It’s the last day of January. It’s as cold as ever here in New York. It’s 4 degrees, with the windchill being at about 14 below zero, yet somehow, it is actually colder than this for huge chunks of the country. Be safe out there. Bundle up your children if they still have to go to school. And don’t go outside unless you just absolutely have to.
I missed you all while I was out sick this past Tuesday and I’m still fighting something. With 5 kids and a wife who works in the school system, they are always bringing home some type of cold or flu. But enough about that, for the past few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to you about
And I see at least five things happening right now that makes me optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party.
- The presidential primaries are going to be healthy, competitive, and groundbreaking.
The 2016 democratic presidential primaries were weird. A dozen serious candidates should’ve jumped in there to run, but they were either flagged off or chose not to, to make room for Hillary Clinton. I ultimately think that was actually bad for Hillary. In the end, two people that nobody thought stood a chance, Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, ignored the chatter and ran anyway. Bernie shocked the world and won 20 states, but a robust, competitive, nationwide primary – with a normal number of candidates, would’ve been better for the winner. In 2008, when Obama won, he beat out the who’s who of democrats to win the nomination and went into the general with a ton of momentum. In some ways, that’s what Trump actually did in 2016.
The upcoming democratic primaries are going to be altogether different from the previous ones. Clearly, it appears we will have a healthy number of candidates running. Already, with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Tulsi Gabbard in the race, it appears that the primary will set the record for the number of women running. Not only that, but this cross-section of candidates is already on pace to be the most ethnically diverse set of candidates to ever run as well – with 3 people of color already in the race – and the possibility of more to come.
- Presidential candidates are finally hiring diverse senior staffs
Normally these campaigns are run almost exclusively by white men, but staffs are taking the criticism to heart and are doing so much better.
- Senate Democrats are finally hiring diverse senior staffs
In the past month alone, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand hired the first two Black women to ever serve as Chiefs of Staff for Democrats in the Senate.
- Democrats seem to have truly embraced a fighting spirit
And I don’t just mean fighting against Trump, but are standing for some bold ideas. And this is where I want to spend some more time as we close. When we have control of the House, when we have won back some state governments, we have to be clear on what we are fighting for.
- The party is finally starting to embrace truly progressive policies.
A few years ago, if you supported Medicare for All, you were probably either a hippy, a Bernie supporter, or both. Today, polls show that 70% of Americans like it and mainstream Democrats are finally embracing it publicly. When we think of explicitly Black policies, so often people go straight to criminal justice reform, and while it’s true that we are disproportionately impacted by the system, I want you to hear from me that I truly believe Medicare For All would help our communities, our families, our children as much as any other policy out there. I am going to be fighting hard for it in the months and years ahead.
When Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez began talking about how essential it was that the United States embrace a Green New Deal, on Day 1 she had a flyer out showing a few of her congressional buddies that supported it with her. In just a few weeks time, you’d now struggle to find a Democrat that doesn’t support it. And her plan is a radical new plan to stop global warming and here’s the thing – we don’t always talk about it, but environmental racism impacts us – and advocating for the environment is still advocating for our people. When I travel and speak privately to folk, somewhere along the way we picked up that environmentalism was for white folk, but it isn’t.
Speaking of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, she’s got the entire country talking about finally making the ultra-rich, I’m talking about people earning over $50 – $100 million per year, finally pay their fare share of taxes.
Also, just a few years ago, I struggled to find a single mainstream Democrat talking about ending cash bail or decriminalizing marijuana – now those are basic talking points for presidential candidates. And those are two things that we need to be advocating hard for city by city, state by state, and demanding that all of our politicians support.
So I’m glad about all of this, but here’s why I’m cautiously optimistic. It’s easy as hell to talk about your bold policy choices when your party doesn’t have the power to enact them. I just want to make sure Democrats don’t lose their nerve when it matters most.