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Steps to Democratic Party Recovery
March 8, 2019
by William P. Meyers

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Admit Past Wrongs

I am not a lifelong Democrat. I say this because I have noted that at local party meetings (46th Democrats of Washington State), when people are running for a party position or elected office, they often begin by say "I am a lifelong Democrat." People cheer. I wince.

One local party leader told me, pointedly, that she values loyalty. I said nothing, a good first guess when dealing with human unknowns. What I would have said is this: my parents were Democrats. They were also racist, militarist, patriarchal, homophobic Roman Catholics who were only in the Democratic Party because of the New Deal and fact that it was the only party in the former states of the Confederacy, which is where I grew up. Did she think I should have stayed loyal to my parents, their ideals, and the southern Democrats of my youth?

But the woman I was talking to is perhaps half my age. She grew up in the Seattle area. The Democratic Party has been liberal to progressive here her entire life.

In my teen years, in the late 1960s, I began to reject my family culture. In 1972 I volunteered for George McGovern. That year was turning point in American history. Like many southern Democrats, my parents voted for Richard Nixon. Conservative Democrats started voting Republican, and eventually changed their registrations. The progressive wing of the Republican party, once important, wilted.

In college I studied political science. I turned further left. Until recently I spent all of my adult life to the left of the Democratic Party. I joined the Democratic Party in 2017.

In the past I wrote quite a bit about why people of conscience should be in the Green Party or other alternative rather than the Democratic Party. Most notably I wrote A Brief History of the Democratic Party.

I think it is fine, for practical purposes, to talk about the Party's plans for the future, or where it is now, with a big Progressive wing that is extremely similar in values to what the Green Party has been since it was founded.

But I don't think we should lie about, or cover up, the past misdeads of the Democratic Party.

I have never been to an AA or other 12 step meeting, but I have seen them on TV. I think a couple of steps are key to the recovery process. One is: make a searching and fearless moral inventory.

I think that is a good exercise. The younger Democrats I meet were often raised in liberal or progressive families. They think they are better than people raised in conservative or reactionary families. Their politics are better, they are better persons, but I know they are weak because they never had to struggle much to reach their current position. I know that had they been raised in different families, in different communities, they would either be defending Trump or would have had to go through a major struggle to become progressives.

After the inventory, another step is to admit the exact nature of your wrongs. Of course in this context we are not talking about personal wrongs, but the wrongs committed by the party we belong to. The evil acts of our founder President Andrew Jackson, and the legacy of a party that was formed specifically to appear to be a popular party, when in reality it was a controlled by wealthy elites from its very inception.

It involves admitting the Democratic Party is the only party in the history of the world that dropped atomic weapons on civilian populations. That under the Nuremberg criteria it is therefore a war crimes organization. That it committed many other war crimes and crimes against humanity over its long history.

It involves admitting the Democratic Party was the party of slavery from its inception, and the party of genocide against the native tribes. It was the party of the Confederacy and the party of Segregation.

The list is much longer, but the point is (Steps 8 and 9): make lists of those we have harmed and make direct amends to them.

In my list, that includes amends for slavery, taking native tribal lands and violating treaties, and for economic losses under segregation, at the very least.

Only if we are honest about the past can we expect for people to have confidence that we will be honest in the future.

I believe that the Democratic Party must have a big-tent attitude, but it still matters what goes on within the tent. I am not worried about kicking people out, but I am worried about who controls the party hierarchy and who our elected representatives in local, state and federal government really represent.

I also don't believe we have any basis to criticize the Green Party or other left-of-Democrat parties, beyond the usual vote-for-us arguments.

Somehow I forgot to mention the Democratic Party's role in the Vietnam War. There.

Where ever power is concentrated, people will be drawn to it to further agendas. My hope is that in 2020 the Democratic Party will capture the Presidency and both houses of Congress. But we are a big party, representing diverse persons and regional cultures. We must also take into account why so many people support the Republican Party. We need to show the nation and the world that we can do better than we have done in the past. That we have really and truly reached a point where we can "practice these principles in all our affairs."

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