The Democratic Party has determined that Hillary Clinton will be their presidential candidate and many people I know and love are celebrating the fact. Personally, Clinton’s record of supporting neoliberal ideology and a hawkish militarism make fear she would not be a good President, and I’m anxious that her unpopularity nationwide will mean she will lose the election. But, I could be wrong. In fact, I hope I am wrong! Perhaps Clinton will win election and become a brilliant, transformational President or at least hold the line against attacks on our people by an increasingly extreme right wing. But I don’t think this is going to happen if Clinton is left to her own devices.
So here are five favors cordially ask Clinton supporters to do should Clinton be elected President.
1. Hold Clinton’s Feet to the Fire – I’ve noticed a pattern over the past 24 years. First, the Democrats with Clinton, then Republicans with Bush, and then Democrats again with Obama would speak of the President reverently and would object to any criticism of their President. They hold the idea that we the people should always stand behind the President, and thus turn a blind eye to things their President would do that they would object to if anyone else did it. I disagree with this notion. I believe that one can admire their President and support most of what they do, but still be highly critical when the President does something they disagree with. In fact, democracy functions better when the people make their voices heard. So if Clinton switches her support back in favor of TPP, let her know that’s not acceptable. If you think fracking is bad for the environment and surrounding communities, let Clinton know that she should advocate for cleaner, renewable energy sources. If there’s pressure to go to war in Iran, Syria, or even Russia, let Clinton know that diplomacy and cooperation are always preferable to unnecessary war.
You will not be betraying Clinton, you will be helping her to be a better President.
2. The Campaign Does Not End in November – the triangulation strategy created by the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990s has been successful in that 5 of the 6 the popular vote in Presidential elections has gone to Democratic candidates. But this strategy concedes far too much to neoliberal interests while abandoning the traditional New Deal values of the Democratic Party. As a result of turning away from the working people and ceding populism to the Republicans, the Democrats have been considerably less successful in non-Presidential elections. The Democrats ruled Congress for 60 years, but it’s been largely under Republican control since 1994. In 1990 the Democrats controlled 30 state legislatures, but today have only 11. There were 30 Democratic governors in 1992, but today that number has been whittled down to only 18.
I’m of the belief that Congressional, state, and local politics are actually more important than who is President in the many issues that affect the every day lives of the American people. Someone who shares that belief is the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) who’ve been very successful in getting candidates elected in state and local elections who will represent their interests and enact their model legislation. So please, for the love of God, if there’s an election, or a primary election, or a referendum, get out their and vote. And vote for progressive candidates who share your values. And campaign for them so others will know who they are and what they stand for. And if you’re one of those people who likes what Bernie Sanders has to say but thought it to risky to run him as President, then get your feet wet by voting for a progressive Democratic challenger to an incumbent in a local election, or even a Green Party or other independent candidate. We need to make sure that at every level candidates who are representing the will of the people, not the will of ALEC, are getting elected.
3. Fight for Electoral Reform – With that said, it’s hard to get a sense of who are the true representatives of the people when the system is rigged. Your voice needs to be heard to insure that every American citizen has a vote that counts. Many Americans – especially black and brown people – have had their right to vote stripped due to mass incarceration, even for minor crimes. Their vote should be restored and no one should be disenfranchised in the future. As we have seen this primary season, the primary elections are jumble of dysfunctional systems and rules that are confusing and often suppress the vote. Each state should instead have primary elections – not caucuses – open to all voters. Superdelegates and winner-take-all elections should be discarded, and delegates awarded proportionately based on popular votes (or do away with delegates entirely and let the popular vote speak for itself). No one should arrive at the polls to find they’ve been purged from the voter roll. In fact, all citizens aged 18 and up should be automatically registered and able to show proof of residence if their address has changed on the day of the election. Elections should take place over several consecutive days (including at least one weekend day) as well as early voting to allow every citizen the opportunity to vote. And the Electoral College that denied Al Gore the Presidency in 2000 should be abolished, allowing the will of the entire country to decide the election, not just a handful of swing states.
4. Recognize That Elections are Just a Small Part of Our Role in Government – Electoral politics are big news, but there’s a lot more to government in a democracy than one team winning and the other going home. That’s why I’ve found it so refreshing that Bernie Sanders is continuing his campaign to the Democratic convention. I’m less committed to Sanders as an individual than to the idea of issues of inequality getting the attention and support they deserve. Hopefully, the Democratic Party will invites progressives and independents into the convention and make these issues a part of the platform going forward. But either way, American citizens will have to advocate for many important causes that aren’t going to get attention in Congress or state capitols otherwise. The issues are many: Black Lives Matter, ending mass incarceration, fighting poverty, LGBT equality, environment and climate change, disabled peoples’ rights, affordable housing, equitable public education, and reducing the influence of billionaires, corporations, and Wall Street on American government. Read up on the issues. Adopt an issue or more important to you and get involved, even if you can only spare a little bit of time.
5. Listen – My biggest frustration with the primary campaign is that far too many Clinton supporters were dismissive and condescending to Sanders supporters and the issues they cared about. In the context of a heated campaign that may make sense, but going forward I think it’s important to listen to what people are saying even when you disagree with them. And I don’t mean this selfishly “LISTEN TO ME!”, you can blow me off if you want to. But listen to the people of America who may be less privileged to you. Listen to poor and the people of color and the immigrants. Listen to this suffering from mass incarceration, the dismantling of welfare systems, and from the wars in the Middle East. Listen to students in urban schools and union workers in manufacturing jobs. Listen to day laborers and refugees from Syria. And when you do speak, try to amplify what they’re saying.
I thank you in advance.