Democrats better answer the bell

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There’s no joy in Democratville.

Barely a month ago all the talk was about whether or not the Republican Party would even survive this year’s election. Would Donald Trump, after his almost certain defeat, start a third party, with the likes of Sarah Palin and David Duke? Or maybe his own TV network, with the help of fellow groper Roger Ailes?

There was so much to look forward to, Democrats, as well as many others, missed a much bigger picture: The Donald might turn out to be The Boss.

The tables have not been turned, so much as turned over. In a single election day, the Democrats went from licking their chops in contemplation of what they might do with a new president and a majority in the Senate plus, possibly a few extra seats in the House, to wondering WTF went wrong.

There’s plenty of finger-pointing going on. It begins with the belated recognition that Hillary Clinton was a singularly uninspired choice to anoint so early in the primary process, includes a heavy dose of soul searching over the party’s reflexive dependence on so-called identity politics, and finally peters out over a perceived failure to adequately address the cascade of insecurities being experienced by an ever-shrinking middle class.

Almost lost in the strobing fury of the Dems’ freak-out is the fact that Clinton actually beat Trump by well over a million votes. Whether the results of recounts in some states, where the initial outcome was close enough to appear bizarre, will do anything to spritz the taste of ash in Democratic mouths remains to be seen.

The real trouble for so many of us is that we rely, by default, on the Democratic Party to represent our interests. Anyone truly invested in reforming health care, slowing the effects of climate change, or trying to figure out how to make capitalism work better for people has very little practical choice but to hope Democrats get their sorry act together. Given the structural realities of our two-party system, Libertarian and Green options amount to little more than a parlor game for those who think of voting not in terms of collective self-interest, but as a hermetically personal form of self-expression.

But then a need for self-expression seems to be what motivated so many unhappy citizens to vote for Trump, a candidate with little more than a slogan and only a passing allegiance to the party whose nomination he managed to hijack.

While Democrats are bound to feel traumatized by what happened in the election, they need — and quickly — to regroup and focus on what’s ahead. Job No. 1 will be to vociferously call attention to and limit the damage aimed at what’s left of the country’s social contract. But then they will have to own up to their own failings in this regard, which means committing themselves to principles and policies that show a demonstrable path toward making this a fairer, healthier and more sustainable place.

This will take leadership. For all our sakes, the Dems had better answer the bell.

Originally published at

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