If its recent press release is any indication, the Democratic National Committee Unity Reform Commission is having problems. While the Commission can agree President Trump is disgraceful and has hateful policies, reading between the lines of the following second paragraph shows that rifts continue:
“As we wrap up our latest meeting of the Unity Commission in Chicago, Democrats have never been more united against this disgraceful president and his hateful policies. And we know, the best way to fight back is to win elections.” This last sentence is most telling. “That’s why we’re working together to build a Democratic Party that speaks for every Democrat, that is inclusive and welcoming to all Americans, and that is working tirelessly to organize and elect Democrats up and down the ballot who represent our values.”
We know many of the Sanders people on the Commission are fighting for open primaries, hence ‘welcoming all Americans’ and we know ‘Our Revolution’ the group Sanders began headed by Nina Turner is saying they won’t support Democrats who don’t meet their ‘purity’ test and support their values. So whose values are being referred to in the press release?
The DNC should continue to hold ‘closed’ primaries, which means only members of the party get to vote on who will represent the party in a general election. Why would one open the primary to those who don’t care enough to be members of the party and work to develop its values and principles? Democrats have a basic set of values and principles clearly enunciated in the platform voted on at the Democratic National Convention in 2016. Those values call for economic equality and raising the minimum wage; choice; human and civil rights for all; affordable healthcare for all; continuing to fight climate change; quality public education; and reform of the judicial system among other tenets of a free and just society.
The desired result of a Unity Commission should be an agreement that everyone there will fight for every Democratic candidate representing the party in the general election. If we listen to Nina Turner and her quest for a purity test based on her values the result will be a repeat of what we got in 2016 — a Republican Congress and Trump.
The role of the DNC should be to support building effective state and local Democratic Parties. The one requirement any organization or candidate they support should meet is to say they are proud Democrats and will support general election Democratic candidates up and down the ballot.
I have been a Democrat my entire life supporting candidates from Adlai Stevenson to John F. Kennedy to Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama; stood with Congresspersons William Fitts Ryan and Bella S. Abzug and supported Abe Beame, Shirley Chisholm and Christine Quinn. In not one case did I agree with every position those candidates held. But what we had in common was support for the basic principles of equality, human and civil rights for all, economic opportunity and a great public education system allowing everyone the chance to succeed.
The Democratic National Committee and all Democrats should follow the lead of environmentalist Tom Steyer, who recently said he will invest $2 million in the campaign to elect Democrat Ralph Northam governor of Virginia. While not agreeing with every Northam position, Steyer rejected the idea of purity saying, “We think he is much better than Republican Mr. Gillespie on environmental policies in general.”
We need Democrats elected as governors and Democrats elected to state legislatures. When it comes to Congress, only electing Democrats across the board we will give us a Democratic Speaker of the House of Representatives and a Democratic majority leader in the Senate. If that happens the progressive agenda has a chance to move forward. We need to stop calling for ‘purity,’ which is asking people to ‘cut off their nose to spite their face’ and instead tell people to ‘vote smart.’
Voting smart will eventually regain Congress and the White House for Democrats. Voting smart is voting only for Democratic candidates. Expecting ‘purity’ of all our candidates will only doom us to more Donald Trumps and more Republican congresses.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.