“…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror…” I am curious as to what Franklin Delano Roosevelt would think of what his political party has become in 2016.
A while ago, I attended a required meeting of Florida Democratic delegates in Orlando (I represent Bernie Sanders for Florida’s 4th Congressional District). We first selected PLEO (party leader and elected officials) delegates and at-large delegates (representatives of the whole state) to fill the remaining slots divided among the Clinton and Sanders campaigns. We were not shown the ballots beforehand; instead each ballot contained a list of names that the campaigns had parsed out on their own to fulfill goals of minority representation securing positions for prominent elected leaders. The most preferred names had asterisks next to them, with the number of asterisks corresponding to the number of names we needed to select, making the presence of district-level delegates in the process ostensibly pointless.
Our task at that meeting entailed little more than bubbling selection boxes next to the names with asterisks. We needed to wait for a two hour meeting the next morning before determining standing committee members and discussing the national convention. I questioned why such quick tasks needed to wait for some reason, ostensibly making the money I spent on sharing a hotel room a waste.
During the night in between those meetings was the Swing State Gala, an event when Democrats could come together and schmooze with party big wigs—for $100 per seat.
I want my $100 back. When I arrived, I was treated to a slightly wilted salad, some dinner rolls, and a set of video clips of Donald Trump spouting his usual stupidity. These clips were nothing new. Then the floor turned over to the state party head, who gave an expectable and acceptable speech.
Next to speak was none other than Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, the infamous head of the Democratic National Committee and congresswoman from Florida. She, of course, did not acknowledge her blatant favoritism of Hillary Clinton, which she has repeatedly demonstrated by limiting the number of party-sanctioned primary debates, scheduling them during major sporting events, and spreading misinformation and stereotypes about Bernie Sanders’ supporters to limit the public’s knowledge of him as a candidate. Yet there I was, having paid $100 to be in the same room as her.
Instead, she focused on Donald Trump and how he’s so dangerous and how supporting the Democratic presidential candidate, whose name she didn’t mention specifically, was imperative no matter what. On and on she went about Trump this and Trump that and President Obama’s legacy but Trump threatens it blah blah blah.
This had me wondering something important: What do Democrats actually stand for? When listening to this tripe about Trump, I heard little regarding any specific policies that the party should or would endorse. Anything about universal healthcare? Banning fracking? Preventing any more climate change? No, the policies worth focusing are Trump’s and how terrible they are.
Wasserman-Shultz also saw fit to point out Trump’s concerted attempts to put the few minorities who support him on a pedestal to prove that his fans have some nugget of diversity (when they mostly don’t). Apparently Democrats don’t need to force diversity to the forefront—aside, of course, from those asterisks next to minority delegate names, which basically amounts to a form of glorified affirmative action. Ironically, I likely would not have had an asterisk had I not run for a district-level Sanders delegate position, since I was not too active in either campaign, though I did a little bit of volunteering for Bernie; this means that the only transgender delegate from Florida would have been ironically shut out of the process.
When Wasserman-Shultz was done, Senator Bill Nelson followed. He kept his speech short and to the point. He still mentioned Trump but not overwhelmingly so—just as any Democratic official should. By this point, the unimpressive salad was replaced with equally unimpressive chicken, broccoli, and mashed potatoes. I’ve had much better.
The keynote speaker that night was Julian Castro. Apparently, many Hillary supporters are excited for him to be Clinton’s vice presidential pick, as the first Hispanic to fill such a position, yet I was thoroughly unimpressed with him. While he was not as bad as Wasserman-Shultz, he was still so laser-focused on Trump. At least he had the decency to admit that he highly favored Hillary over Bernie—something Wasserman-Shultz has yet to be honest about, despite the obvious signs. I needed a drink, but there was no open bar.
While the Republican Party, with Trump as its clear nominee, has come to represent willful ignorance and delusions of trickle-down grandeur, the Democratic Party’s core principles have degraded into little more than fear of Trump. The presumed nominee, Hillary Clinton, accepts money from some of the most corrupting influences in America, yet that has gone ignored. The same power structures that produced a rich demagogue like Trump do not matter—only Trump himself does.
This myopic focus on fear is disturbing to me and makes me feel uncomfortable about being a delegate. Does accomplishing a greater good (preventing Trump from being president) overtake any duty to basic morality? Many people have argued that Hillary Clinton can “get stuff done” yet I almost never hear what said “stuff” entails. Will she end the exploitation of American workers with low pay? Will she oppose trade deals that will require American workers to compete with countries that can hire sweatshop work for pennies on the dollar? Will she prevent fossil fuel efforts that will ultimately contribute to climate change and possibly poison whole communities? Will she end the stranglehold that moneyed corporate interests have on so many aspects of political and social life, a dynamic in which the profits of the privileged few are more important than the lives of the voiceless masses at the bottom?
I doubt it. None of that matters in the face of the Donald Trump boogeyman, who, despite just about every poll showing Bernie Sanders dominating in a general election matchup that includes Republicans and independents, can only be defeated by “electable” Hillary Clinton—the only electable candidate from the very beginning, according to the corporate media, who have followed Wasserman-Shultz’s lead of ignoring any of Bernie’s victories (in addition to including superdelegates before either candidate won any pledged delegates).
FDR called fear nameless, but it has a name: Donald Trump. As unreasoning and unjustified as he is, he is not a fear to be feared—he is a fear to be revered. Thanks to him, the Democratic Party has its focus, even when other policies and procedures make no sense and alternative are but an illusion.