Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Rep. Keith Ellison, who said Sunday that his party needs to make voters, not donors, come first. (Photo: AFGE/cc/flickr)

In Wake of Trump Victory, Progressives Urge Democratic Party Overhaul

What happened last week was 'a repudiation of the American power structure, including the old Democratic Party'

Andrea Germanos

As Hillary Clinton puts partial blame for her electoral defeat on F.B.I. Director James Comey, some progressives are calling for an overhaul of the Democratic Party, with new officials that represent grassroots, not corporate, interests.

On ABC's "This Week" on Sunday, Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) said that Comey's renewed investigation "did not help" because "it changed the conversation. The conversation should've been about middle class people. The conversation should've been about how to raise the minimum wage and strengthen Social Security."

Addressing host George Stephanopoulos's comment that "a lot of Democrats complain that that party has been basically hollowed out under President Obama," the Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair said that what the way to come back is "to have a vision to strengthen the grassroots" and to "make the voters first, not the donors first."

He added that "everything we do should animate and empower them at the grassroots level for working people across this country."

Ellison himself could play a key role, as Common Dreams reported last week:

Following the lead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has come out strongly in favor of Ellison to [head the Democratic National Committee (DNC)], numerous leaders within the party, including soon-to-be Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as progressive groups, are also voicing support for the first Muslim elected to U.S. Congress to take the party reins.

Speaking about that possibility, Ellison said that "the most important criteria for a DNC chair is going to be vision.[...] and the ability to mobilize and inspire people at the grassroots."

On whether he'll formally enter that race, he said he will "have something to say real soon."

Like Ellison's comment that it has to be "the guys in the barber shop, the lady at the diner, the folks who are worried about whether that plant is going to close, they've got to be our focus," the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) last week addressed the need for a party re-think. "Democrats must start fighting for working families with an authentic understanding of how we got here—and a willingness to take on Wall Street and corporate donors to get us out," the group said.

In former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich's assessment, "It is time for a New Democratic Party" as it "has become a giant fundraising machine, too often reflecting the goals and values of the moneyed interests." A new party, instead, he wrote,

will do everything possible to advance the progressive agenda at state and local levels—getting big money out of politics, reversing widening inequality, expanding health care, reversing climate change, ending the militarization of our police and the mass incarceration of our people, and stopping interminable and open-ended warfare.

What happened in America on Election Day should not be seen as a victory for hatefulness over decency. It is more accurately understood as a repudiation of the American power structure, including the old Democratic Party.

Issuing a similar message, Sanders supporter Jonathan Tasini wrote that the election results make room for "a difficult but urgent mission—shaking the Democratic Party down to its foundation, ejecting the failed Bill/Hillary Clinton economic and global worldview and standing up for a set of populist, sound economic, and foreign policy principles that could earn majority support."

According to the reporting by The Hill and Politico on Saturday, some of that work is already underway.

The Hill reported: "Progressives are itching to see the national apparatus reduced to rubble and rebuilt from scratch, with one of their own installed at the top." The reporting continued:

One thing for sure is that the Democratic Party will lean more on Bernie than Hillary going forward," said David Goodfriend, a Clinton supporter and former Bill Clinton administration official.

To some liberals, that means a wholesale purging of the "corporate dominated" wing of the party.

Politico reported that

Supporters of Bernie Sanders' failed presidential bid are seizing on Democratic disarray at the national level to launch a wave of challenges to Democratic Party leaders in the states.

The goal is to replace party officials in states where Sanders defeated Hillary Clinton during the acrimonious Democratic primary with more progressive leadership. But the challenges also represent a reckoning for state party leaders who, in many cases, tacitly supported Clinton's bid.

According to Tasini, "a new Democratic Party can be revitalized. The progressive movement, in all its elements—advocates for labor, environmentalists, and civil rights of all stripes—can shape that future."

And, noting the progressive ballot initiative victories, commentator Jim Hightower says the "election is a mandate for progressive economic populism."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

GOP 'Silence Speaks Volumes,' Says Ilhan Omar as Boebert's Bigotry Goes Unpunished

"Normalizing this bigotry not only endangers my life but the lives of all Muslims. Anti-Muslim bigotry has no place in Congress."

Brett Wilkins ·

Africans Should Be 'Applauded, Not Punished,' Say Advocates Amid Omicron Travel Ban

"What is going on right now is inevitable," said African Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance co-chair Dr. Ayoade Alakija. "It's a result of the world's failure to vaccinate in an equitable, urgent, and speedy manner."

Brett Wilkins ·

Biden Drilling Report Blasted as 'Shocking Capitulation to the Needs of Corporate Polluters'

"Greenlighting more fossil fuel extraction, then pretending it's OK by nudging up royalty rates, is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," said one campaigner.

Jessica Corbett ·

UNESCO Members Adopt First Global AI Ethics Agreement 'To Benefit Humanity'

"We're at a critical juncture in history," said Ethics in Tech founder Vahid Razavi. "We need as humans to come together and decide what is the best course of action to take with these technologies before they surpass us in their abilities."

Brett Wilkins ·

Progressive US Lawmakers Mark Black Friday With Calls to Pass the PRO Act

"The right to organize, fight for better working conditions, and fair pay must always be protected."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo