During the recent contest for DNC chairman, I found myself hoping that Tom Perez would come out the winner. I find Keith Ellison to be one of the most likable and energetic congressmen to come on the scene in many years. I find Perez equally sincere and engaging. Both seem to have boundless energy and both seem to attribute poor Democratic presidential and congressional showings to lack of sufficient "boots on the ground" and not enough "footprints" in the right places. In that sense they are apparently the best tandem the DNC could possibly have hoped for at this time. Why, I asked myself, did I prefer Perez to Ellison?
The reason, I have to admit, is that it seems that the more excited the chair of the DNC seems to be about the goals and "ideals" of the "Democratic Party and "what we stand for," the less effective the party seems to be. Democrats did well under socially liberal and fiscally careful Howard Dean, but not too well under idealistic Terry McAuliffe and the robotic Hillary zombie Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Under Dean, Democrats "asked" constituents what it was that they needed and talked about how they could go about getting it for them. Under McAuliffe, Democrats "told" people what they needed, things like gay marriage and legalized abortion at any stage of pregnancy, even on a whim. The confused John Kerry was so busy worrying about these issues that he forgot to ask people in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in the midst of a depression, if they might need jobs!
How was Hillary Clinton's campaign different than Kerry's? Except for the fact that Republicans didn't have to make up stories about her, the two campaigns looked alarmingly similar, alarmingly vacuous. Did Hillary go into West Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio or anywhere and ask "what do you need?" Of course not. Apparently, Democrats "know" what people need. They need free college education, even for kids who actually need vocational skills and won't be able to graduate from college anyway, not affordable loans, right? Did Democrats "ask" gay people if they "needed" civil unions first or did they need "marriage"immediately and at what political cost? Oh, and is it our Democratic "ideal," even if we disagree, to disrespect the pro life advocates' view that terminating a pregnancy is somehow terminating a living thing? The argument that "it's my body and I can do anything I want to it," is an insult and hardly an "ideal," nor does it do anything in the long run to preserve Roe V. Wade.
What scared me about Mr. Ellison was the fear that he would be too gung ho liberal and idealistic and not practical enough to elect patient candidates with long range vision. I don't know that Mr. Perez is any more patient than Mr. Ellison. Will they ask people in the inner cities what they really need or will they tell them that their problems are bigotry and bad police? Will they listen when people of all colors and ethnic groups tell them that what they really need are better K-12 public educations for boys and girls, including vocational skills, so students have a chance to work themselves through college if they choose or get skilled jobs in the community? What is it they say-" idle hands are the devil's workshop?" Or, do we let Republicans exploit children for illicit profits with phony charter schools and wasted vouchers?
Despite his often unrealistic economic policies, I was an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders. He seemed to be the most honest candidate I had seen in many years and except for totally free college tuition, I agreed with most of his goals. I found many conservatives who actually liked him, even though they did not agree with many of his plans. What they liked was his honesty and the fact that he seemed to actually concern himself with what they felt that they needed. Bernie never seemed to ask anyone about what they "wanted." I believe that Bernie would have beaten Donald Trump because of his integrity. If Democrats want to start winning elections, let's face it, we need better candidates with a more realistic sense of what people really need and with long range plans on how those needs can realistically be fulfilled. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, Panderer in Chief, out pandered Hillary, offering as many people as possible, what they want, but I suspect, not what they actually need.
Al Finkelstein, 3/2/17