Impressions from Philadelphia

I am just back from Philadelphia and the DNC, and I have many thoughts about what I saw, and the arc of this election, and the Democrats.

I wasn’t a delegate, because I have never been enrolled in a party (Massachusetts is an open primary state). I’m not much of a joiner, but am thinking now about affiliating myself so I can start affecting things from the inside. However, I also want to see what happens with Bernie’s movement and with Robert Reich‘s idea of a new third party to form after the election.

(That said, I am now even more suspicious of political parties in general, just like John Adams: “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”)

Instead of getting inside the Wells Fargo Center, on Saturday I attended The People’s Convention – Philadelphia, which was incredibly educational and hopeful–but probably not exactly my place. I’m still not sure.

Then, on Monday, I went down to FDR Park and watched some of the activity down there. (And lost about five pounds in sweat–I have never been so hot in all my born days.) After that, I met up with old friends who are squarely on the inside of the Democratic establishment. And felt my head spin at these multiple Americas.

I’m mulling over these divisions, among others: the permanent protester faction; the grassroots activists who have–seriously–a deeply spiritual patience; the people who are mad as hell; the Bernie or Busters; the people who don’t like Hillary but will vote for her to stop Trump; the people who *detest* Hillary and the Clinton machine and think the Democratic Party is hopeless, but view Trump as a clear and present danger; the people who detest HRC, etc., but are willing to go into the “political wilderness” to achieve deeper change, i.e. are ‪#‎NeverHillary‬; the people who are deeply moved by Hillary’s nomination; the Democratic party insiders who sneer at the common people, including Bernie supporters; the earnest, true-believing party insiders; the sleazy operatives; the principled operatives who have a degree of remove I could never achieve. Those are just a few. And of course many of them intersect.

I’m thinking about how nuance is so terribly hard in public discourse and yet for some of us–those who vastly prefer Bernie, who have deep and serious misgivings about the current Democratic Party and are going to keep talking about them, and yet want to stop Trump–nuance is an ongoing necessity, even though black-and-white thinking is so tempting, and plays so much better in constantly cycling news narratives.

And I’m thinking about how this is really an election between the establishment and the antiestablishment, and how last night at the convention–which i listened to in the car driving home–was feel-good and unifying, but that that temporary optimism cannot, CANNOT, sink into any kind of complacency. Because the Democrats are in deep trouble. The Clinton campaign needs to demonstrate its thorough understanding that it has to stretch–and to go back to its roots–and genuinely include the people and populists and anti-establishment folks. It needs to humble itself and transform itself in order to include pissed-off white guys in the 99%, especially in the 90% on down, and also pissed-off under-30s who are unimpressed about the first woman presidential nominee (yes, complicated and maybe crazy, but a real sentiment) and don’t remember 9/11 and are part of the gig economy whether they like it or not. It’s not fair, but the Democratic Party somehow has to include nearly everyone. Because the Republicans have completely abdicated any sense of moral obligation or civic duty.

The Democrats need to figure out who’s going to vote for them no matter what, and then, quite frankly, *ignore them*–we can check them off, don’t need to expend energy there–and go after all the rest. The people they’re not comfortable talking to. The anti-establishment. Which also means that, ASAP, they need to abandon their romance with corporate America. Right now I don’t have much confidence that the Democrats get that, or are going to. But you never know.