(For Part I, click here).
After the 2008 elections, Republicans were devastated. Democrats had won the Presidency, held a 57-41 edge in the Senate, and a 257-178 majority in the House. Their control, at the federal level, was actually more commanding than what Republicans have right now, and they had the advantage in a majority of state legislatures.
So what did Republicans do? They regrouped and they organized. They spawned the Tea Party, which, even if it was secretly funded by the Koch brothers and other self-interested billionaires, had real grassroots power. Activists went to town halls, held rallies, and opposed every single thing Democrats tried to do. Republicans also came up with their “REDMAP” plan to win strategic state legislature seats so they could gerrymander the hell out of voting districts after the 2010 elections (voting districts are redrawn every 10 years). And it worked.
As far as the upcoming election is concerned, a redmap victory seems almost guaranteed. In House races in 2012, 1.7 million more votes were cast for Democrats than for Republicans. And still, thanks to the way those votes were packed and cracked, Republicans came away with thirty-three more congressional seats.
2018, and especially 2020, are massively important, at the local, state, and federal level. Not only will we have new state and federal house and senate elections, and another presidential election, but after 2020, the voting districts will again be redrawn, and it’s our chance to fight back against the extreme gerrymandering the Republicans engineered after 2010. This issue is reportedly one of Obama’s major initiatives post-presidency.
Liberals have been bringing a butter knife to a gunfight for far too long. So where do we start?
First and foremost, support the transformation of the Democratic Party back to its roots: a party that represents the working class and labor unions in every county and every city across the country. Support Keith Ellison’s candidacy for chair of the DNC, and support the truly progressive wing of the party: your Bernies, Elizabeth Warrens, Jeff Merkleys, Pramila Jayapals, etc. And actively show your support: instead of sharing Samantha Bee and John Oliver videos on Facebook (guilty as charged), call your representatives, join a political organization (Democratic Socialists of America is my choice), and/or donate to worthy causes (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and environmental groups, to name a few). It’s fine and good to argue online and point out the hypocrisy of Trump and the Republican Party and fight bigotry of all forms, but if we want to enact better policies and fight off fascism, we need to get organized and win elections.
Second, broadly speaking, there was a pretty clear disparity between city voters and more rural voters, with city voters voting heavily in favor of Clinton and more rural voters going to Trump. There are multiple reasons for this, but the Democratic Party needs to oppose the increasing concentration of corporate monopolies, which leads to all kinds of bad stuff, but some of which should speak directly to rural voters: regional wealth and income inequality as corporate profits are concentrated in larger metropolitan areas, usually on the coasts; plus the outsourcing of jobs overseas. I cannot do this issue justice within this post, but for a more in-depth discussion, read these pieces, both of which do a phenomenal job of tracing both Democrats’ and Libertarian anti-monopoly (pro-antitrust) roots (think trust-busting Teddy Roosevelt and FDR), and then the advent of “neoliberalism” in the latter half of the twentieth century that led us to this crisis we’re currently in.
From Matt Stoller, How Democrats Killed Their Populist Soul
From Philip Longman, Bloom and Bust: Regional inequality is out of control. Here’s how to reverse it.
Third, while we will oppose and fight the coming destruction of decent, vital, and popular policies, since we don’t have the numbers to fully stop Republicans, we need to recognize their destructive plans for what they are: political opportunities. Here are a few:
1) Healthcare. As part of the Obamacare repeal, Paul Ryan is going to try to gut Medicare, one of the most popular government programs there is. Tell every single person you know that Republicans are trying to destroy our parents’ and grandparents’ healthcare. Because it’s true.
Overall, Republicans have no healthcare plan besides “repeal Obamacare.” In his 60 Minutes interview, Trump said he won’t eliminate coverage for pre-existing conditions, but he’ll still somehow bring costs down. This is literally impossible unless they provide a massive amount of government subsidies or go full single-payer, which they’ll never do, of course. So they’ll probably have to remove coverage for pre-existing conditions, gut/privatize Medicare and Medicaid (also a popular program), etc., or costs will continue to spiral upwards. Regardless, we will have a huge opportunity when their plans either fail miserably or drastically reduce coverage for working class and poor people in service of corporate profits. We have to be ready. Single-payer is the solution, and it happens to be supported by the majority of Americans.
2) Taxes. Tax breaks are coming that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest Americans. Around 60% of Americans support higher taxes on the wealthy. Also, the Right will continue to try to eliminate the estate tax, which affects only the very wealthy with more than $5.45 million in assets at death. Needless to say, more tax cuts for the extremely wealthy just means a higher burden for working class Americans. And at a time of massive wealth and income inequality, this is simply insane, and goes directly against Trump’s claim that he’s a champion for the working class.
3) Social Security. Similar to Medicare, Trump promised to protect Social Security during his campaign, yet all signs, from his appointment of Michael Korbey, a former lobbyist who has spent much of his career advocating for cutting and privatizing the program, to Paul Ryan’s plan and rhetoric, suggest an attempt at privatizing/cutting benefits. Again, the people are on our side: majorities across every age generation oppose cuts to Social Security.
4) Environment. Environmental regulations are about to be destroyed as the Earth continues to shatter heat records, year-after-year and month-after-month. It’s sad and disheartening that a science-denying party holds all the levers of power, but again, it will also present opportunities to connect with people who care about the planet’s future for themselves and their children.
In sum, a party that cuts taxes for the rich, guts popular healthcare and other programs vital to 99% of Americans, and doesn’t believe in science because it’s funded by Big Oil is not the party of the working class. But, as we learned this year, it’s not enough to simply oppose Republicans and offer minor improvements to a byzantine economic and healthcare system. It’s not enough to say vapid crap like “America is great because America is good.” It’s our job to transform the party and credibly reclaim the mantle of the party for working class America. We stand for economic justice, environmental justice, and racial justice. We serve the People, not the Plutocrats. We can’t keep sitting on the sidelines and hope Barack Obama’s magnificent speeches will thwart Trump’s coming fascism and Paul Ryan’s gutting of Medicare. They didn’t, and they won’t.
Let’s get to work.