In the wake of Republican victories on Election Day, some up-and-coming Democrats talk about the way forward for their party.
The Democratic Party is in its worst governing position in a generation. Next year we will control just 31 state legislative chambers and 15 governorships. We lost the House of Representatives in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and now the presidency. Clearly the American people are not satisfied with the vision and leadership our party is offering. It’s time to make some serious changes to both.
Democrats believe America is at its best when it is an open and inclusive society where hard work pays off, we look out for one another, and equal rights are extended to all. Yet for many Americans, this simply isn’t enough. Our economic message has been one of fairness, but worrying about fairness is a luxury reserved for those who already have opportunity.
Opportunity is the animating idea of America: You can be anything if you are willing to work for it. We all yearn for the opportunity to pursue our dreams, and to succeed or fail on our own merit and hard work.
Yet we know this is not today’s reality. Economic mobility is at an all-time low, and what little exists is concentrated on the coasts. While our hottest start-ups lead the world in innovation, our small businesses get hit with higher tax rates than the world’s biggest corporations.
Many Americans in communities devastated by the recession and left out of the recovery feel so completely ignored by the party of working people that they embraced as their champion a man who rides in a golden elevator. Donald Trump’s policies are terrible for most of the people who voted for him, but his call for change, however poorly defined, was enough to get people to try something new.
Rather than following Trump backward to an old economy (think coal mines and isolationism), Democrats have the chance to show how to make the 21st-century economy available to all. That’s a vision we can all get behind.
As a platoon commander in the Marines, I was responsible for everything that my troops did or failed to do. That’s what it means to be a leader. We failed in this election, badly, and so far no one in our party is taking responsibility for it, let alone showing a new path forward.
Our leadership triumvirate in the House of Representatives has remained unchanged since 2003, when the young people who just voted in their first election were 5 years old. It is hard to imagine this group being the source of the transformational ideas that will carry our party and our country into the age of self-driving cars and artificial intelligence.
It is time for those who will live with the consequences of our policies for the next 50 years to have a hand in shaping them. It is time for the generation that fought in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the generation that sent us there. It is time for a new generation of leadership, and for the Democratic Party, it can’t come soon enough.
The writer represents Massachusetts’s 6th District in the House of Representatives.
The Democratic Party has a bright future.
Without question, the election was deeply disappointing. And yet Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, Democrats picked up seats in the House and Senate, and now we have the chance to learn from what happened and regroup ahead of important races in 2018 and 2020. Also, Donald Trump and his Republican-controlled Congress will soon go to work on the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security. How well do you think that’s going to pan out? Very soon, Americans will be looking for an antidote.
So it’s no time to panic. Instead, Democrats need to listen, we need to connect, we need to fight, and we need to rally Americans behind a strong vision for prosperity in the 21st century.
I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting 61-year-old Diane Maus of upstate New York. But her recent explanation to The Post about why she voted for Trump struck me.
“My vote was my only way to say: I am here and I count,” Maus said.
Our No. 1 priority should be to reach out to folks like Maus. And when we do, we should focus on opportunity first. Whether you live in small-town Ohio, West Philadelphia or East Los Angeles, your first concern is how to provide for yourself and your family. So we have to offer a compelling blueprint of how America can create more jobs, provide the chance to get ahead and ensure that nobody is left behind. We need to make sure all folks understand that they count to us and that they are part of our vision for the future.
Democrats must also be ready to fight. Yes, we should remain open-minded. But I’m betting that congressional Republicans will work like crazy to help their usual crowd of corporate donors and lobby interests instead of the middle class and working poor. They are about to take us backward. The future will belong to those who stand up now to the use of power to benefit special interests.
Finally, Democrats have to work to forge a shared American identity. By dealing with our differences instead of ignoring them, we can build bridges. African Americans are much more likely to be abused at the hands of law enforcement. We shouldn’t shy away from tackling that — and everyone will benefit if we can improve the criminal-justice system. The white working class in the Rust Belt needs economic development — and so do people of color in urban neighborhoods and tribal lands. As members of a diverse party, Democrats are infinitely better positioned to help Americans find common ground. If we can do that, we can build up a party that succeeds because America succeeds. Americans will cast their vote for that kind of future in any year on the calendar, in every corner of our Union.
The writer is the U.S. secretary of housing and urban development and was the mayor of San Antonio from 2009 to 2014. He is writing in his personal capacity, and his views do not necessarily represent the views of the Obama administration.
In the 1960s, my parents encountered the illegal practice of racial real-estate steering then rampant in New Jersey suburbs. They turned to black and white activists at the Fair Housing Council of Northern New Jersey, led by a woman named Lee Porter, who eventually enabled my family to buy the house I grew up in.
This month, Porter celebrates her 90th birthday. She is still the head of the Fair Housing Council, now working to help Muslim families and same-sex couples facing housing discrimination.
Americans have always stood up in the face of unimaginable odds and tragic circumstances not of their own making. Humble heroes — despite election outcomes, Supreme Court decisions or strong currents of hate — have never given up, curled up or shut up in the fight for justice, equality and expansive opportunity. They fought on.
We must honor this tradition.
I don’t know what kind of president Donald Trump will be, but I know that as a candidate he degraded and demeaned Americans, threatened our rights and attacked our privileges of citizenship. He will have a disastrous presidency if he governs the way he campaigned. His early appointments are a tremendously discouraging sign of what’s to come.
Yet I hold on to the hope that the president-elect will cease the Twitter troll-like toxicity and unify our country with the type of magnanimity and statesmanship our nation deserves from its leader. If he does and wants to advance policies consistent with our progressive priorities, the Democratic Party should seek common ground.
But should he not change, should he continue to assault human dignity, human rights, workers’ rights, civil rights and women’s rights, on issues of justice, fairness and expanding opportunity for all, Democrats must stand our ground. Even if we lose, we must never stop fighting to defend those countrymen and -women who have long been marginalized.
I am a Democrat because our party is inclusive. It takes up the cause of the poor, of working families, of religious and ethnic minorities, of gays and of women. On the environment, it fights the unchecked corporate greed and lack of regulation that allowed the air, water and soil in communities like mine to be poisoned. It affirms that it is the party of “we,” not the party of “me,” and that we share a common destiny as a nation.
For the Democratic Party, this moment demands an epic gut check. We lost an election but we are not defeated. I pray we have the humility to reach out to those who differ with us, the empathy to listen to the legitimate concerns and demands of many Trump supporters, the courage to fight through cynicism and despair, and the grit to relentlessly fight for an America that advances opportunity and justice for all of our citizens.
I believe the Democratic Party is ready for this challenge. Millions of Americans are. I know I am.
The writer represents New Jersey in the Senate.
Democrats win when we harness the power of everyday people and fight for the issues they care about. This election cycle, despite the hard work of so many, we did not motivate enough people to get to the ballot box. In 2014, voter turnout hit a 70-year low. And this year, it took only about a quarter of the eligible voters to elect Donald Trump. We must give voters a reason to show up at the polls in 2018 and beyond.
I’m running to be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee because we have to turn out more people. And we’ve been doing it in Minnesota for years.
Elections are won and lost on the ground in the states, not in Washington. In my Minnesota district, voter turnout is the top priority. I have staff working 365 days a year to build meaningful and lasting relationships with voters. Our hard work has paid off. In 2014, our vote total spiked by more than 13,000 votes over 2010’s.
But that doesn’t benefit just me. It helps Democratic candidates in other races — from city council, to governor, all the way to president. When candidates collaborate, pool resources and use best practices, Democratic campaigns are cheaper, more efficient and often win by wider margins.
I believe we are at our best when people across the country, no matter our race, religion, sexual orientation or economic standing, come together to fight for a single cause — lifting up all Americans.
For the Democratic Party, that means changing how we do business so that rank-and-file DNC members, state chairs and vice chairs, county and local leaders, state legislators, governors, congressional leaders and activists have a voice and the resources for success. All organizations perform better when there is a culture of respect and inclusion, and our party will benefit from listening to those on the front lines.
Most important, we have to bring all Democrats together around our shared values. Growing up in Detroit, I saw firsthand how families and communities were devastated by job losses. We must reclaim our history as the party that looks working people in the eye, treats them with respect and fights to improve their lives by supporting workers’ rights, fair trade and collective bargaining.
I want to reenergize our broad and diverse Democratic coalition, and I want to make sure all are represented across our staff and leadership. We will never stop fighting attempts by the Trump White House and Republican-controlled states to roll back affordable health care, worker wages and protections, and a woman’s right to choose. We will stand strong against efforts to divide or marginalize our friends.
The great Democratic leader from Minnesota, Sen. Paul Wellstone, used to say politics is the art of the possible, and organizing is the art of making more possible. Let’s recommit ourselves to this.
The writer represents Minnesota’s 5th District in the House of Representatives.
As Democrats and Americans, it’s important we continue to fight for the working families who have watched the U.S. economy change dramatically in recent years. In Rhode Island, we’re working to create an economy built to last. I’m determined to ensure future generations have an opportunity to build a better and brighter future for themselves and their communities.
Because of our values and principles, Rhode Island is on the move. We’ve made progressive reforms to preserve our state pension system, and led an effort that has cut Medicaid costs by more than $100 million while also expanding access to care to more people. Working with the legislature, we invested $4 billion over 10 years to rebuild our roads and bridges — an effort that will support thousands of good-paying construction jobs. We’ve come together to guarantee access to all-day kindergarten for every Rhode Island student and put ourselves in a position to be the first state in the country that offers computer science in every grade and at every school. And while some wrongly deny that climate change exists, the Ocean State has taken proactive steps to reap the benefits of a renewable, green economy — we’re the first, and still only, state with an offshore wind farm.
In the weeks and months ahead, there is no question that some in our party are going to advocate that Democrats in Washington take a similar obstructionist approach to President Trump that congressional Republicans have taken during President Obama’s years in office. As a governor, though, that cannot be my default position. I have a state to run. People count on me to make progress for Rhode Islanders no matter who is in the White House.
I disagree passionately with many of Donald Trump’s views. His wall wouldn’t create jobs in Rhode Island. Dismantling the Affordable Care Act would undo great strides we’ve made here to expand access to care and lower premiums. His rhetoric about Muslims, Latinos and other immigrants is un-American and threatens our economy. I will work tirelessly to prevent him from enacting policies such as these that stoke division and hurt working families.
However, I agree with Hillary Clinton: We owe the president-elect an open mind. Hard-working Rhode Islanders expect me to work with any willing partner to get things done, to expand opportunity and put people back to work. As a governor, I will do everything in my power to pave that path, put Rhode Islanders back to work and make Rhode Island a stronger state. Let’s work toward the future.
The writer is governor of Rhode Island.
In the middle of the 20th century, American laws were designed to support the people who make stuff and grow stuff, who think up new technologies and ideas, who write our books and create our journalism and play our music. Democrats stood against the middleman who controls all and takes all.
But for the past generation, the Democratic Party has been dominated by leaders and funders who supported shipping jobs overseas. And those same leaders largely supported the monopolization that has jacked up prices and driven down wages at the jobs that remain here.
That must now end.
In the 1980s, when the Democratic Party was taken over by people who promoted monopolization and offshoring, Democrats justified their actions by saying they were good for the “consumer.” They said concentration and globalization were more “efficient” and would result in lower prices.
But that way of thinking has failed us all as citizens. That way of thinking has stripped away millions of good jobs and driven down wages and benefits. It has taken control of our communities away from the people who live in them and turned it over to absentee corporations and banks. It has resulted in the corruption of our democracy by immensely rich hedge-fund runners and their flunkies.
In the 1990s, Democrats pretended they could fund their campaigns with cash from Wall Street titans and still remain the party of the American worker and American farmer and American independent business owner. Well, that didn’t work, did it? The rising tides of Wall Street didn’t lift all boats. What it did do was flood the country, washing away our homes and our jobs and our dignity and our sovereignty.
There have been real victories for the people of the United States in the past few years, including stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, stopping the Comcast-Time Warner merger, stopping fracking in New York state, rolling back Common Core high-stakes testing, the Communication Workers of America’s victory over Verizon for higher pay and better benefits, and the net-neutrality ruling by the Federal Communications Commission. Too many Democratic leaders were behind the curve — or against the curve — on too many of these issues.
Democrats should stand for roads and bridges, for broadband and clean water infrastructure, for the Erie Canal spirit that we can and must build a future together. Democrats must also stand against all unfair or dangerous concentrations of private power, in every sector of our political economy.
So what should the Democratic Party stand for? In a word, democracy, with equal dignity for each person. That means becoming the party that resists every effort by small groups of well-organized wealthy men to take over our families and our communities and our nation.
The writer is an associate professor of law at Fordham University and the author of “Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”
Following the election, there has been a lot of talk about the future of the Democratic Party, and claims that we are now a coastal party. This is simply not true. The struggles of working people on our nation’s coasts are no different from the struggles of working people in our heartland.
As mayor of the largest city in the largest state in the nation, I know that firsthand. My city reflects this nation and its diversity. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t just a bunch of actors and surfers; we are mostly bus drivers, construction workers and nurses — everyday people confronting the problems that face the entire nation: disparity of wealth, dwindling opportunity, flat wages for hard-working people. And too many of those people feel angry, hopeless and left behind.
Long before Nov. 8, we have been tackling these challenges head-on. We have cut the unemployment rate in half. We have expanded manufacturing jobs right here in L.A. County. We are not without our problems, but on election night we pulled together a broad coalition to make historic investments in our region’s future — passing bold measures to combat homelessness, expand parks, invest in community colleges and build new public transportation while fixing our roads and freeways.
This isn’t a coastal agenda. This isn’t a Democratic agenda. This is an American agenda — taking action on problems with an eye toward an economy in which everyone has a chance at a good life. I believe in this agenda because I believe in an America of common challenges and shared values.
So where do we go from here to lead America’s healing and renewal?
We need first to acknowledge the root of this election’s pain — on Election Day, economic fears trumped social values. And while a clear majority of Americans agree with us on social values — that government should stay out of our bedrooms and marriages, that there is no place in America for racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia — these messages get lost if we aren’t helping Americans reduce their debt, buy a house and grow our economy for everybody.
Democrats across the country need to show people that we hear their concerns and can produce results. After all, we don’t call ourselves progressives because we want to embrace the status quo.
If we can prove to people that we’re invested in an American agenda, and they feel that progress, those voters might reward us come the next Election Day.
The writer is mayor of Los Angeles.