Dealing with America Inc.

Tracy Leone has been involved with organized labor since 1997 and with elections in Iowa since 2006. Today she shares her thoughts on the path forward for Democrats. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Thanks to Bleeding Heartland for publishing diverse views regarding what the Democratic Party ought to do to get back to the business of winning elections again. While there is no single practice or set of principles to cure all that ails us, there are certainly things that have not been done that contributed to the Democratic failures at all levels of government.

It is urgent that we boldly resist the attacks on our democratic humanistic institutions, whether they come from Republicans or Democrats. Obama’s drone policy, his mass deportations and 5AM raids on immigrant families, his signing into law of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act that strips US citizen of due process are right-wing policies and we Democrats need to have the courage to criticize when one of our own takes position against our values.

What we now face at the state and national levels means this is not just an intellectual exercise. Our democracy depends on it.

The Iowa legislature and Governor have no legislative roadblocks to their plans to dismantle workers’ rights and voters’ rights. Any perceived “good” proposal coming out of this legislature will come with heinous strings attached. For instance, the governor may propose a minimum wage increase, but with the caveat that counties – driven by the grassroots – will no longer be able to propose wage increases.

We face a constitutional crisis with President-elect Trump’s business interests and duplicitous relationship with Vladimir Putin and the billionaire class which funded his campaign, and which are now part of his transition team, and with Betsy DeVos (sister of Eric Prince of Blackwater infamy), will become part of the administration. Democrats can and must filibuster Trump’s cabinet appointments. Anyone who takes the position that we have to “give them a chance” to govern is delusional.

We can also expect an all-out assault on journalistic freedom, already started by Craig Timberg’s Washington Post’s “Blacklist” article, that falsely, and without any attribution or integrity, accuses sites like Truthout of being a propaganda arm of the Russian government. Facebook, too, is examining what it can do to suppress “false” news sites. After years of lies from Fox News, now they propose to do this?

Beyond harm directly committed by government, emboldened right-wing factions of citizens could cause untold harm to vulnerable immigrant communities and religious minorities.

I say this with every hope to be proven wrong, and with every hope that there will be such a popular opposition to the worst excesses, that we just must endure the next two years until we can win back enough legislative seats to block the most conservative government the country has ever known. Until then, we need to act with courage that has been vacant in both the Democratic Party and in organized labor. So here are my two cents worth on what can and should be done, beginning immediately:

1. Policy Matters – What is missing in so many post–election analyses is the basic premise that policy matters. Instead the focus has been on analytics, data, organizational issues, fundraising. While not untrue, those ideas are incidental not inspirational. And the people, especially now, need some inspiration. And by policy, I do not mean policy papers. What drove both the Sanders and Trump Campaigns was that they spoke directly to the hurt that faces Americas working families. People can no longer afford the American Dream. Home ownership? College tuition? Wage increases? I don’t know what world others are living in, but most people I know are living month to month, with debt, precariously employed, or with wage stagnation and no pensions. Stop citing facts and charts and start reaffirming people’s basic awareness that the system is not working for them anymore.

2. Solidarity Forever: In the labor movement, we have a saying: Solidarity Forever. Not just until the election is over. Not just when it is convenient or when it directly affects you. Not just for photo ops or social media status updates, but genuine support for one another’s struggles throughout the year. This applies not only to those outside of organized labor who should stand up for union rights, but also for organized labor to work on behalf of those who do not belong to a bargaining unit. Johnson County is an excellent example that when people stand up for one another – by raising the minimum wage, issuing community IDs for undocumented immigrants, standing up to powerful developers for housing rights, being outspoken on behalf of LGBT rights – that results in winning elections. Johnson County is the only county in Iowa that won Clinton, Judge, Loebsack and all down ballot races. I’ve heard the argument that this is due to it being a college town, but we have liberal colleges and universities in Ames, Cedar Falls, in Dubuque, Davenport, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, etc. Highly educated people do not necessarily create progressive policies. Solidarity does.

3. Politics is a Team Sport: Why does anyone run as a party candidate if they do not actually care about others from the same party on the ballot? This holds especially true in local elections where I have been told by party leaders that these are “non-partisan” therefore the Democrats don’t get involved.

Too many elections that I have been involved with have an every-man-for-himself platform. Or candidates are told to only be concerned about their own races, etc. While there are certainly situations and other candidates that completely justify this position, generally this is not true. Extraordinary Democrats have run for county, for city, or for school board elections who get completely ignored by the Democratic party which prioritizes national and statewide elections above all others. This is a huge miscalculation. Think if it as a Venn diagram. We each have our own circles of influence. If we build our party based on alliances from election to election, based on that time-honored tradition of running a slate (see Iowa City’s “Core Four” for a recent example), we not only build support to win the local elections, we create relationships that help recruit better-connected candidates and win larger races.

4. Iowa Nice No More: We need to stop acting like we can work with the Republican Party to pass progressive legislation. Republicans never do this. When they get control, they never compromise. When they are not in control, they do everything in their power to obstruct. Besides, there is nothing nice, nothing “normal” about destroying public education, about polluting water, about how giving enormous tax breaks to wealthy people somehow helps the rest of us. Attacking gay people is not civilized. It is not Christian to dehumanize immigrants. Jeez, it was only last month when Republicans lauded patrol officers who were murdered by a white supremacist, yet this month they are proposing to cut their health care benefits? Not fucking nice at all.

About the Author(s)


  • thanks for your take

    I don’t agree with you that “policy matters” to a lot of voters who moved toward Trump. Without question, his policies will be worse for the working class than Clinton’s. There have been lots of stories with anecdotes about Trump voters who depend on Obamacare, for instance.

    I think you nailed it when you said “the people, especially now, need some inspiration.” But is connecting with them on an emotional level really about policy? No, that’s a messaging issue.

    • Messaging and policy

      I hear what you are saying. But as Democrats have become more and more centrist, corporatist, and conservative in their policies (supporting NAFTA, tax cuts for “job creators”, TIFs, backing off support for pensions, flirting with privatizing Social Security aka “entitlement reform”, supporting corporate ag, they have alienated their base and blurred the lines that define the differences in the parties. of course social issues still define the differences and are important, but as this election demonstrated, its easier to divide people who are economically insecure than it is to unite them on social issues.

    • Policy

      The original poster wrote: “Stop citing facts and charts and start reaffirming people’s basic awareness that the system is not working for them anymore.”

      desmoinesdem, did you listen to what Donald Trump was actually saying? He said that NAFTA was a bad policy. He said that the Iraq War was bad policy. He took Hillary Clinton to task for her Goldman Sachs speeches. Yes, of course he is a total con artist who doesn’t give a hoot about any of these things. But quite frankly, Hillary Clinton didn’t care about the effects of NAFTA, the Iraq War, or big banks on the lives of working class Americans. The “America is already great!” proclamation was totally tone deaf.

      leonetracy has a good point as well. Many of us have been taking you and other conservative/corporate Democrats to task over the lack of Democrats’ courage to stand up to Wall Street. And we always get radio silence when we ask you that. And that’s because there is no good, decent answer to the question of why many of the Democrats are in bed with Wall Street lobbyists. It is our party’s Achilles’ heel, and being arrogant and myopic and pretending that the electorate is too dumb to notice that is what is doing us in.

      Enough with the corporate Democrats. Enough!

      • We need to be more nuanced

        First I don’t know that I would put Desmoinesdem in the conservative dem category!

        Second, this “all corporations bad, anti-corporate good” is silly. Much of the corporate world strongly opposed Trump, and to look at someone like Penzey’s — who is way out a limb right now slamming on racists and homophobes — and lump them in with Blackwater is just senseless. We have to be smart and distinguish between good corporations and bad corporations just like with any grouping.

        The reality is if you go all-in anti-money *before* getting campaign finance laws changed, we’ll never win another election. This article is interesting:

        Politics is about getting to 50%+1. If we turn our back on those blue counties and don’t yet have the red ones, tell me how that math works? (hint: it doesn’t.) We are the party of actual facts, the party of educated and evidence-based positions, the “reality-based” party — that happens to mean we are also largely the party of the well-educated who tend to end up in corporations.

        Anyone who voted for anyone but Clinton out of concerns about Wall Street gets exactly what they deserve was Trump predictably appoints a bevy of hedge fund raiders and foreclosure profiteers to his Cabinet. We have to make finer distinctions than simply saying “there’s no real different between [Gore-Bush][Clinton-Trump][Desmoinesdem-conservative bloggers].

  • School board?

    How would it help to run school board candidates as partisan offices?

    • Dealig with non-partisan offices

      Right now, the majority of school board members are registered Republicans, even in districts with Democrat majorities. So regardless of the election itself being classified as “non-partisan”, the elected officials in these offices are indeed partisan. I’m not suggesting we revert these back to partisan elections (another conversation). I’m saying that the Democratic Party can and should still be actively involved in so-called non partisan elections, nothing in law prohibits parties from still supporting and promoting its own candidates to its database of activists, etc or using the VAN or other databases that the Democrats use in other elections. They simply chose not to.