Anderson and Neumann: A call for unity among Democrats, on campus and beyond
April 16, 2017
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Over the past two years, the Democratic Party has been tested greatly. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy seemed to promise a return to harmony, unifying the party around a common vision and an extension of the cherished years of President Barack Obama in the face of a strengthening Republican Party. Instead, a 73-year-old, self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont jumped into the Democratic primary, leading to passionate intraparty debate. Bernie Sanders’ campaign inspired millions of voters who were fed up with establishment politics, bringing crucial issues to the forefront and shifting the party’s platform in progressive directions. However, the electoral cycle culminated contentiously in the resignation of the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee for evidence of bias in favor of the Clinton campaign, and the shocking election of a billionaire businessman who openly repudiated many of the Democratic Party’s core values.
Of course, ideological debate is crucial to the development of political parties. Such conversations can serve to diversify membership, improve policy agendas and altogether enhance democratic representation. Yet, the Democratic Party’s ideological struggles have moved beyond productive discourse into dangerous dissension, and this turmoil has had devastating consequences. Republicans now hold majorities in Congress, many state legislatures and gubernatorial seats, not to mention control of the White House. In only the first few months of Donald Trump’s tenure, we’ve already seen hateful attempts to restrict Muslim immigration, enormous environmental budget cuts and signs of blatant incompetency from his administration.
Many Democrats remain shocked in the aftermath of Trump’s victory, unsure of what his presidency signals for the future of the party. Others have been spurred to action, fighting harder than ever to resist Trump’s agenda, elect Democrats to local office and advance progressive values. Regardless of our individual standpoints, it’s clear that the time has come for Democrats to unite once again toward a reimagined, broad-based party determined to take on the Trump administration and champion a progressive policy agenda.
We constantly see the ramifications of our failure on a national level in the White House’s daily news briefings about administrative and policy decisions. Yet, whether through tense arguments between liberals or general frustration over what to do in the new political era, these struggles can also be witnessed more personally in our everyday lives. And as a microcosm of the larger Democratic sphere, the liberal community on our campus has the potential and responsibility to set an example for Democrats moving forward.
Ultimately, despite our differences, we all share a common vision as Democrats: We reject the discriminatory messages emanating from the Trump administration and wish to see a more just society, one attentive to the concerns of all individuals. While we may have varying ideas about exactly what style of politics or set of policies will help achieve this, our powerful aspirations transcend these minor disputes.
Our hope is for College Democrats, and the Northwestern community as a whole, to serve as a model for a new progressive coalition. We aim to function as a central organizing force on campus, building a community of progressives and coordinating efforts to resist the Trump administration and take back Democratic control at all levels of government. To those who share these values and consider themselves liberals or progressives of any sort, we have a simple message: We can unite over this shared vision, and we must. We have already seen the costs of letting our differences divide us. Despite the faults of the Democratic Party, it remains the primary institutional mechanism through which we can effectively oppose Trump and the alarming refusal to acknowledge and address the significant social, economic and political issues of our time.
Calvin Anderson and Alex Neumann are the co-presidents of College Democrats. Calvin can be contacted at [email protected] and Alex can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.