what needs to be done.
Great ideas are one thing. Leadership is another. Medicare-for-All (for instance) won’t fly without enough grass roots support to overcome the wave of fear/loathing/lies/cash the healthcare industry is prepared unleash.
Whoever ends up in the Oval Office will need hundreds of thousands of people telling their elected officials at every level of government that this is what we want. What policies come out of that struggle won’t be perfect, but they’ll be a hell of a lot better than what an administration would get playing the game of lobbyist vs lobbyist.
In recent years some Democratic politicians have demonstrated an awareness of the need for keeping supporters engaged beyond the election.
Obama’s Organizing for America and Bernie’s Our Revolution are examples of this sort of vision. Both groups had only limited success in building something bigger than a fan club.
The Democratic Party, which has the theoretical infrastructure to support citizen engagement of the local level, has its own set of problems created in part by internal squabbles over personalities and process.
State and local party organizations suffer in differing degrees from these afflictions. In California, new blood at the grassroots level has the potential to address these issues. The upcoming Assembly District Delegate (ADEM) elections will give us a clue as to what the future holds. In San Diego, the party is getting ready to select a new chair person.
Activists with Indivisible and the other organizations springing up (or being energized) in the wake of the 2016 general election had some success with driving support or opposition to legislative issues. Based on what I’m seeing locally, I worry about the future viability of them being much more than a Facebook “likes” club.
Tom Steyer is building something akin to a national organization. His NextGen has invested in building voter registration among young people and (I assume) a fat mailing list based around the Impeach Trump concept.
He’s smartly organizing around an issue too “out there” for party regulars. After all, there are plenty of wannabe/couldbe activists out there who’ve been alienated by what they’ve perceived as the reality of the democratic party.
I worry about the whiteness/masculinity vibe coming out these efforts. The most reliable and energized voters for progressive causes and against the Trumpian nightmare are neither white nor male. They’ve more than earned a seat at the table.
Getting back around to the 2020 contests, I was motivated to write this column by a Facebook post written by activist/strategist/greathuman Eva Posner:
Run Bernie. Run Beto. Run Kamala. Run Elizabeth. Run Joe. Run Kristen. Run Michelle. Run Michael. Run Oprah. Run them all.
Tear them open. Tear them down. Run them through the gauntlet. Run them through hell fire. Reveal their lies and their hypocrisies. Find their weaknesses. Exploit their strengths. Try to destroy them.
Have the toughest primary we can throw at them. Leave no stone unturned. Leave nothing to reveal in the General. Leave no room for an October Surprise.
Find your horse, and don’t just bet on it— fight for it. Fight like hell for your vision of the future. Defend your champion. Organize. Walk. Donate. Host. Fundraise. Call. Text. Walk more. California matters this time. Put in work.
And when you lose— as many of us will—grieve. Feel it. Mourn it. Let yourself get angry that the rest of the country doesn’t share your vision. It’s a natural part of the political process. Grieve deeply for the lost future you fought for.
Then move on.
If you are on the winning team, be gracious. “I told you so” isn’t productive. The only thing people hate worse than a sore loser is a sore winner. We need people to swallow their pride and keep fighting. Make that process as easy as possible.
At the end of the day 2020 will be about turning out every single voter possible in every single state in spite of insane systemic and structural obstacles in order to try to save what is left of the country we recognize potential in before it becomes a complete lost cause.
Now is the time for the conversations and infighting. Now is the time to decide what our party is and will be in the future. We have a bit over a year to bring it all to the surface. Because after the primary, we have to unify.
We have to unify against hate crimes and pipe bombs and concentration camps. Against for-profit healthcare and education. Against the criminalization and exploitation of black and brown bodies. Against the purposeful destruction of our planet and the disregard for human cost. Against violence against women and LGBT people. Against the profitable cycles of poverty and crime. Against all the systemic and institutional failures that brought us to this point.
There is too much at stake to take our access and privilege for granted.
This is my next-to-last column for the San Diego Free Press. I really do appreciate all the kind words and appreciation coming our way since the announcement of the end of this chapter.
Most of all, I want people to realize two things heading into 2020:
- Human interaction is needed for successful organizing. Whether it’s a meeting, a meal, or a marathon, political engagement has got to be more then email and social media. In person contact also builds immunity from internet purity warriors and blowhards; most of whom lack the courage to be abrasive AND look somebody in the eye.
- The root of all the evil 99% of us human types face is acceptance of political and economic systems that socialize costs/risks and privatize gain/profit. Worship of the marketplace doesn’t have to be the foundation of policy development. The common good needs to be a priority and not a trickle down promise.
I don’t know what’s next for me personally. Reading ten or so good books, enjoying the holidays, and limiting my time on social media is the current plan. I’m not going away. It’s just time to find a new outlet or two.
One. More. Day. One step at a time.