4 Key Democrats on the Future of Their Party
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because even though there wasn’t a revolution, there was a sea change that’s shifting this party in a big way.
Let’s just say the Democratic Party is experiencing some growing pains. First, progressives hosted protests throughout Philly ahead of the Democratic National Convention. Then the party’s chair announced her resignation. Meanwhile, farm-and-factory types haven’t exactly been thrilled with the passage of a platform that stopped short of condemning national trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But there are points of unification too. Everyone agrees that raising incomes is a top priority going forward, says Jack Markell, the Democratic governor of Delaware, even if there’s a debate on whether that should involve a redistribution of wealth, a herculean lifting of the economy — or both. And while conservatives often tout liberty, the next liberal rebrand may also focus on freedom — freedom of religion, or marriage, or from crushing student loan debt, says Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. Here’s where some of the party’s influencers think their platform is headed, as recently gathered by our team in Philadelphia, OZY Fusion Fest and the campaign trail.
Andy Berke, mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee
OZY: What do you foresee for the future of the Democratic Party?
A.B.: I think there’s a lot of discontent in the country about stagnant wages and lack of opportunities, and ultimately, the Democratic Party has to be seen as the party that builds the middle class. In Chattanooga, one of the things we’re always focused on is how do we build a bottom-up economy so that more people can have dollars to spend, and that creates wealth for everybody. I think the Democratic Party will continue to find the best policies and ways to say: “This is the question for us, and we’re going to be the best ones to answer it.”
OZY: Are there issues that could be key for Democrats that were left on the sidelines in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention?
A.B.: You’ll see Democrats talking about energy security, which we did not hear in Cleveland. How do we build a safer and better world through sustainable energy usage? Particularly behind the scenes, you hear a lot of talk at the DNC about infrastructure: How do you make strategic investments, whether it’s broadband or highways or water systems, that are the core of our society?
Cory Booker, New Jersey senator and Hillary Clinton surrogate
OZY: What two or three signature policies would you hope to see come out of a first term for Clinton, were she to win in November?
C.B.: We are a nation with a lot of urgent issues that just aren’t sexy, but we’ve got to get back to doing them. And when you look at the best government dollars spent, in terms of economic growth, infrastructure is probably one of the best ways to spend it. We’ve allowed our infrastructure to fall to 16th place in the globe, and now is the best time to do it, because the cost of capital is so low. Education is the same way. In America, it takes 52 percent of the median income to go to college. We’ve seen college graduations as a percent of the population going down.
I think Clinton understands that we have a lot of the basic building blocks to economic growth that have become starved, because, I think, of perverse policies in this country. We need to reinvest and get back to the basics. A tax policy that doesn’t incentivize investing overseas and hiding money in companies, but incentivizes investment here, job growth here. She wants to get a lot of the basics done of economic growth and job creation.
— Neil Parmar (@Neil_S_Parmar) July 24, 2016
Ben Jealous, former NAACP president and Bernie Sanders surrogate
OZY: People have called the platform the most progressive platform in history. Do you agree with that?
B.J.: Certainly. The positions we’ve taken on the environment, criminal justice and the economy are forward-thinking. Clinton won the nomination, but Sanders supporters will define the future of the party. We attracted the lion’s share of people under 45. Those voters want a country that is more inclusive, more responsive to the needs of those who are struggling and more focused on saving the planet for future generations.
Our party is the party of working people, and our policies have to clearly proclaim that. We have to affirmatively put the interests of Main Street above those in Wall Street without hesitation or apology.
OZY: How do you do that?
B.J.: We need to build campaigns that are funded by working people and that precede the policies that lift all boats, not just yachts.
Arun Chaudhary, Barack Obama 2008 videographer and Bernie Sanders 2016 creative director
OZY: President Obama has mentioned that one of his biggest regrets is not translating quickly enough the energy of his 2008 campaign into a real-issues advocacy organization, which he later did with Organizing for Action. Do you think there is an opportunity for Bernie Sanders to translate his revolution, despite him dropping out of the race?
A.C.: With an outstanding messenger at the center of it, he could form a very powerful organization. The president expressed some regret in not being able to translate that, and I think Bernie has internalized that self-critique of Obama into an idea that the only way things happen is for a candidate to continue demanding of the movement that kind of pressure.
OZY: Do you think we’ve been effective at democratizing elections with technology, when Clinton, a large-donor-funded candidate, is still able to overwhelm a candidate like Sanders, who raised the overwhelming majority of his money from small donors?
A.C.: Are there limits? Maybe. We haven’t gotten to the limits yet. Do I think this is a successful shift in Democracy? Yes, I do.