I’m going to continue my discussion of Shorism, as it’s now been called, that I began on Monday. Several pundits and Democratic activists have pushed back on the idea of moderating the Democratic message. They’ve claimed that it would be a return to Clintonism and the Third Way, coopting Republican ideas and settling for an agenda that’s less progressive.
Jamelle Bouie of the New York Times asked what a modern Sister Soulja moment would look like and suggested that Democrats could go down a road promoting policies that are bad for African American communities. He reminds us that Clinton’s tenure gave us welfare reform that harmed low-income families who are disproportionally Black and that his tough-on-crime agenda led to unfairly imprisoning too many Black men, a problem that is with us till this day. Bouie says he wants to know what Shorism would look like in practice.
I think the problem Democrats have is one of messages and messengers, not policy. A Sister Soulja moment today would be telling the country that Black Lives Matter is an activist organization, not part of the Democratic Party. And while the party shares the movement’s concerns about continued racism and discrimination in the country, Democrats are not beholden to their agenda and do not support all of their tactics. Vandalism and damage to private or public property are unacceptable and those who commit it should be held criminally and financially responsible.
Democrats don’t want to defund the police. On the contrary, they support more money for policing, but that money should go toward training and education, not militarization of civilian police forces. We clearly have a problem with too much police violence and we need to better screen new cops, have consequences for bad behavior, and place more emphasis on defusing situations without violence. Providing public safety is a crucial role in a country governed by laws and we should make sure that our police and the criminal justice system get the resources they need to help protect the diverse communities in the country without discrimination or excessive force.
The Democratic Party rejects socialism, understanding that capitalism is the best way to create wealth and widespread prosperity. However, Democrats know the limitations of the free market and its problems concentrating wealth and creating income inequality. In response, Democrats support a progressive tax system that provides a broad safety net that ensures that no American will be impoverished because of illness, injury, or age.
To ensure that prosperity is shared, Democrats support a living wage for all citizens and a guarantee of equal access to health care. Recognizing that the modern economy requires more specialization, the Democratic agenda supports free community college and debt free education for those attending public universities. They also will continue to pressure states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to do so and to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of drugs to help keep costs under control.
Democrats should reject reparations for the wrongs of slavery and Jim Crow, but commit to funding and building traditionally marginalized communities. They should emphasize their support for HBCUs with large federal grants and increased state operating budgets. They should offer low interest loans to minority-owned small businesses, particularly in African American and Native American communities. They should provide resources to public schools that reduce class size and incentivize good teachers to move to areas that have been harmed historically by discriminatory policies. They should offer people who have been trapped in poverty through no fault of their own the help they need to reach the middle class.
Democrats should make fixing our broken immigration system a priority, otherwise it will continue to be a political liability for them. They can offer a pathway to citizenship for people who have been here and played by the rules, particularly the DREAMERs. They can secure our southern border with high tech equipment and work to reduce the number of immigrants by pressuring Central and South American countries to reduce oppression and discrimination. We can also use some of the money saved from wars to help those countries provide more economic opportunities for their own citizens. Mostly, though, Democrats should reject the notion of open borders.
Finally, Democrats want to both secure voting rights and protect the integrity of elections. It’s possible to both expand access to the polls and ensure that our elections are largely free of fraud. We should restore the Voting Rights Act and also restore faith that our elections are fair.
Right now, more people are familiar with Defund the Police and Critical Race Theory than they are with Build Back Better. That’s a failure of communication on the Democrats’ part. They have done little to brag about Biden’s accomplishments while Republicans are bashing him daily with talking points. Democrats should be bragging about getting us out of Afghanistan and freeing up money for a domestic agenda. They should be touting the 6.5% growth in GDP and the economic recovery that’s taking place right now. They should be talking about the success of the vaccine rollout in reducing the number of hospitalizations and deaths. In short, they should repeating over and over that in just 10 months, the economy is on a roll, the war in Afghanistan is over, and the pandemic is in retreat except for those who refuse vaccines. Democrats should be talking about the dawn of a new prosperity instead of fighting among themselves.
Democrats today don’t need to return to Clintonism. In fact, they couldn’t. The party in 2021 is far different from the one in 1991. It’s much more diverse racially and culturally. The leadership reflects the party and the country. We have 57 African American Members of Congress today when there were only 28 in 1991. Women also make up 40% of House Democrats and 32% of Senate Democrats. Democrats elected an African American president and Nancy Pelosi has been the only Democratic Speaker of the House this century.
Democrats should not have to defend their commitment to diversity and they should not let activist groups drive the party’s message. They should be emphasizing a platform of shared prosperity that improves the lives of all Americans by increasing opportunity and reducing poverty. They can promote criminal justice reform that both reduces incarceration rates and produces savings to the taxpayer. And they can demand the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share to provide an infrastructure that promotes jobs and a safety net that protects the vulnerable. That’s an American proposal that’s inclusive and progressive.