The midterm elections are finally over and people can begin to breathe again. The results are as many anticipated, the Republicans held on to the Senate and Democrats took the House. Not what I hoped for but half a loaf is better than nothing and seeing so many more women elected is something to cheer for.
What Democrats need to do now is show the electorate what they will do if they retake the Senate and the White House in 2020. We will need a national platform to run on and it has to be able to be delineated in a few short sentences.
It is clear the electorate is still divided and we still have a disgusting despot in the White House, a man who sees good in white nationalists and Nazis. One whose ex-wife once said he had a book containing the speeches of Hitler in his nightstand.
So there is a complicated dance about to play out in the Congress. Democrats need to cobble together legislation on infrastructure, immigration, taxes and gun control as well as some fixes to the ACA, pass those bills and send them to the Senate. If they die a slow death there at least Democrats will be able to say in 2020 “If you elect us and give us the entire Congress and the White House this is what you can expect.”
The question for some Democrats is can we move beyond the call for impeachment? Can we focus instead on oversight of federal agencies and hold to account the sleaze that Trump has brought into the administration to run his agencies? That kind of action makes sense. We have to do it smartly not with rafts of subpoenas but with intelligence.
The Democrats have a good lineup as chairs of each committee. My choice for speaker is Nancy Pelosi. While there is some discussion and concern about her age and representing the past, there is not another man or woman in the House today that is being spoken of as a serious alternative. Pelosi has proven she is a brilliant strategist. But I would like to see Pelosi take the position and immediately begin to develop a young leadership team that is diverse and strong and look to handing over the speakership to one of them in 2020 when she will turn 80.
Feel free to call me ageist. While not having chosen a candidate I will support in 2020 my choice is a ticket with candidates under 70. All we have to do is look at our history of winning the White House to see it replete with young vibrant candidates: Kennedy, Carter, Clinton and Obama.
The search for the next candidate officially begins now. We must as a party ensure a fair hearing for women and minorities in the mix of candidates we choose from during the primary season. My desire for a younger leader on the ticket means I don’t want to see Biden, Sanders, Kerry, Clinton or Warren on it. It is time Democratic elders use their experience, wisdom, and fundraising prowess to help the next generation. When we win, the next Democratic president should definitely consider them for Cabinet positions, ambassadors and use them as advisers; but it is time for them to step off center stage.
If we want to continue to generate interest among millennials and those who have sat out previous elections we need to find the candidate that with their knowledge and campaigning ability excites the electorate. I have no doubt we will find that person in the next year and a half as they are forged by getting through a tough primary campaign. After his close loss to Cruz in Texas, Beto O’Rourke must be in the mix.
The criteria for a Democratic primary candidate must be that they are a registered Democrat. There will be candidates who campaign on a more moderate platform and others on a more progressive one. Some will think the way to go is to promise things that can’t be accomplished. It will be important the candidate is someone who clearly understands our government works on compromise. That we can and should have lofty goals but also understand it often takes one step at a time to reach them. As President Obama has said, “Better is good.”
My belief is that candidates like Stacey Abrams in Georgia (whose race is still to be decided as I write this) and Andrew Gillum in Florida, who lost, represent our winning candidates in the future — candidates who can expand the electorate.
I want to congratulate some of the winners: Muriel Bowser on her reelection as mayor and Elissa Silverman on her reelection as Councilmember-at-Large in D.C.; Jared Polis, the new governor of Colorado; and Tammy Baldwin on her reelection to the Senate. Congratulations also to my friend Kathy McGuiness for her win as state auditor in Delaware. There are many races still undecided as I submit this column but my congratulations to every LGBTQ+ candidate, both those who won and those who put themselves out there and may have lost, you all deserve our thanks.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.