Democratic Party Needs to Stand FOR Something Not Just Against Trump: Could Gun Control be the Issue

The Democratic Party has an aversion to taking bold stands that clearly articulate how life would be better for all of us if we voted Democrats into power. As a result, the Party continues to enjoy tepid support nationally and has failed to inspire a base. What is wrong? We hear plenty about how bad Trump’s policies are, but what is the Democratic vision for tax reform, the budget, gun control…or just about anything?

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I suspect this blog post may anger some of you. How many tragedies must we endure before some of our leaders speak up for sanity, justice, and fairness? Frankly, I am disgusted with the lack of moral and political courage of the Democratic Party. I expect myopic, greed-informed polices and vague rhetoric from the GOP, but I am fed up with getting the same slop from MY Party. Over the next few weeks, Retake’s lens will be on the Democratic Party nationally and in New Mexico. But for now, mark down March 4 from 2-4pm at the Center for Progress & Justice where Retake will launch its 2018-2019 Election and Legislative Strategy. Click here to RSVP and for more details.

Democratic Party:  A Lack of Courage and Vision

Despite itself, the Democratic Party has a very good chance to take back the House in 2018. From Vox:  “A pretty simple forecast model that relies on economic performance and presidential popularity predicts Democrats will pick up 45 to 50 House seats this fall, and take over 15 to 20 state legislative chambers. A loss of just 24 House seats would flip House control to the Democrats.” The Vox article goes on to discuss one factor after another pointing to a big election win, but not a single one of those factors has anything to do with the Democrats having an inspiring message. It is all based on GOP deficits. About a week ago, I blogged on how the Democratic Party is doing all it can to advance the candidacy of centrist candidates and undermine the candidacy of more progressive candidates. There is abundant evidence that this is a failed strategy for today and a disaster going forward. Young Democrats are shaking their heads at the policies and practices of the Democratic Party. We are missing a huge opportunity. The GOP is advancing ever more brazen policies that overtly benefit the wealthy, while shredding the fabric of social, economic, and health supports and services for Americans. They have released a detailed budget, a tax reform plan, and an infrastructure plan that are abominations. In the wake of the Florida massacre, Speaker Ryan says this is not the time to talk about gun control! Trump blames the lack of school security, and McConnell, well, McConnell continues being his utterly unfathomable self. When exactly IS the right time for courage and vision? How much worse does it have to get before the Democratic Party proudly plants its seal on something inspiring and responsive to Americans most fundamental sense of justice and fair play? I am not asking for a courageous candidate to stick out their necks and be punished by the Party, I am asking for the Party itself to return to the principles and priorities of the FDR era when polls didn’t dictate policy and human decency, a sense of justice did.

But what have the Democrats offered America as an alternative? A Better Deal, the long forgotten, uninspiring message of old guard Democrats. Why is there no Democratic Party’s Five-Point Tax Plan for a Sustainable, Just Future? A very clear and specific plan that is the diametric opposite of the Trump Tax Plan? Without doing a bunch of studies, polls, and focus groups, I am guessing America would be inspired by a plan that:

  1. Eliminated all federal income taxes for individuals earning under $20,000;
  2. Lowered the rates of all taxpayers earning $21,000 – $100,000 by 5%;
  3. Raised income rates for individuals earning over $300,000 a year to 50%, and then raised that rate by 5% for every additional $300,000 in income until the rate reaches 75% at $1.8M per year (still lower than during Eisenhower when our economy was booming);
  4. Restored the estate tax on estates valued at over $2M with a tax rate of 35% on estates of $2M and gradually increasing in percent until reaching 75% on estates over $5M; and
  5. Remove the $164K ceiling on Social Security contributions entirely, so that people with incomes over $164K pay their fair share based on their entire income. (SSI problem totally solved. Indeed, see below for what else this could do).

We could stop right there, but raising the business tax back to its previous 35% and increasing capital gains taxes to 50% would be two good next steps. Capital gains taxes, otherwise known as unearned income, is called “unearned” because all you have to do is be wealthy enough to buy things that appreciate in value and then sit around on the veranda counting your money. Why is that such a protected form of income? Because rich people control all the levers. There are no (count them, not one) studies that shows that reducing taxes on corporations and the rich produce anything other than greater wealth among people who are already wealthy….and then forcing Congress to reduce expenditures because we aren’t taking in as much tax revenue. And since this government and, let’s be h

onest, past Democratic Party budgets, continue to fuel the military beast, guess what is now gonna start to be on the table for cuts: Medicare, Social Security, children’s health programs, and other “entitlements.”

Okay, so imagine Democratic leadership calls a press conference and instead of pointing only to how Democrats are better than the other guy (the meme at left is actually from the DCCC), instead of relying on the absence of values of the GOP, the Democrats proudly announced a vision of justice and fairness, its Ten Point Peace and Justice Plan for the Future, and in addition to the above tax plan the Peace and Justice Plan includes:

  1. 10% reduction in military budget;
  2. A path to citizenship, not just for DACAs but for every immigrant living in America today;
  3. An infrastructure plan that uses $1.8 trillion in FEDERAL funds to leverage local and state funding but with Federal funding requiring only $1 in local match for every $5 of federal funds, instead of Trumps’ reversing that ratio and creating an entirely impossible-to-sustain requirement that states and cities produce $4 for every dollar of Federal investment;
  4. A ban on fracking and a $50 billion federal investment in renewable energy;
  5. A $30 billion investment to support locally developed economic transition strategies in communities impacted by the closing of coal and nuclear energy generating stations that also requires utility companies like PNM to match federal funds to local impacted communities;
  6. A 15% increase in Social Security with larger percent increases for those receiving the lowest monthly checks;
  7. Elimination of college tuition for children coming from families whose income is below $250,000 a year, and elimination of all student debt with completion of one year community service, fueling a huge increase in AmeriCorps tutoring, youth development, nutrition, and community organizing projects across the country;
  8. Universal background checks for all gun purchases, a ban on all assault and semi-automatic weapons, and a ban on laws permitting open carry. No more excuses on this one;
  9. A $15 minimum wage with supports to small and/or rural businesses for whom such an increase would be a hardship; and
  10. To pay for these investments, The Five Point Tax Plan for a Sustainable, Just Future;

This is a short list, and if the Democratic Party were truly interested in transforming the political and social landscape it might include a single payer health plan, serious criminal justice reform, removal of all funding limits on Planned Parenthood, and restoration of funds for UN refugee programs. The absence of vision and courage has consequences. Our refusal to progressively tax the wealthy and large corporations forces too many  difficult fiscal decisions and limits investment in things like infrastructure and public education that once were the hallmarks of America. There was a time when we invested in those things because we all benefited from them. But in the absence of courage and vision our elected officials do the bidding of their wealthy donors. And as the sidebar at right describes, there are consequences for our lack of courage.

So what if Democratic leadership publicly embraced and campaigned on the The Ten Point Peace and Justice Plan? What if they actively recruited candidates who would run on these ten points?  In publicly advancing this Ten Point Plan,  voters would be able to compare tax plans, budgets and policies Unfortunately, as was reported last week, the DCCC does precisely the opposite, promoting a tepid Better Deal and seeking out moderate Democrats and crowning them as the Party-endorsed candidate while undermining candidates who are progressive and could actually inspire voters instead of requiring them to hold their noses or vote once again for the lesser of two evils or sadly, to stay home. Click here to review the post on how the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, under the leadership of our very own Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, is tipping the scales for centrist candidates in one race after another.

The sidebar at right demonstrates that when our leaders have vision and courage, they can get things done. The last item on the list at shows that over 1.5 million Americans have died from gun violence since 1968 and we have done absolutely nothing to address this. The very sad thing is that a similar statistic could be attached to our:

  • Failing to lift seniors out of poverty;
  • Providing inadequate early childhood education funding;
  • Limiting access to life saving medical interventions or making them too expensive;
  • Funding endless military forays in virtually every continent on earth;

Budgets are moral documents and the blood of unintended victims is on the hands of elected officials who continue to cow to wealthy donors and call press conferences lamenting the tragic loss of life. And while gun massacres provide highly visible examples of our lack of moral courage, deaths from inadequate healthcare, untreated trauma, malnutrition, inhuman immigration policies, and the failure to intervene effectively in chronic medical conditions are much quieter. But those deaths are still deaths and just because those deaths are not headline news does not mean that their families are not suffering.

From Vox:  “But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives and not just bow down to the NRA [PG addition: pharmaceuticals, health industry, gas & oil and the military] because they’ve financed their campaign for them. So, hopefully we’ll find enough people, first of all, to vote good people in, but hopefully we can find enough people with courage to help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues. Not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

Yes, it is disgusting. Let’s do something about it.

In solidarity and service,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Election, Political Reform & National Politics

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5 replies

  1. Good article Paul! We shall see what happens? Whether it be gun control or anything else, whatever it may take to get them moving is all that counts. However, if they continue with no agenda, no visibility and a lack of concern by their traditional base, or what is left of it, then even though the Republicans have handed it to them, they could still lose the Mid Terms. My unending question is how do you motivate the Hillary/Obama Democrats to take this thing seriously and push for new leadership of this Party? From my readings on FB and other platforms, it seems to me that they refuse the Progressive Agenda on the one hand, then have nothing to offer as an alternative, but the same drivel from the last election and they do not seem to think we are in trouble! Once the Republicans mount their attacks, confuse the average voter and rig things where they can, their continued control will almost certainly be held and then the coup will be sealed!

  2. I appreciate your recognition that the unacceptable level of gun violence in the US become a major focus for the public, our legislators & hopefully for Retake Our Democracy. New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, a statewide non-profit, has been dedicated to prevention on a local, state & national level since its inception 5 years ago after the horrendous mass shooting of young schoolchildren in Newtown, CT. Please note that our organization’s title and publications use the term “prevention”, as we have learned this is a more constructive word, not the red flag that the word “control” suggests to many. We welcome your participation in our work with schools, police departmemts, domestic violence and suicide prevention organizations, legislators, artists, as well as other states’ & national gun violence preventions orgs. Please check out our website newmexicanstopreventgunviolence.orgas well as our Facebook page. Thank you.

  3. Had the “FDR era” democrats been motivated by a “sense of justice” in 1944, we would likely have had Henry Agard Wallace as our 33rd president, and a different present-day reality. Since the Trail of Tears to the present, when has the establishment DP not dissembled with both justice and democracy? Look how they got to Heinrich on the Pharma bill! Maybe it’s time to get real about the DP and look elsewhere for political integrity.

    Nevertheless we must keep fighting for the issues you cite. The vision and courage are still ours; it’s easy to see how these values are corrupted and by whom. Thank you for a heartfelt and thoughtful response to our pain.

  4. It is not unreasonable to require 1-Training 2-Insurance 3-License before ANYONE can take a gun home. It’s time to ‘man up. ‘

  5. Dear Paul and Roxanne

    I respect and greatly admire all you do to educate our community. However, I believe there are certain inaccuracies and mischaracterizations in this Retake post.

    1. In #6 of your Ten Point Plan for Peace and Justice: A 15% increase in SS with larger percent increases for those receiving the lowest monthly checks. It is entirely possible that a fairly wealthy person worked for a company/govt. entity just long enough to qualify for SS benefits but was self employed the rest of their working life. The check is small but they do not need an increase in SS benefits. Believe another method is needed to determine amount of SS increases.

    2. #7 Eliminate tuition for kids whose family income is under 250K. I have seen many instances of fairly well-to-do families where one of the parents takes a leave, goes on vacation or quits their job for a set amount of time so their college age children can qualify for various types of scholarship/financial aid at colleges/universities. I don’t blame them especially if there are multiple children to educate. However, I would rather see a system like Argentina has were tuition is free at public universities/conservatories to all who can pass the entrance exams. Remedial classes to bring students up to speed before entrance are also free. Private colleges are subsidized as well but don’t know the formula.

    CAPITAL GAINS: I take issue with your characterization of people who have unearned income as doing nothing to receive it. “Unearned” because all you have to do is be wealthy enough to buy things that appreciate in value and then sit around on the veranda counting your money.”

    Oh, really? Have you ever tried buying real estate and renting it out for commercial or residential use? You are the plumber, electrician, gardener, mediator and renovator for all the people who rent from you. If you can’t do the work yourself you have to manage and pay all the people who keep up the property for you. If you don’t keep up the property it falls to ruin and then there is no “unearned income.”

    Assets go up in value, you hope, but they can just as easily go down. Only an idiot would provide good housing and work space for tenants and business owners if they did not hope that someday the payoff might be “unearned” income. How do you think the person got enough money to buy the asset in the first place? If it is so easy why don’t more people do this?

    When you editorialize about well-to-do people and cast aspersions upon them it is the same kind of prejudice as racism. You are stereotyping a whole class of people who are not necessarily lazy, corrupt, self serving or greedy. Black people are….. Mexicans are…..Wealthy people are….. Fill in the blanks in you own heads but please leave your prejudices out of Retake Our Democracy posts…..makes me wonder if I have a place in the Democratic Party. I definitely know I don’t belong in the Republican Party so now I am the “disenfranchised” voter?

    Sincerely, Pam J. Parfitt


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