Bill Fletcher Jr.ColumnistsOp-EdOpinion

Democrats Still Don’t Get the Message

Bill Fletcher

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
NNPA Columnist

Since the November 4 elections, there has been a broad and needed discussion concerning what the Democrats did wrong or, to put it better, why they were unable to turn out their base.  Among other things, many African Americans felt taken for granted by the Democratic candidates which, to a great extent, was true.  Nevertheless, the problem runs deeper.

In addition to the historic fact that midterm elections tend to run badly for the party that controls the White House, it is also the case that the Democratic Party has a strategic problem; a problem that is frequently—and incorrectly—limited to what is called “messaging.”

During the run up to the election many, Democrats were making the point that the economy was improving, yet they found that this assertion was not resonating with the electorate.  While it is true that by almost all standards the economy is improving, for the bottom 90 percent of the population, their income has either stagnated or continued to decline, a pattern that started in the 1970s.  The foreclosure crisis, which appeared to have ended, actually has not and, as a result, we continue to face the ramifications of the collapse in the housing market in 2008.

The Republicans addressed this situation by blaming Obama.  This was actually quite irrational on many levels since the Obama administration helped prevent the USA from entering a depression.  But the Republican argument mixed with white racial resentment and, presto, conservative, white voters turned out.  Democratic voters, except in a few states, largely felt uninspired.

What the Democrats have been missing is a recognition that the bottom 90 percent of the population needs a voice and it needs someone willing to speak out on the reality of life in this country.  To do that, however, means that the Democrats would/will have to address Wall Street’s domination of the economy and the fact that we continue to witness a polarization of wealth in this country even while the economy–by the stats–improves.  The Democratic Party officialdom is fearful that such a message will strike terror in the hearts of those rich, Wall Street funders who have supported the Democratic Party in the past.

As a result of this ambivalence, the Democrats either tried to speak to part of the problem, e.g., the need to raise the minimum wage, or they channeled Michael Dukakis from his 1988 run for the presidency and attempted to argue that they were sane and competent managers of government in comparison with the Republican extremists.  Neither argument worked; neither was compelling.

A progressive force is needed within the Democratic Party that is actually prepared to articulate the message and build the constituency that needs to be created.  Some of the leaders we need are already in elected office, and some are in mass struggles, e.g., the Moral Mondays.  In either case, we need a very different sort of politics.  Inspiring people will necessitate more than good speeches.  It involves a clear message that resonates and it involves a strategy to pull together the sort of coalition that looks like the demographics of

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the host of The Global African on Telesur-English. He is a racial justice, labor and global justice writer and activist.  Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at


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Bill Fletcher Jr.

Bill Fletcher Jr has been an activist since his teen years. Upon graduating from college he went to work as a welder in a shipyard, thereby entering the labor movement. Over the years he has been active in workplace and community struggles as well as electoral campaigns. He has worked for several labor unions in addition to serving as a senior staffperson in the national AFL-CIO. Fletcher is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; an editorial board member of; and in the leadership of several other projects. Fletcher is the co-author (with Peter Agard) of “The Indispensable Ally: Black Workers and the Formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, 1934-1941”; the co-author (with Dr. Fernando Gapasin) of “Solidarity Divided: The crisis in organized labor and a new path toward social justice“; and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us’ – And Twenty other myths about unions.” Fletcher is a syndicated columnist and a regular media commentator on television, radio and the Web.

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