Thursday, June 1, 2017

Democrats begin long climb to relevance -- June 1, 2017 column


After seven months of post-election hibernation, the old bears in the Democratic Party are stirring.   

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday formed American Possibilities, a political action committee that could be his launching pad for a presidential bid.

Biden, who chose not to run last time, is probably right that he would have been a better candidate than Hillary Clinton, but time marches on. He’ll turn 78 in November 2020.

Clinton has reappeared after long walks in the woods near Chappaqua to blame her defeat on former FBI Director Jim Comey, the Russians, the Democratic National Committee, the news media and even the perception that she couldn’t lose.

“I was a victim of a very broad assumption that I was going to win,” she said Wednesday at a tech conference in California.

Whatever you think of her, Clinton insists she’s not running for office again. She does want a role in Democratic politics.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she said.

Her new political group – Onward Together – aims to organize against President Donald Trump’s policies and help people enter politics. Its slogan: “Resist, insist, persist and enlist.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi raises hope that Democrats can regain control of the House next year with a renewed emphasis on creating jobs. She also wisely discourages loose, exuberant talk about impeaching Trump.

“If you are talking about impeachment, you are talking about, `What are the facts?’ Not that `I don’t like him’ and `I don’t like his hair’ and – what are the facts?” Pelosi said May 15 on CNN.

Pelosi wants the Speaker’s gavel back. But she is 77, and her lieutenants, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn, are 77 and 76.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., who still makes progressive hearts beat fast, is 75.

Age matters in all these cases because Democrats need to let go of the past while they cultivate a new generation of leaders. Democrats know what they don’t like – all things Trump – but they still struggle with what President George H.W. Bush derided long ago as “the vision thing.”

In a sign they have no intention of fading into life in Chicago, the Obamas just plunked down $8.1 million for the house they’ve been renting in Washington.

The former president, 55, likely has decades ahead to motivate young people to get involved and run for office.

Meanwhile, one member of the younger Democratic set, Chelsea Clinton, is on the talk circuit promoting her new children’s book, “She Persisted: 13 American Women who Changed the World.”

“I don’t have any plans to” run for office, says the former first daughter. That’s a maybe.  

At 37, she has nearly 1.7 million Twitter followers, but Clinton’s chief qualifications – and her chief liabilities -- are her name and extraordinary ability to rake in cash as a speaker.

She was inspired to write the book after the Senate silenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., during the debate over the nomination of Jeff Sessions to be attorney general. 
When Warren attempted to read a letter by Coretta Scott King opposing Sessions for a federal judgeship decades ago, she basically was told to sit down and shut up.

“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, turning “She Persisted” into a rallying cry for Democrats.

Warren, nearly 68, is up for re-election next year and hasn’t said if she’ll run for president in 2020. Republicans reportedly plan to attack her hard during the Senate campaign in hopes of spoiling her presidential chances.

“Sometimes being a girl isn’t easy. At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams are impossible,” Clinton writes. “Don’t listen to them. These 13 American women certainly did not take no for an answer. They persisted.”

Large protests against Trump’s policies enliven Democrats, but it will take more than marches to win elections.

Trump’s voters aren’t yet having the buyers’ remorse critics expect. Hillary Clinton would again lose – even the popular vote -- if the election were rerun, a Washington Post/ABC News poll reported April 23.

For their long climb back to relevancy, Democrats will need fresh faces, an agenda that connects with ordinary Americans -- and persistence.

 ©2017 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.

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