Dammit Democrats!

Dammit Democrats, you screwed up what should have been a landslide victory once again! What in the hell is wrong with you? Never mind, you don’t know what’s wrong unless you establish a committee to create a think tank to determine what’s wrong.

I figure after almost 49 years on this planet and having been registered and voting Democrat for the past 30 years, I’ll give you my insights as an outsider. Do I expect you to listen? No, but it’d be nice if you did.

First, you have got to stop being so damned nice all the time. I recall the first time I noticed that, as a whole, the party is too damned polite. It was during the election between Michael Dukakis and George Bush, Sr. While the GOP was throwing every bit of muck and garbage they could at our candidate, the party kept playing nice. Taking the high road when you should have gone after any weak spots you could find, and there were plenty. Then, when Gore ran and, once again, the party went flat. Same with Kerry. Yes, there is the hacking scandal to blame in part for the current mess, but there’s more to it than that. Which brings me to my next point.

Second, the Democratic Party used to be the party of the poor and middle class. We’re the party of FDR and JFK! Have we lost sight of being able to not only fight for the rights and welfare of the poor and middle class, but to also communicate with them? The folksy manner of George W. Bush and the populist rhetoric of the current president-elect should remind the party leadership that great ideas don’t mean a thing if you cannot communicate them to folks that may only have a high school education or less. FDR, while being a wealthy man, was able to do this through his demeanor and weekly fireside chats. He used larger words with caution and relatively sparingly. Yet, words are just a part of the issue.

The GOP has campaign offices set up all over the United States all year long and even in non-campaign years. They are visible in almost every small town from coast to coast. Our party shows up around campaign time, then goes away after the election. When the average person can walk past a GOP headquarters 24/7, 365 days a year, but only see a Democratic office during a campaign cycle, what message does that send? It send the message that we are around for you to elect, but no other time. That’s egregious! Set up offices like the GOP does. Be active in communities. Support and raise up candidates who are viable and active members of their communities and not just names. I know when I tried to run for a state legislative seat where I lived in Florida, the local Democratic party seemed resigned to defeat because the incumbent was one who held the office for quite a few years. They wanted people to go door-to-door with petitions for other offices, but didn’t see how a high school English teacher could be a viable candidate. I wasn’t a name. I wasn’t wealthy, so why help? How many other contenders are there who are staunch Democrats who are working class people who don’t receive support from the party that he or she should to even have a chance at contesting a seat? I think there are more than the party leadership thinks.

Third, and this goes along with the second, get out there and talk to people. I think pollsters are relied on far too much and the people far too little. If we are the party of the people, then we need to know what the people think. What affects their lives. What will help them live a good life, send their kids off to higher education or a good job? The things that truly matter to most rank and file voters.

Fourth, celebrate our diversity as a party. We are not a party of one race or one socioeconomic class. We need to communicate that better. We’ve had the greatest opportunity these last 8 years with President Obama in office to show off our diversity. He did many things to help, from the Affordable Care Act to seeing that marriage equality became the law of the land. We didn’t capitalize on that enough, plus we didn’t combat the negative rhetoric about those items enough. We allowed the GOP to incite fear over both of those items far too much. We could have shown how both would help all Americans, again by going to the local level where there were people who saw these things as either government intrusion or as being somehow against our values as a nation.

Fifth, we need to go back and find our roots as a party of the people. There are new generations who don’t recall the victories of our party that helped all Americans. They don’t realize that fair wages, good working hours, vacation/sick time, and other social net programs were due to the efforts of our party in particular. We witnessed a resurgence in our values and roots in the campaign of Bernie Sanders. He, while historically an independent who sided with Democrats on most issues, excited the younger voters. He didn’t do this through his name or by being the preferred candidate of the party, but through listening to what was needed in our country. He reached out at the grassroots level, much like President Obama did, to listen and act for the people as a whole. Hillary had the experience, but Bernie had both the experience and the passion. What’s more, he excited the passion in the largest voting block in our country. (For the record, I supported both candidates in the primaries and supported Hillary once the primaries were over). Hillary tried to excite the voters, but that’s not her style. There’s nothing wrong with her style, but given the opponent was well-known for his loudmouth and willingness to do whatever it took to be elected, her strengths became weaknesses in the eyes of some voters. Besides, the GOP had enough alleged muck on her to sabotage her efforts. We played into their hands, in effect. (This goes back to my first two points).

Finally, the Democratic Party needs to stop being so damned centrist on every issue. We need to embrace our progressive side on some things and our more conservative on others. Instead, we sit on the fence too damned much. There’s nothing wrong with being able to take a conservative position on one issue while taking a progressive tack on another. We can be fiscally responsible, but still find ways to pay for social programs, for instance. We can fix our infrastructure by putting people to work, for instance, though work-fare programs where people who are able to work are trained to do so and given a job to receive their check. Yet, we can also care for those who truly cannot work as well.

We have a lot of work to do to win back both the Congress and the White House, assuming the incoming administration doesn’t sell us out to the Kremlin and set our country back hundreds of years or creates a Fourth Reich out of our country.

Real Americans

I recently had a person respond to a comment I made on a Facebook post deriding me for my concept of what an American is and is not. I commented that America is not what it once was and that it has gotten to be a place vastly different from where I was born and raised. This becomes even more apparent to me since I am temporarily living outside of the States due to family employment. I am gaining a much different perspective on the US while living in Canada and being able to visit my native land on occasion. What I am seeing, in addition to what I hear from my neighbors and acquaintances, saddens me sometimes when I think of the potential that exists in the United States to do so much more with the wealth that is there than what is currently occurring. What has happened to my country? To our country? Why are we acting the way we are? What exactly is a real American?

As I see this becoming more of a series of posts rather than one concise posting, I will just touch on the one concept that bothers me. That concept is what a ‘real’ American is. When I was growing up, an American was someone who was either born in the United States or immigrated to the United States and worked his or her way to citizenship. It could also be a child born overseas to US parents or even to one US parent. Sounds simple enough. I even think it is still the legal definition of what an American is. So, what happened?

The scene is becoming increasingly common. Someone asks another person the question, “What are you?” I heard this often from students I taught and even neighbors where I once lived in Florida. They asked me this. They asked others this. They did this in a quest to place a person in a box. Ironically, the people asking the question were usually white and they asked this question to someone who was not White, more than those who are white. Interesting. The concept of what a “real” American has devolved in some way to mean a person who is not Caucasian. Given the skin tone of most Native Americans is not Caucasian that makes the question both rather idiotic as well as rather insidious.

The idiocy stems from the fact that the United States is a mixture of people and cultures far beyond those from Northern Europe. The Southwestern Untied States has people from Mexico, Central and South America. They were there before the first Europeans arrived. The rest of the United States was once vastly inhabited by Native Americans who, as I mentioned before, are predominantly non-Caucasian. After Europeans arrived, many others started immigrating to the United States and settled here. Some Asians were brought over to work on the West Coast and help build the once vast railroad network. African-Americans were brought over both as slaves and some came as free persons. If something happened somewhere in the world, people came to the United States to change their lives for the better. The United States earned and enjoyed being called the Melting Pot of the world. Our country is a land of diversity. That diversity once made us great. We fought a Civil War and went through the Civil Rights movement to make all races seen as equal. It set us apart from many countries in the world where the make-up of the people is the same. Somehow, the love of our diversity has morphed into division.

Part of this idiocy has been manufactured in the form of certain media outlets attacking the skin color of our current president. He presents a quandary for what was once the majority of the American population. President Obama is neither entirely Black nor is he entirely White. He is of mixed race. That mixture seems to have scared some people who are just too xenophobic to realize that being of mixed race is okay. Perhaps these same people once advocated laws that banned intermarriage between people of different races. They saw that taboo fall with the advent of Civil Rights and dealt with it. However, when the leader of their country became someone with those qualities, they could not handle it. Therefore, we have seen a rise in those who question his citizenship and even hate him for being someone they cannot place in a box.

These same people have taken this even further and started to question their neighbors being citizens or not based on skin color or religious beliefs. Somehow, this has also changed into questioning someone’s citizenship or loyalty to his or her country. Recently, we heard of a young man who is of Mexican descent who was ridiculed when he sang the National Anthem at a basketball game. Even though he was born in the United States and is therefore a citizen, people were accusing him of being an illegal immigrant to the United States simply because of his cultural background. What difference should it make when it comes to his being an American? We are a nation of immigrants. Look at the names in the telephone directory. They are all not European names. They are names from the world pantheon of names. With those names are cultures, religions, and lifestyles that all blend to make the United States unique and wonderful. It is a shame to disparage anyone based on his or her cultural background.

Here, in Canada, the question is not asked as “What are you?”, but rather “What is your cultural background?” Yes, that may simply sound like a politically correct way to ask the same thing, but it goes beyond that. It acknowledges that the person is a human being first, and then presents a curiosity about what that person believes, practices, or lives. It is less combative, in part, due to the length of the sentence, but also due to the nature of the words used. Perhaps we, as citizens of the United States, should take this and apply it to our country. No, Canada is not perfect. No country is perfect, but imagine if we started viewing each other as people first, then whatever culture, religion, gender, gender preference, or whatever box that is needed to make us feel better. We would be better able to define a ‘real’ American as someone who loves our country because she or he was born here or immigrated here for a better life.