Staff Columnist

How to actually unify the Democratic party

From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
From left, Democratic presidential candidates, former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2020, in Las Vegas, hosted by NBC News and MSNBC. (AP Photo/John Locher)

As the debris clears from Super Tuesday, Democrats are talking a lot about unity. Already, the unification of the party is not so much a request as it is a demand from party moderates who were miffed at having to discuss Medicare-for-all for so long.

Yes, we had the most diverse presidential primary in our American history and wasn’t that nice? Now it’s time to coagulate like one big scab behind septuagenarian white men. The real future of the party.

An op-ed by economist and occasional Trump apologist Thomas Friedman, published in the New York Times, speculated on a unity coalition with the front-runner, who he surmises will be Sanders or Bloomberg, meting out cabinet positions to all the other candidates like party-favors. The scenario is laid out like some sort of grand beautiful compromise. See if you play my game, you can have a seat at the table.Like most party favors, Friedman’s opinion is trash.

I am all in on unity. But calls for unity are all too often calls for the erasure of the voices of the radicals, women, and people of color who are the backbone of our party.

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It’s truly the ultimate American response to diversity: Pay lip service to it while keeping white men in power.

Most cabinet positions are less powerful than the role of United States Senator. And Vice President has for so long become a flaccid powerless role that the 32nd Vice President of the United States, John Nance Garner, once famously said, the vice presidency is “not worth a bucket of warm piss” and “the worst damn fool mistake I ever made.” Or to quote a real influential voice in American politics, Johnny Carson, “Democracy means that anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn’t grow up can be vice president.”

These fictitious unity coalitions floated by the party are nothing more than the second place, powerless roles, which women and people of color have been relegated to for so long. Reading them reminds me of all those sermons I heard growing up about how it was God’s will for me to quit my job and focus on my babies, my consolation prize would be have the moral authority over my home. It’s an argument never made for the men in power, who are quite happy to stay there and legislate my morality. And, sorry to those men, but I work and I love it and I won’t give it up. Many Americans feel the same way. We’ve clawed our way too far forward, just to hand it over for some consolation prize. This cycle, the Democratic field of candidates was more diverse than it ever has been, and even though the race has narrowed to two white men, the future of the party is here and we won’t be silenced, we won’t accept a consolation prize. For too long, women have been asked to take a back seat while men lead, and it’s only making Democracy more of a car wreck.

After 2016, everyone seemed to become pundits, but even more became cowards. Too crippled by fear of four more years of Trump, American Democrats are voting more for someone who they think can win rather than out of excitement for any one candidate. This is how Trump happened — because people were too willing to sell out their ideals in order to win. And now, it’s happening to the Democratic party.

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I am all in on unity. But calls for unity are all too often calls for the erasure of the voices of the radicals, women and people of color who are the backbone of our party. In 2017, the Democrats went on a unity tour where party leaders, including Tom Perez and Bernie Sanders, endorsed an anti-choice candidate for mayor of Omaha in the name of “togetherness.” Biden has also been more than willing to compromise for the sake of unity, but his compromises have been towards Republicans, while he’s castigated Millenials as lazy.

What politicians seem to mean by unity is the ability to politely meet for cocktails while deciding who gets a say over their bodies and who doesn’t. Who gets to afford a coronavirus test and who doesn’t? That’s not unity, that’s oppression.

It’s still early, so here is my pitch: What about a call for unity that doesn’t erase the vital voices of the party? What about a call for unity that doesn’t pander to the right, who has been all too willing to throw kids in cages for political expediency? What about a call for unity that doesn’t just use the ideas of the people who have built up the party, pat them on the head, and then take the credit, but actually supports those voices next time they run for office?

What about a call for unity that isn’t one of the fear of losing, but one that recognizes the power of the vision contained within this country?

lyz.lenz@thegazette.com; 319-368-8513

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