2020 election season is underway—we just saw the first televised Democratic debates. There’s a large field of candidates this year, to some this is exciting, others like Bill Maher thinks it’s akin to an Avengers movie.
But really, it doesn’t matter how many hats are tossed into the ring — what matters is just being in the arena. Showing up and being an engaged citizen that wants a better future for all of us is a good place to start.
What’s required of every single one of us now — not just our elected officials or those hoping to be elected — is that we all need to get involved in participatory democracy.
Our current political climate is unfolding against the backdrop of a disruptive and transformative era. Is it possible that we’re exactly where we need to be at this point in time? Yes. Some disagree, thinking everything is a mistake — that the 2016 election was a stolen one. Maybe yes, maybe no.
To this I say, it doesn’t matter.
To continue to perseverate on what happened in 2016 absconds energy from where we need to be today. Do we need to avoid the tripwires from that last election, of course, including passing cybersecurity legislation, but lessons learned are lessons heeded.
And here are eight things the Democratic party would be wise to heed this time around.
- Voters don’t want to be treated as categories — identity politics has done more to fracture a nation than unify it. Appeal to voters’ hearts and minds regardless of what they look like or identify as. Most people want a job, healthcare without huge deductibles, education for their kids, a safe and equitable society to live in for people of all colors and genders.
- There are more than 100 million people living below poverty level in America. That’s nearly one third of the current population. Millions more working and middle class families are living paycheck to paycheck. Dual-income families contend with relentless stresses: childcare, eldercare and financial insecurity every single day. Not many have the bandwidth to think about things like, the Mueller report, for example, when they don’t know where their next meal will come from or how to pay bills. Make visiting small towns and cities a big priority. Have conversations, see what daily life is like, talk about the stresses, the challenges and how problems can be solved together.
- Somewhere along the line the Democratic party took their eye off of state legislatures for a decade or more. We know the consequences of that and time has come to change it. Amazing people, organizations and communities are coalescing to solve big problems in the small reaches of this country every day — these stories need to be heard, these stories need to be told. Go where they are and start sharing them. In addition to the national election, equally support candidates in state and local elections.
- Effective immigration reform can also mean acknowledging voters are concerned about border security. Labeling those xenophobic for having concerns about the border wasn’t politically wise in 2016, and it’s not wise now. These conversations are not mutually exclusive. Immigration issues helped tip the election away from Democrats in 2016. While no one should deny the clear and present danger of racism and white nationalism, or the immediate need to reunite families and manage the border crisis, it’s also dangerous and shortsighted to think anyone who cares about border security is racist.
- Wealth inequality is a scourge that helped bifurcate America and until we deal with inequality, we won’t be tackling the wealth divide. A rising tide should lift all boats, it hasn’t. A rising tide has only been connected to climate change. Democrats have every opportunity to make this the seminal issue of 2020. When homeless veterans are foraging trash outside of billionaire’s homes, we move further away from finding lasting solutions.
- Climate change — it’s real, it’s happening and a very wise teenager is carrying messages around the globe about our peril if we don’t address it. That means you and me, the choices we make: recycling, embracing alternative energy, hybrid cars. Democrats, don’t just talk about a Green New Deal, explain what you are doing on a personal level to make change happen, explain the outcomes of what not having a Green New Deal will be. Connect this to every day lives including your own.
- Age discrimination in the workplace is an ugly truth that’s been infiltrating the American workplace — corporate America needs to be held accountable. A large swath of Americans who found themselves unemployed after the recession never recovered. Some weren’t trained for new jobs of today, others simply had the ‘misfortune’ of being older than 35. Ageism is pervasive all across organizations, not just in Silicon Valley tech companies. We can’t talk about retraining the workforce if we can’t effectively address generational discrimination.
- Don’t ignore Independent voters, they comprise more than 40% of the voting public. Some voters feel overlooked by Democrats in this cohort, many of whom extend beyond white working class men. The progressive agenda is a good one, but compromise is the name of the game in America, it’s a founding principle. Somehow we’ve landed in a place where this is a bad word on both sides of the aisle & anyone who engages in compromise is an ineffective legislator. Where can this progressive agenda dovetail with moderate voices? Where can compromise happen?
The 2020 election offers an opportunity for all Americans to be involved in changing things for the better — that’s a good thing because we’ll go farther together than we can apart, especially if we heed lessons learned.
After all, hindsight is 2020.