Opinions are the writer’s own and not those of Blavity’s.
Democrats have an identity problem. Maybe that’s not news to you. Maybe the outcomes of recent elections have continued to tell you what you’ve already known — that the Democratic party is lost. But the thing we haven’t been told yet, it’s on us to fix it.
While the Republican playbook is an easy one to follow (and an even easier one to see coming) — continue to play into and exacerbate Americans’ fears, while weaponizing opponents’ missteps to the point of exhaustion — it’s not one Democrats should necessarily subscribe to. But what Democrats are doing now isn’t working either.
By continuing to lean into more of the same — the same messages, the same faces and the same tactics for turning out voters without motivating and inspiring new demographics — we’re going to get the same results: a muddled understanding of who the party is with more disappointments at the ballots. And the longer Democrats wander lost, the more ground they’ll cede to Republicans.
So how do we find our way?
For starters, we create a party that unifies instead of divides. We stand by and for issues that actually matter to the communities we represent. We put our ears to the ground and listen to what the American pulse is telling us. We lean into the things we’re told to shy away from. We learn from our mistakes. And for the sake of this country, we invest in something — someone — new.
It will come as a shock to exactly no one that candidates who run for office in the Democratic party tend to overwhelmingly resemble one another both in terms of ideology and in terms of personhood. Yet at the same time, we claim to represent the diverse and dynamic America. For Democrats, the ad nauseam recurrence of John Generic Candidate is a telling inability to come together to produce candidates who unite and, more importantly, excite the party.
If we’re ever to have a resounding faith in our identity as Democrats and our ability to lead, then the party needs to embrace new faces. We need candidates who are new, different and exciting. We need candidates who have lived on the very same streets they seek to represent and actually speak to, and authentically on behalf of, the neighbors who vote them into office. We need to latch onto our diversity and use it to lift up an inventory of leadership that will result in every mother, father, yoga instructor, bodega owner, schoolteacher, newly released inmate, hairstylist, preacher and more turning up at the polls.
I’m tired of signing up to an ideological platform that splinters amongst itself and assigns as the figurehead someone who has never spoken to me, to my community or to our concerns. I’m tired of hearing another shallow reason for why we lost an election that was crucial to the future of our country — one which, if we don’t change, loudly sounds a warning sign of things to come.
As National Director of Leaders of Color, I very much understand both the weariness of our current state and the fundamentally crucial need to train up and support new leadership. We are working every day to help provide experience and tools to folks who live outside of the “typical” candidate mold by having real connections and familiarity with often overlooked communities. Because we know it’s only by rewriting the narrative that the ending will change.
The Democratic party has found itself at a dead end, but we still keep traveling the same road expecting to get somewhere new. It’s never going to happen if we don’t have the strength to step outside of the box. Democrats need people like you — someone with ideas, someone with heart, someone who isn’t afraid to shake up the system in a search for true progress.
This is our moment of enlightenment. This is the only way we move forward — and we can’t do it without innovators and instigators. And maybe, just maybe, that someone is you.