Last week, I blogged that to achieve its aspirations, Democrats needed to look beyond differences and unify. But unity is meaningless if it is not focused on shared principles. Today, I ask: What should Democrats do when their leaders do not advance Democratic principles?
TODAY! Monday, Oct 16, 8:30-10am, Department of Education, 300 Don Gaspar Ave, Santa Fe. Rally for Science Education. Click here to read last Thursday’s post described the science standard issue in detail and a bit more about the Rally.
Equity Summer Update. I am pleased to announce that at last Thursday’s House Party for Chainbreaker at the home of Retake leadership team member Jennifer Johnson, sufficient $100 donations were made to help Chainbreaker reach its goal of generating 100 $100 donations in 100 days. We are pleased to have kicked off the House Party campaign at Roxanne and my home and to have hit the goal at another Retake House Party. Kudos also to Chainbreaker for that same week winning a coveted Santa Fe Community Foundation Pinon Award. A good week for Chainbreaker and there is no more worthy organization.
Holding Our Elected Officials Accountable: Principles Over Party
At the very beginning of a Town Hall held in September we asked about 80 democrats to brainstorm the policies they feel are most important to developing the kind of just society to which we aspire. A list of 12 policies was generated, seven of which also appear on the People’s Platform below. The only two policies from the People’s Platform that did not make our list of 12 was taxing Wall St. and ending private prisons. And our list did include “criminal justice reform” and increased taxes to support SSI expansion. What’s more, there was unanimous support for virtually every bill on our list. What’s more, subsequent to my post last week about the need for unity among all wings of the Democratic Party, I heard from many, many readers in private emails, comments on the post and even calls. The consensus was that most active Democrats support the reforms brainstormed in the Town Hall and listed in the People’s Platform below. So while there was unity around most policies, there remains division over the primary campaign as being too critical or “negative” and over some Democrats being viewed as disloyal for pointing out candidate or elected officials who are not consistent in advancing key shared principles and policies. When someone raises his/her voice and points out, for example, that neither of our Democratic Congressional representatives supports even three of those eight bills (below) one is accused of weakening the party or being disloyal.
My question is: Who is being disloyal? Is it the advocates who being disloyal when they point out that neither of our Democratic Congressional Representatives has endorsed Health Care for All, a Tax on Wall St,, Banning Extractive Exploitation or Advancing Criminal Justice and Immigration Reform? Or is it our Congressional Representatives themselves who are being disloyal for failing to represent the will of their constituents? Why hasn’t Rep. Lujan joined Rep. Lujan Grisham in supporting a Woman’s Right to Choose and in her support for Automatic Voter Registration? Why hasn’t Rep. Lujan Grisham joined Congressman Lujan in supporting College for All and a $15 minimum wage? What is the purpose of constituents forming opinions on important policies if they do not then advocate with their elected officials to support those policies?
This is an important issue at the local, state and national levels. As the brief excerpt taken from last week’s blog describes below at a national level our two most recent Democratic Presidents have run on change and hope and putting the people first and then have advanced principles and policies that were in some cases diametrically opposed to their campaign promises.What is a good Democrat to do? Be silent? Pretend not to notice?
As the scorecard results below show, our two Democratic Congressional representatives are near the bottom among other Congressional representatives in support for the eight bills in the People’s Platform. At a state level, Our Roundhouse Advocacy Team has identified Democrats like House Reps. Rodella and Lundstrom who have consistently undermined the passage of key progressive legislation. Is Retake being disloyal in pointing this out?
It is one thing to ask for a political party to unify, but it is important that the unity be grounded in key shared principles and policies that advance the party and our people toward a better way of life. In Saturday’s post, I examined an entirely different kind of criteria that could be used to assess our collective quality of life, the Gross Happiness Index. Click here to read this post. It asks us to apply nine criteria and use data to measure the degree to which a community, region or nation is achieving its aspirations. While a different form of criteria, the People’s Platform below can serve as a kind of criteria through which we can appraise how well our elected officials are advancing our aspirations. And the sad truth is, that despite being in very safe House seats, they are not doing very well at all. And when they return to NM to meet with their constituents, they will hold Town Halls and wax poetic about how they are resisting Trump, but are we being disloyal if we ask the uncomfortable questions about why they each had 25% ratings in relation to support for the People’s Platform?
And so while unity is important, adherence to a set of principles, is an important goal, without a commitment to a set of principles and legislative priorities, what is it we are united around? The Democratic Party is an empty label if it is defined further by a set of principles. I am encouraged to hear of the energy and vision that is being devoted to DPNM’s new platform. But if at the end of their work, our Democratic representatives and candidates are not held accountable for advancing those priorities, what is the point? I am hopeful that over time, one of the things that results from a DPNM platform is a scorecard by which we hold our Roundhouse and Congressional representatives accountable. How have they behaved in relation to our platform? Have they consistently advocated for and voted for these bills? And if not, why do they label themselves Democrats?
So just as I asked for comment on the blog about an appeal for unity, I ask for comment on this post, an appeal to ground that unity in a set of shared principles and priorities and then to demand that our elected officials show leadership and actively and publicly advance our shared principles.
People’s Platform & Ratings on Reps. Lujan & Lujan Grisham
OurRevolution, Progressive Democrats of America, and Working Families Party have collaborated to develop an eight-bill platform and are advocating with Democrats in the House to co-sponsor those bills. The bills identified for the Platform are listed below with links to a fuller description of each bill.
The #PeoplesPlatform asks House Democrats to cosponsor the following bills:
- Health Care for All: H.R. 676 Medicare For All Act, introduced by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI). Click here for details on the bill.
- College for All: H.R. 1880 College for All Act of 2017, introduced by Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-07). Click here for details on the bill.
- Workers’ Rights: H.R.15 – Raise the Wage Act, introduced by Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Keith Ellison (D-MN). Click here for details on the bill.
- Women’s Reproductive Rights: H.R.771 – Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance (EACH Woman) Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Lee, Barbara (D-CA). Click here for details on the bill.
- Voting Rights: H.R.2840 – Automatic Voter Registration Act, introduced by Rep. Cicilline, David N. (D-RI). Click here for details on the bill.
- Criminal Justice and Immigrant Rights: Justice is Not For Sale Act of 2017, introduced by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Click here for details on the bill.
- Tax on Wall Street: H.R. 1144 – Inclusive Prosperity Act, introduced by Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN). Click here for details on the bill. h
- Environmental Justice:R. 2242 – Keep It in the Ground Act, introduced by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA). Click here for details on the bill.
At A National Level
Right now, it is easy to point to Trump as this ultimate villain, as he tweets and tweets threats and pronouncements, but we need to remember that it was Bill Clinton and the Democrats who created NAFTA and the War on Crime and who began the inexorable unraveling of our social safety net. It was Barack Obama who deported more immigrants than any president, lobbied for the TPP, fracked more oil than any president and even in relation to his most important policy victory, the ACA, he took the low road and bent to the will of Pharma and the insurance industries yielding a horribly flawed system with high co-pays and unaffordable drug costs.
The Democratic Party can only expect loyalty if its leaders consistently advocate for the shared values that bind us and distinguish us from other political perspectives. When a Democrat votes more like a Republican than a Democrat, what sense is allegiance to that candidate or elected official? In the end, it should be our principles that dictate our allegiance not a blind allegiance to a party label.
Paul & Roxanne
See you at the protest in an hour!