The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party

February 13, 2018

In 1936, President FDR was re-elected in a landslide with 60.8% of the vote and 523 electoral votes to 8.

Few honest efforts have been made in understanding how and why the Democratic Party lost in 2016.

Americans, in their despair and realization of a broken democracy, corrupt government, and rigged economy, voted for a conman whose greatest business skill-sets are bankruptcy, legal intimidation, and being bailed out by his father. But what did Trump campaign on? Peel back the dog whistle racism, sexism, and xenophobia, and we are left with a candidate who stated that he would protect Social Security and Medicare, rebuild infrastructure, fix the opioid epidemic, renegotiate trade deals, a non-interventionist U.S. military policy, and drain the swamp. Many knew that he’d fill that swamp with alligators, while others just wanted to throw a brick at the establishment, but a change in the status quo was what people wanted. Regardless of it all being flat out lies, Trump’s message of economic populism won the day, and the Democratic Party was lost to this message.

In the Gospel According to Matthew, Jesus says, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye…First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” We cannot in good faith hope to criticize the Republican Party, their leadership, or their tactics without addressing the shortcomings of our own.

My political conscience awoke in 2003 after the deceptive invasion of Iraq. I recall how horrible the Bush Administration was for America; the war crimes, the torture, the economic policies that transferred trillions of dollars of wealth to the already super rich and ultimately crashed the global economy. But, as I dug into the prior forty years of American political and economic history, I realized the trends that led to our current level of hyper militarism and economic inequality lay across administrations of both the Republican and Democratic Parties.

With the lone exception of President Carter, the growth and takeover of the military industrial complex has infected every single administration going back to World War II. The “free” trade globalization that cratered the proud American manufacturing sector began with the Reagan administration’s permanent normal trade relations with China, was put on steroids by NAFTA under President Clinton, and was expanded under Presidents Bush and Obama with CAFTA and nearly further with the TPP. Reagan’s abandonment of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Fairness Doctrine led to a boom in media consolidation that skyrocketed with Clinton’s signing of the Telecommunications Act, leading to our current media landscape of over 90% of all of the information we receive being owned and controlled by only 6 massive, multinational conglomerates. The lust for corporate deregulation in the 1980s continued through the 90s and 2000s, leading to mass consolidation in the financial and insurance sectors, leading to too big to fail banks and the collapse of the global economy. The War on Drugs and private prison industry that began under President Nixon was expanded in every single subsequent administration, leading to the United States having the highest incarcerated population on the planet.

In all, the last 40 years have seen the Democratic Party shift tactics; from fighting for working class economics as the road to achieve social equality, to a party of social identity alone. We’ve ran away from our true progressive roots in favor of trying to capture Republican votes through adopting Republican policies and talking points. Our current economic ideas hardly reach as far left as where the Republican Party was pre-Nixon, to say nothing of our true New Deal/Great Society roots. Bold progressivism has given way to conservative incrementalism, and incrementalism in times of social-economic-political crisis is a proven exercise in utter futility. We have become the party of “the socially liberal and economically conservative,” which translates into “we’re not racist, sexist, or bigoted but aren’t willing to fundamentally change any of the underlying economic structures that divide us by our racial, gender, or sexual identities.”

We are proud to be the Party of social equality and inclusion, but we must recognize there is no social justice without economic justice. The American people want a worry-free healthcare system. The American people want higher wages and economic security through the right to unionize and collectively bargain. The American people want debt-free public education. The American people want bold leadership and immediate solutions for the climate crisis. They want a 21st Century infrastructure and energy system. They want protections from the economic predators that crashed our economy in 1929 and 2008. They want to be safe at home and abroad. They want a democracy that responds to their voices, and not the checkbooks of wealthy campaign contributors.

Aside from the climate crisis, which is a more recent concern, every single one of those values and goals were cornerstones of the Democratic Party platform dating back to the 1930’s. President Roosevelt campaigned on the creation of an ‘Economic Bill of Rights’ that included enshrining the guarantees of universal healthcare, housing, education, employment, and retirement as inalienable rights up alongside our hallowed rights of speech, religion, and the press. His New Deal was meant to be a starting point for a lasting economic and social justice that was to continue through President Johnson’s Great Society and beyond. We continue this fight today on ‘The People’s Platform.’



When we focus on guaranteeing healthcare, we win. When we focus on raising wages, we win. When we focus on healing our broken democracy, criminalizing corruption, and restoring the power of the American voter, we win. When we stand on The People’s Platform, we win.

These ideas and ideals aren’t pie in the sky. They aren’t too progressive or too liberal for any district or any race for office. These are American ideals dating back to the founding of our republic, enshrined in the concepts of inalienable rights and guaranteed freedoms of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They are rooted in the shared benefit and prosperity of ‘we the people’, and, perhaps the best part about these values as they concern the Democratic Party, is that they win. Everywhere.

That is why I am running for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th District; to take the People’s Platform of shared economic prosperity and justice to D.C. and beyond, to forge a lasting change in the Democratic Party and a return to the principles and values that made us the party of the working people.

My fellow Americans, be idealists. Be visionaries. Put aside the archaic thoughts that the candidate who raises the most money is the best for the job. Learn about candidates supported by organizations like Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, and volunteer to help them succeed. This year’s midterm elections have presented us opportunities to elect representatives who will actually represent us. Yes, we need to take back Congress in 2018, but this can only be accomplished by supporting people who display the integrity necessary to fend off corruption and fight for the bold policies needed in this great moment of social, economic, and political crisis. I ask you not to just think of 2018 or 2020, but to imagine beyond. Let’s solve the problems of today by planning for tomorrow. I’ll see you atop the People’s Platform.

Peter Jacob