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"We need a Democratic Party that fights for all of us, and recognizes that the biggest threat in our lives comes from concentrated wealth and runaway corporate power over the economy, government and our political parties," says Lopez. (Photo: Georgia Democrats/ flickr CC 2.0)

Everything That’s Wrong with the Democratic ‘Reboot’ in One Lousy Op-Ed

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's editorial in Monday's New York Times is emblematic of a lack of vision in the party.

Ian Haney López

 by BillMoyers.com

Senate minority leader and Democratic Party honcho Chuck Schumer’s editorial in Monday’s New York Times boldly proclaims that the Democratic Party will start helping working people. That would be a nice change.

But what should be a welcome shift is instead emblematic of everything that’s wrong with how the Democratic Party is seeking to remake itself.

1. A party of swamp creatures. Schumer himself is deeply tied to Wall Street — and he makes no mention of breaking up the power of concentrated wealth on the street, or in the boardrooms of the biggest corporations. Why should we believe a party lead by him and people like him, tied to and financed by megadonors, will really fight for people and against corporate power?

2. A party on a new marketing kick. Schumer boldly proclaims that “Democrats will show the country that we’re the party on the side of working people — and that we stand for three simple things.” Great! Can’t wait. What will they be? Economic justice, equality and dignity for all, and caring for the planet? No, just economic policies tied to wages, sick leave and drug prices. Don’t get me wrong: these are welcome policies all. But what about the sorts of things that help “working people” as real people — who need human rights, who require a healthy environment? Sorry, somehow these did not make the cut in a new effort to “rebrand” the Democratic Party as focused with laser-like precision on pocketbook issues.

3. A party afraid of equality. It’s no accident Schumer avoids talking about human rights. The Democratic Party leadership is convinced it must win back the “white working class” — and convinced too that any mention of equality tied to race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or religion is just one big turnoff to white men. Let Trump repeatedly demonize the MAJORITY of this country; in their new plan, Democrats will ignore this so they can appeal to some small fraction of Trump voters. Why should people fighting for their human rights turn out for Schumer’s Democratic Party?

4. A boring party with limited ambitions. The bulk of Schumer’s op-ed focuses on small policy changes that would help working people, while also promising more dinky policy proposals to come — but then concludes that the Democrats lack the power to actually enact any of this. So let me understand: Trump threatens our economy, government, democracy, planet and global peace, and Democrats respond with small-bore policy talks focused on what they cannot achieve? No wonder people stay home from the polls.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

We need a Democratic Party that fights for all of us, and recognizes that the biggest threat in our lives comes from concentrated wealth and runaway corporate power over the economy, government and our political parties. Yes, the Democratic Party must resolve to put its own house in order.

We demand a Democratic Party that stands for human rights for all. And that fights against divide-and-conquer politics, showing the “white working class” that they have much more to fear from the greedy rich than from those of us the right loves to trash.

We insist on a Democratic Party that cares about the world we live in today and the planet we will leave our children. Nothing else matters if the climate collapses.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.
Ian Haney López

Ian Haney López

Ian Haney López, a UC Berkeley law professor and senior fellow at Demos, is the author of Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class (2014). His writings have appeared across a range of sources, from the Yale Law Journal to The New York Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @IanHaneyLopez.

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