To the historically oppressed people of the United States, the presidency of Donald Trump has, so far, been an unremittent nightmare. The control of both Congress and the White House by a Republican Party consisting of Tea Party conservatives, establishment capitalists and Ayn Rand worshipers has already led to numerous policies targeting minorities. Immigrants are being forced from their homes, millions may lose their healthcare and refugees are being turned away at our borders. Now, the victims of centuries of American white supremacy and capitalism look to the Democratic Party for aid – and what they see may scare them.
In the months following the election and inauguration of Trump, the Democrats have been strong on rhetoric, but weak on action. As of the writing of this article, elected Democrats have failed to effectively oppose or even filibuster a single Trump cabinet nominee, have tepidly reacted to the Republicans’ nightmarish American Health Care Act and have insisted on focusing on Trump’s illicit connections to Russia instead of his inhumane domestic and foreign policy. In an age of terror, how can these Democrats so catastrophically fail to defend the defenseless?
The Democratic strategy during Hillary Clinton’s presidential run was one indicator that the party had lost their unity with their base. A study by the Wesleyan Media Project found that 90 percent of Clinton’s campaign advertisements focused on Trump’s shortcomings, rather than the merits of her own platform. 70 percent of Trump’s ads, on the other hand, mentioned policy.
Caught up in their overzealous efforts to attack Trump’s obvious sexism and racism, the Democrats failed to discuss their own merits. Perhaps this was intentional; after all, Clinton’s platform paled in comparison to the radically progressive policies put forth by Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. However, the party could still have highlighted the importance of maintaining the Affordable Care Act, the necessity of ending for-profit prisons that prey on the African American community, the need for a raised minimum wage and dozens of other party policies that directly benefit minorities and workers.
However, the Democrats did, and still do, focus on Trump’s personal defects: his sexism and racism, his suspicious connections and his ineptitude. All of these flaws raise serious concerns, but few of them have precluded presidents from serving in the White House in the past. The United States is and always has been a country that has little difficulty tolerating a bigot in the White House.
So, in order to change the tide in the ballot box, the Democratic Party must prove to the most vulnerable that they are willing to promote radical reforms that contain material benefits.
Socialist politics offer the best chance of bringing new working class voters to the ballot box while reinvigorating loyal Democrats who tire of the centrist “establishment” wing of the party. A party platform shift to Medicaid-for-All, for example, would appeal to rural and suburban workers and minorities who may usually avoid the ballot box altogether. Further plans to eradicate capital in the justice system, to provide free housing in urban areas and to create a free college program would solidify Democratic support in coastal cities.
Socialist platforms proved popular in the Sanders campaign in the Democratic primary, especially to young voters, but it is important to remember that the American fight for economic justice has always been strongest in communities of color and immigrants, who stand the most to gain from dismantling a capitalist system of white supremacy that has opposed their rights and welfare for centuries.
If the Democrats genuinely stand for minorities, as they claim to, then lip service is not enough; they must acknowledge the racist history of the United States and materially combat its influence in the modern world.
America’s history is stained with imperialism, racism, sexism and class oppression. To oppose the current iterations of these traditions, a party that tries to negotiate with traditionally capitalist and racist institutions is useless. Only a true, dissenting vanguard party, one that consists of and works for people of color, the working class, the LGBTQi+ community and all oppressed peoples, can fight against institutionalized tyranny and for the goals of the left.
If the Democrats want to be the party of the people, then they must move left and stay there; otherwise, they will fail those they claim to fight for.
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