How To Move Forward From The Garbage Fire Year That Was 2017
On Nov. 8, 2017, Facebook's reminders of my memories from one year ago feel like a knife to the heart. A year after the devastating presidential election, Facebook reminded me of the photo I posted then to help get out the vote: My pen clearly circling the dot next to Hillary Clinton. So many of us — 63 million, more or less — voted for a woman presidential candidate. And then came the shocking results, the distressing inauguration, and this rather awful year. It's going to take work — and we've seen just how much in the past year — but we can move forward from the garbage fire that was 2017.
2017 has been a difficult year. The Trump administration has attacked women's rights, LGBTQ rights — particularly trans rights — criminal justice reform, and even young immigrants by ending DACA. But 2017 has also been a year of organized resistance. Starting with the Women's March, and continuing through spontaneous airport protests against the travel ban, the Science March, and queer dance parties outside Ivanka Trump's house.
Now, the Nov. 7, 2017 election results on Tuesday were promising, a year after what was such a defeat. The governorships in both New Jersey and increasingly blue Virginia are in Democratic hands. Maine has expanded Medicaid by referendum, offering a public endorsement of the Affordable Care Act. Plus the first state transgender legislator and the first black transgender woman in any public office in the country were elected. These wins show how how much momentum there is, and there are ways to keep this going through 2018 and beyond.
This seems to be the hardest, biggest lesson from 2016 that we've failed to learn and carried into 2017. Next year needs to be different. There's no point in rehashing the Democratic primary. Arguing over whether Bernie would have one or Hillary stacked the deck will not win a House majority in 2018.
Emotions are still raw, and leading Democrats Donna Brazile, whose revelations in her new book caused an uproar last week, don't help matters. Third party green voters made the difference in several states. We need to stay unified and make sure that doesn't happen again and again. Bots may have helped grow these divides — reports show that Russia-based accounts tried to divide Democrats — now it's up to us to end them.
One way to stay unified can be to look forward and prepare for upcoming elections. That can include reforming the primary process to make it even more democratic, by getting rid of super delegates, for example, or awarding delegates through open primaries (not caucuses), and adding a racially diverse state to the mix of early races with Iowa and New Hampshire.
Most importantly, this should be forward-looking and not rehashing 2016. This doesn't have to stop with preparing for the primary. Ensuring that Congressional districts are not gerrymandered is also key.
Focus On Social Issues & Economics
One of the big backlashes from Clinton's "Stronger Together" campaign was to put its solid base of minorities aside to focus on economic issues that appealed to white, working class voters. That was a mistake. The Democratic base needs to be energized too, and setting aside the social issues that disenfranchised minorities care about is not the solution. Alienating people of color, women, and LGBTQ Americans would be a huge misstep.
Economic fairness needs to be a central plank to the Democratic message, but that doesn't have to come at the expense of other issues like abortion rights, transgender rights, or immigration and criminal justice reform. These are not mutually exclusive, and oftentimes they're intertwined. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been making the inclusive economic argument, and all Democrats need to follow her lead.
Move Left On It All
Now is not a time to go small. It's time for Dems to differentiate themselves from Republicans. Does that mean a $15 minimum wage? Say that. An infrastructure and jobs program? Tell everybody you know. Medicare-for-all? Endorse that too.
Make it clear that Trump serves the rich, white men of corporate America and that the Dems support the diverse working class. Unapologetically fight for women, LGBTQ people, and DACA recipients. And then explain how you'll lift everyone's boat — and not by lowering taxes on the richest. This will need to be tailored in different parts of the country, but a clear difference from the Republican positions is key.
Show Up & Turn Out
This is the most important, and luckily it's not something that has been lacking in the age of Trump. As the Women's March showed on the day after the inauguration, Americans are ready to stand up to this administration. That means making calls to your representatives and party leaders to make sure that they do the above. It means turning out to protests and voting in elections.
The New Jersey and Virginia results would suggest that is not a problem. But we can still do better. 2.6 million people voted in Virginia, just under 48 percent of registered voters in the state. And another half a million citizens are of voting age but are not registered. In New Jersey, the statistics are worse, with just 2 million voting out of 5.7 million registered voters. There are 6.9 million citizens who could vote in the state.
For many people, the Nov. 7, 2017 election results on Tuesday feel like the first time in a long time that there is some positive news. Grow on this success, and bring it into politics in your town and on the national level. Let Facebook reminders in the years to come remind you that you did everything you could to turn the tide on dumpster fire year that was 2017 once and for all.
Editor's Note: This op-ed does not reflect the views of BDG Media and is part of a larger, feminist discourse on today's political climate.