The personal and the political

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
Lawrence Jackson/Creative Commons

Last week, I wrote my first article for the Weekender about House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, and the Democratic Party moving forward.

After seeing a poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, I wrote that piece with the goal of relaying some of the political attitudes and beliefs of progressive voters in the Bay Area. I had hoped that, in doing so, a broader dialogue could develop between different coalitions, generations and members within the Democratic Party.

Last week’s piece was not a reflection of my personal views, but rather an investigation into why a growing number of left-leaning California voters feel that the current political system fails to represent their values.

“I had hoped that, in doing so, a broader dialogue could develop between different coalitions, generations and members within the Democratic Party.”

After a week of news events that have left the country shaken, however — the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, infighting and corruption within President Donald Trump’s cabinet, a rollback of an Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate and more — I feel a responsibility to frame last week’s piece in a more appropriate context.

First, I want to clarify that the piece should not in any way suggest that shortcomings in the Democratic Party are of equal relevance or severity to those of the Republican Party under Trump. The piece was intended to remind Democrats that, while resisting the Trump agenda is the primary goal of the party right now, a national platform based solely on opposition is not a blueprint for the future.

Second, while politics should always be aspirational and idealistic, the process of politics is not glamorous work and requires dogged pragmatism and compromise. Such work, from a Congressional standpoint, demands a complex understanding of policy, lawmaking, body rules, an ability to hold diverse coalitions together as a unified front, negotiating skills, civility and commitment to bipartisanship whenever possible — Sen. John McCain’s vision of “regular order,” if you will.

“These two forms of “resistance” are both important; they are not mutually exclusive.”

While Democrats absolutely must be critical of their party come 2018 and 2020, now more than ever is the time for experienced leaders such as Rep. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, to use their decades of government service as leverage in the fight against Trump’s policies.

Resisting Trump’s agenda with legislative prowess is different from the more youthful, grassroots resistance movement sweeping across the nation. While logistical resistance in the Capitol is best managed by political veterans right now, the grassroots resistance — one led by rising stars, activists, first-time candidates, emerging women and minority leaders and groups such as Indivisible, Swing Left and Run for Something — will usher in the new generation of talent that many Democrats seek. These two forms of “resistance” are both important; they are not mutually exclusive.

Third, a few days after my last piece was published, Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus Linda Sánchez, D-California, suggested that the highest-ranking House Democrats should be replaced with younger leaders, such as herself. Sánchez’s recommendations on how to remake the party, in the midst of House Democrats’ efforts to pass bipartisan gun control legislation and oppose a contentious 2018 budget resolution, were poorly timed and misinformed.

I want to make clear that my previous piece does not align with Sánchez’s agenda or vision for the party. I strongly believe that, under Rep. Pelosi’s current leadership, House Democrats are united and tenacious in their opposition efforts.
Of course, much of the debate surrounding Democratic attempts to win back House and Senate majorities is speculative and open-ended. With such an unpredictable, reckless commander in chief, even senior political experts struggle to rationalize and project political decisions, news stories and trends. For me, the best way to tackle the era of Trump is to focus on the here and now.

What matters now is passing bipartisan gun control legislation that goes much further than an NRA-endorsed bump stock ban. What matters now is fighting against efforts to repeal and rewrite Obama-era healthcare policies. What matters now is upholding post-war order and diplomacy, defending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and fighting against the ticking time bomb of climate change.

And so we beat on.

Contact Danielle Miller at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dmillercal.

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