Saturday, July 26, 2014
You will know that the Demcoratic Party is ready to win when Simon Rosenberg and David Sirota are working together like two linemen on a football team. They aren't yet. I'm picking on them personally because they both know I have enormous respect for the work that both of them are doing. I could easily see Simon as a White House Chief of Staff, or the President of a major University. David Sirota has staked out a territory as the conscience of the Democratic Party, reminding us that what it is about is the guy who collects the trash in the snow, the gal who gets up at 4am to take a bus to get to her receptionist job by 6 am. I pick them because they are both working on the same problem: the Democratic Party has got to be free, the progressive movement has got to be answerable, not to big donors, but to the people who need a just and fair society to get ahead.
That's what government is about, not about comforting the comfortable, but about protecting the public from concentrations of power. Concentrations that will happily orbit between tax cutting Republican borrow and squander, and Democrats cleaning up the balance sheet enough to orbit back the Republicans. Simon is warning the progressive movement that it has to be sharp, smart, persuasive. David is warning that a party of the people has to be a party for the people. Simon's work with the NDN and the New Politics Institute is absolutely vital. Simon is a leader who builds teams and has them execute on good ideas. David's book is coming out soon, and you should buy it, because the story he tells is as compelling and as harrowing as any potboiler by Tom Clancy. The Democratic Party needs both of them, and the kind of energy and edge that they represent, because both will draw more people like them into progressive politics - people eager and able to make a difference.
The Republicans can govern because they play as a team - even though they have the support of well less than half the population. The Democrats need to get that same attitude. I don't know David Sirota well, but he's for real, not just raking muck for some dollars the way the Fux News koolaid kids are. I consider Simon a friend, he can be hard, but he is a good man, who wants a better America. Between the two of them they are working to free the soul of the Democratic party from entangling relationships with money, because the Democratic Party needs to be free and clear to do what is right, rather than having to water down the message.
I mention the two of them, but I could pick dozens of other pairs of people - because the Democratic Party still has too much bad blood, and too many places where personal style collisions hamper the effectiveness of what should be close working relationships. Too many times I see people working on the same problem, but not getting that smooth tandem going that turns openings into big plays.
The next year is going to be kind to the Republican leadership, because they are going to dump vast sums of cash on the economy to keep it out of recession for the 2006 elections. It's also going to be ugly, as the criminal activity they have used to hold power floats into public view. As a result, the Republican leadership in congress are going to tap every pot of money today, even if it means leaving Social Security, Medicare and basic functions of government weakened. The Republican leadership has shown they can't win a war, can't protect the country from storms or terrorism, and can't police corruption in their own ranks. They have shown that they can only create jobs by borrowing huge sums of money, and dumping problems behind the curtain. The country has turned against how they do things, but it won't toss them out of office until there is tangible proof that the Republican party doesn't work. However, we should take a warning from the experience of the Republicans in the late 1940's. They took the Congress, they had a Presidential winner in the hopper, but they couldn't remold the government or hold either, because they didn't have a team that could govern.
The progressive movement has come very far, very fast. Five years ago it was beaten and seemed irrelevant. The Democratic Party has come back from the dead. But to take the next step, to get back to being the governing party, it has to have the team to do it. I'm watching turf wars corrode the effectiveness of important projects, I hear it from people on the phone and in emails. But it doesn't have to be this way: if there is victory, there will be plenty of career for everyone. If there isn't, well it is cold outside the circle of power without corporate money to keep you warm.
What needs to happen isn't rocket science - more groups need to exchange more information, and they need to open the doors to more of the vast pool of talent that is aching to contribute to a progressive America with the Democratic Party as its instrument. The people who are leaders in this movement need to display more generosity of spirit, and be wiling to pick up the phone and say "We can't let petty differences become deep divides. What will it take to get us on the same page? Where is the bottom line for the American people that we are both trying to get to?"
The reality is that we can't do business with a reactionary Republican Party, they can't be trusted, and they show all the problems of bad executive teams - using massive technology projects to cover over failures of management and execution, slurping down cash in a hideous burn rate to cover over the fact that they don't really have a product that people want. But on our side of the ledger, we should be able to do business with each other, and we have to.
I'm heeding these words myself, there are fences I have to mend, people I need to talk to - as, I am sure, do we all. The people who are in authority have more responsibility to do this than the people who are up and comers, or are running small organizations, but everyone has the responsibility. We are telling the American people we can run the country better than the Republicans, they want to see teamwork and execution. They want to see planning, preparation and talent. They want to see a party that can take advantage of opportunities, and act decisively.
And they aren't going to wait, because the future is hurtling straight at us all