The Democratic National Committee needs to begin the work of building the party in all 50 states and territories and end what is in essence an open primary for the position of chair and other officers.
I compare it to an open primary because there are only 447 DNC members who will actually vote. All the others attending rallies and forums don’t vote and from what I am seeing and hearing are having little impact on who will be elected.
As the Washington Post reported, “Saturday’s ‘future forum’ was the last DNC gathering before Feb. 25, when Democrats will gather in Atlanta to elect new leaders. Over six public debates and a stream of TV interviews, the leading candidates had found themselves in combative agreement, arguing for a party that invests more in every state, disagreeing only about who should get them there. The meeting here did not resolve that and showcased how the elongated race has delayed the final reckoning over the party’s 2016 primary result and the test of whether Democrats can channel the protests against President Trump breaking out every weekend.”
In the spirit of full disclosure I support former Labor Secretary Tom Perez for chair and Adam Parkhomenko for vice chair. I like all the other candidates but think Perez and Parkhomenko will make a great team. The role of that team is to help build 50 strong Democratic parties that will do the work necessary in their states to take back their legislatures, governorships and elect Democrats in every congressional district.
It’s not the role of the party chair or other officers of the DNC to develop a new platform in the next two years; we already have one and it was approved at the last Democratic convention. It is the most progressive one we have ever had; all the candidates support it. They alone won’t change it but will have the job of supporting state parties in multiple ways. They will need to work to keep the incredible public outcry against Trump and the congressional Republicans going; help state parties recruit and then organize the millions of people who are hitting the streets in protest to work for and vote for Democratic candidates. They will need to upgrade and share the technology for low-dollar fundraising with state parties to help pay for their efforts and support their candidates at every level.
At times the chair of the party will be the face of the party on television and at meetings across the nation. But their responsibility is not to usurp the spotlight from our candidates; rather to help focus it on them. It is our candidates who will need to keep the marchers motivated and work toward victories at the ballot box.
The chair must work to see we don’t attack Democratic candidates who can win in a state simply because some people within, or outside trying to influence the party, don’t think they meet their criteria for ‘perfection.’
A Democratic candidate for Senate or House of Representatives in a deep red state will not campaign on the same issues as one running in a reliably blue state. We clearly need to stand by our principles of equality, women’s rights, LGBT rights, civil rights, disability rights, fairness and decency. But how they campaign on local issues may differ and we need to accept when they win they vote for the Democratic leadership in Congress giving us the ability to control committees and the agenda.
On Feb. 25 in Atlanta the 447 members of the DNC will finally vote and this quasi primary will be over. The real work of building the party will begin. We will all need to coalesce around the new chair and officers of the party. We must do this if we are to defeat the efforts of the two ultra-right conservative Stephens, Bannon and Miller, who are the puppeteers pulling Donald Trump’s strings. Trump himself seems in over his head in the Oval Office and has taken to tweeting about his daughter’s business at Nordstrom.
We must join hands and continue to speak out, march, protest and resist under the Democratic Party banner. We must do this if we are to fight the vicious proposals of the Trump administration and the Republican Congress. We must do this if we are to take back our Democracy and continue to be a beacon of hope for the world.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.