Dear Bernie and Hillary: Transform the Democratic Party

Throughout society, Americans are held back, beaten down, and suppressed. To counter that oppression, we urge you to call on your supporters to transform the Democratic Party into an activist organization whose members fight for the Party’s platform and build precinct-based communities that serve local, unmet needs year-round.

Our society is run by individuals at all levels who aim to get as much money and power for themselves, their families, and their organizations as they can, regardless of consequences.

Most Americans struggle to survive financially and focus on trying to gain some economic security. Many live so close to the edge, one emergency can push them over. Millions who want to work can’t find a job. Millions more work but still go hungry or become homeless.

Citizens don‘t have enough voice with their government. Workers don’t have enough voice in their workplace. Students and parents don‘t have enough voice in their schools. Worshippers don‘t have enough voice in their religious institutions. Clients don’t have enough voice in their social services. Victims of police brutality don‘t have enough voice in the criminal justice system. Consumers are manipulated by incessant advertising.

Far too many people are abandoned, forsaken, locked up, or isolated with no close friends with whom they can confide about personal problems. Large numbers dull their pain with drugs or alcohol. Many are running faster without getting anywhere, taking in more information and processing it more quickly, without taking the time to listen to and understand one another. Some feel trapped. Others are drifting. Almost everyone seeks deeper meaning, wanting to make a significant difference in the world and help relieve suffering.

Afflicted with economic anxiety, people become angry and take it out on scapegoats. We indulge in personal attacks and judge others based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or some other arbitrary characteristic. We impose labels that distort reality. We fall into either/or thinking. We become dogmatic and want to win ideological battles.

Oppression damages the human spirit. The glorification of “winners” undermines the self-confidence, self-worth, self-acceptance, and self-empowerment of everyone else, who are considered “losers.” The competitive pressure to climb the social ladder weakens the ability to collaborate as equals.

The result is a divided society with divided selves who do not have the personal and collective power to threaten the status quo.

To make this nation more democratic, we need a bottom up, grassroots organization whose members help one another be all they can be and help this country live up to its ideals. The Democratic Party could be that organization, a grand coalition.

Registered Democrats elect Party leaders to local and statewide bodies, whose members elect leaders of the national Party. As such, it is democratic. But the Party focuses on elections, and merely electing Democrats is not sufficient.

Between elections the Party does little to advance its platform and engages in little or no year-round precinct organizing. Party activists who are elected to positions of power within the Party tend to defer to elected officials. Many of those activists are ambitious themselves and want to gain favor with elected leaders. Party leaders reduce members to functionaries who fit into the electoral machine.

Given the will and discipline, a unified grassroots effort can change those patterns. Staying involved with the Democratic Party throughout the year, we can empower one another in our daily lives. We can nurture vibrant, compassionate communities by getting to know our neighbors and engaging in activities like peer learning, public forums, registering voters, social events, house parties, mutual support, and environmental cleanup, as well as get-out-the-vote during elections. Party members who share that commitment might create and join a new Party caucus to advance this project. Elected officials could use their office and their campaigns as organizing tools to grow community. And in primary campaigns, Democrats could back candidates who support this effort.

So we ask you, Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders, to endorse this statement and urge your supporters to help transform the Democratic Party and this nation into compassionate communities dedicated to promoting the general welfare. When we do, all Americans will benefit.

Wade Hudson
Michael Larsen
Larry Walker

13 Responses to Dear Bernie and Hillary: Transform the Democratic Party

  1. After reviewing the comments on the Huff Post piece that Alan referred to, I posted the following on Facebook:

    Most of the comments [about that piece] are unrealistic [most of them opposed ever supporting Hillary and some called for a thrid party if Bernie falls short]. But this one from Bruce Taub I like:

    +++
    The Dem Party already has the organizational structure and a very good set of participatory democracy rules on paper. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel … we don’t need to reforge our union … we don’t need to redraft the entire constitution … we just need to make reasonable fixes/modifications/amendments … and the Dem Party – with it’s substantial existing base – must simply become a true reflection of the will of the vast majority of the people … as we are seeing happen before our very eyes, with even Bernie, a long term independent, not coopted, but understanding the practical value of using the Party … as opposed to being used by it.
    +++

    I also posted several supportive comments on that Huff Post piece with which I largely agreed, which elicited numerous “likes.”

    Overall, I find the response to my “Dear Bernie and Hillary” letter mixed, which leaves me unsure how to proceed. On the one hand, I hold the respondents in very high regard. I respect their opinion. On the other hand, only a small percentage of those who received it responded, and for this project to really work, it will need much more participation.

    So soon I’ll email those who’ve responded positively and invite them to discuss next steps.

  2. Here’s an add-on idea. Send the same or similar letter to Senate Democrats as they have a more direct link to their local communities and could have an impact on the grass-roots efforts that are needed.

  3. For what it’s worth, I think this letter, as currently written, is about as good as it can be–in content, clarity, and potential impact. In Bernie’s case, in particular, it definitely adds a whole new dimension to his proposed reforms–which are, I think, necessary, but top-down. Your bottom-up proposals, based on an insightful assessment of American society as it really is, can help build the very people’s “revolution” Bernie himself recognizes as necessary to get his proposed reforms turned into law.

    • Hi Wade, I’ve been giving some thought to this question and want to share some of them.

      First off, I think any supportive suggestions directed at the candidates are a positive thing. I am with you (and Tom Hayden) in making the case for a United Front against the really dark forces of either Trump or Cruz. Let’s forego the animosity between Hillary and Bernie supporters. Turns people off any way.

      But I do feel that a network or organization separate from the Dem Party should come out of the Bernie movement whether he wins or loses the primary or the presidency. The emerging movement needs to be free of attachment to the election cycle and especially to having to support Democratic Party candidates.

      Currently, the Dem Party is controlled by very powerful forces at many local and regional levels, let alone nationally. It would take a very long time for a progressive movement to wrest control. While I think that would be a noble effort, it’s only a part of the struggle the movement needs to wage and I’d suggest it’s not our primary purpose.

  4. Wade, here’s an addition that could be made:

    “One easy way to accomplish the task of on-going participation of all members of the Democratic Party is Democracy Operating System at DemocracyOS.org. Another site which strives to accomplish the same thing is PlaceAVote.com. Those registered to these sites can propose, debate and vote on any issue they like and ideally office holders would be held responsible to abide by the vote of those registered with these sites.”

  5. I applaud your initiative. Your intent is extremely worthwhile.

    I inserted comments in green in your document. Please feel free to ignore any that do fit your intent. My main conclusion is the last comment:

    To motivate the grassroots, we need a POSITIVE message that inspires individuals across generations to collaborate for change.

    Thanks.

    • Thanks for the heads up. Kickstarter does prohibit raising funds for “political fundraising.” Though this project would not involve support for a political campaign, but rather a publishing project, they might not approve. So I deleted “launch a Kickstarter campaign to” so that sentence now reads: “If sufficient support develops, we can raise funds to print copies for distribution at campaign events during the June California primary.”

  6. A private email from one subscriber to a friend of his:

    Naive, but at least he’s trying. But you might be interested.

  7. Dear Wade, it is good to hear from you and heartening to see this effort. I’m not sure whether I can be there in person on the 24th, but I am there in spirit….

    Reading Christopher Hayes’ Twilight of the Elites…. your collective action effort seems right on time.

    love and friendship,
    Rhonda

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