Editorial: Future of Democratic Party in need of change

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Even after a blistering and highly emotional defeat last month, it appears the Democratic leadership has learned next-to-nothing.

With the loss of the House, Senate and presidency in this year’s election with President-elect Donald Trump’s stunning victory, the future of the Democratic Party seemed grim. The often-problematic populist wave Trump rode to the White House made it clear that the United States wanted something different in Washington.

And back in the primaries, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) had a similar message of change.

Yet despite all of this, the leadership of congressional Democrats has showed no signs of changing.

The latest indication of this came on Monday, when Vice President Joe Biden, who teased at run for the presidency this year, told reporters he may run for president in 2020. Before Biden’s announcement, Rep. Nancy Pelosi beat back a challenge from a much younger representative and was re-elected as the House Minority Leader winning her eighth term despite calls within her party for her to step down. Sen. Chuck Schumer was elected as the Senate Minority Leader, a popular choice among Democrats and an unsurprising move.

While the neoliberal Democrats remain in charge, they offer nothing new to the party. Some in the party have called for change, a shaking-up and refreshing of the status quo. Instead, the Democratic leaders fought for their old jobs, highlighted their new plans to having stronger recruitment and refocused their message on economic plans. But Democrats need more than a marketing strategy to convince voters they care about the issues facing working-class Americans.

In an interview with CBS’s Face The Nation, host John Dickerson asked Pelosi what she would do differently with the party. Pelosi answered flatly, “I don’t think people want a new direction. Our values unify us, and our values are about supporting America’s working-class families. That’s one everyone is in agreement on.”

Pelosi fails to understand the need for new leadership and the discontent among Americans for establishment politics and economics. Overwhelmingly, white working class men and women, who used to vote as blue-collar Democrats, went to Trump, finalizing their years-long transition from blue to red. Given the success of progressive leaders such as Sen. Bernie Sander and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, it would best serve their interests to bring in new people to the party.

But the party needs new leaders and figureheads altogether. Even Sanders and Warren aren’t the change the party needs. It’s likely we’ve never even heard the names of the people who could best change the party.

According to the national exit polls on Election Day, 83 percent of Republican voters thought the most important quality to a candidate was one who can bring needed change compared to qualities such as good judgement and experience.

It is clear that Trump offered the change the American people wanted. And while rejecting the often racist rhetoric that has accompanied that message, Democrats should learn that they need to evolve as a result. Step one is replacing who gets to guide that change.

The Democratic party could use some soul-searching as it navigates a Trump presidency and prepares for the 2018 midterm elections. Focusing on the policies that will help Americans the most, such as expanding Social Security, universal childcare, tuition-free college, expanding health care, paid maternity leave and increasing the minimum wage would be good places to start.

The era of the Wall Street Democrat is over, and the Democratic leaders should work on being the party of the working people again. That will only come when we see fresh faces in those roles.

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