One of the delights of the public platforms offered by social and independent media is a range of debate on a variety of topics — until the subject matter takes on the less felicitous aspects of ‘navel-gazing.’ Enter the Retrospective. While there’s an obvious and beneficial use for after-action analysis and evaluation, there’s the counter balancing notion that living in the past isn’t necessarily the way to travel into the future. Some discussions are precariously close to being as stale as two week old bread. I offer the following —
With respect to the enthusiastic supporters of Senator Sanders, there are two things to remember about his presidential campaign: (1) He lost the primary fight; and, (2) He is not a Democrat. So, musing on his future aspirations borders on the mentality of the Lost Cause. “There but for…” contentions don’t support the conclusion that his would be a successful effort in the future, nor the argument that he should be a central figure in subsequent campaign strategies. These perspectives also appear to contain a capacity to ignore or dismiss the shortcomings of Sanders’ resume, conveniently at some times. If we haven’t removed this theme from the refrigerator, it’s high time to do so.
I am one of those with my own “there but for” arguments — there but for voter suppression, Russian incursions into our election process, and a media fascinated with a shiny new object (as in Trump’s free media exposure), we’d be speaking of President Clinton II. That said, I am less than impressed with arguments for and against seeing Secretary Clinton as the future of the Democratic Party or as the “leader” of the Party. She is an historic figure in her own right, and that should be sufficient. However, the media’s focus on finding a “Democratic Leader” may be seen as a lazy man’s way of finding a target. It would make journalists’ lives ever so much easier if there were One person to interview, or One person to quote, as the voice of the Democratic Party. Here’s a comment for the True Believers —
There is no single leader of the Democratic Party and there doesn’t have to be one. We have a quite serviceable Democratic Minority Leader in the Senate, an equally articulate and sentient Democratic Minority Leader in the House. We have Democratic members of Congressional Committees who are comporting themselves well in their specialties. We have some competent Governors and ex-governors speaking out on topic which interest them. We have Democratic members of State governments who are making their marks. In short, I am not certain why there’s a felt need to have a national spokesperson for the entire spectrum of the Democratic Party — unless we want to follow some Dear Leader, or we want to make it easy for the press (and then the Republicans) to find a consistent target. There is no reason for Secretary Clinton to “go away and be silent” any more than there’s one for putting Senator Sanders back in his office. Both voices are welcome, and both can be useful in articulating and explaining national priorities. Once more, check the sell by date for the “Find A National Leader” catch-all and remove this discussion from the pantry.
The Democratic Party should reach out more to ______________ . Fill in the blank with your favorite group. There’s a tendency in some quarters to confuse problems with the messaging with problems with the product. No amount of slick advertising was going to make American consumers purchase 1960 Edsel Villager station wagons. Here’s a thought: Instead of arguing about messaging to various and sundry interest groups, how about insuring that these voices are part of the discussions at local, state, and national party meetings? And, instead of bantering about who’s attending those meetings how about a national and state effort to expand the recruitment of interested (and interesting) volunteers from a broad collection of community members who can form the core of local and state political activities in future campaigns? It used to be called “party building.” We, as Democrats, might want to try it. Protracted discussions about who feels attended to and who feels left aside aren’t all that useful. Stale fodder indeed. Civil debates about how to engage with MORE voters, all kinds of voters, in party building have much more practical utility.
There are at least a couple of variations on the “Wasting Their Time” theme which now abide in my Stale Items cabinet. Gee, the press wailed, the Democrats didn’t succeed in taking three seats from Republican members of Congress who moved on to take jobs with the administration! Ah, “Democrats in Disarray!” This would be interesting IF Republicans had been successful in taking seats from Democrats who moved into the Obama Administration — which they didn’t. And then there was “Why are the Democrats mounting a campaign for an Alabama Senate seat? They haven’t had a Democrat there since the ’90s?” So? Why not? Why not contest any elected office for which a candidate is available, and people are willing and able to support that candidacy? Even a losing campaign helps build party interest and party membership. Why not give it a try? Toss these topics back into the bin and move on.
If people are most concerned about the economy, then let’s have more discussions about how to create a manufacturing sector which acknowledges the advent of robotics and the changing nature of manufacturing in general. Let’s have more discussions about job training and the stagnation of wages for American workers.
If people are concerned about their access to affordable health care, then let’s have more discussions about how to relieve companies of the health insurance burden and families of their concerns about going bankrupt trying to pay medical bills.
At the very least, let us, as consumers of American media, tell the punditry that programs with stale themes aren’t going to put our behinds in the recliners for a session of watching the shows — or the commercials which support them. Stale themes aren’t going to make us click on articles or pay for copies of newspapers. Stale is easy, innovation and expansion is more difficult. We can, as Kennedy once opined, do things because they are hard.