27 April 2014

No matter the outcome of this election, change will be forthcoming. Change always comes, as slow or as fast as we demand it.
 


However, if after last week we hang up our ideals, put away our enthusiasms, and close the lid on our indignation, then change will be kept waiting. But change cannot do so; the urgency of the moment is even greater than before. Change cannot bear indifference. The time for mourning has ended; it's time to get back to work.
 


Chief among our tasks is to continue the conversation. What a grand conversation it has been! This election energized Americans as never before in most of our lifetimes. Yet the swift current of events we call everyday life has a way of moving us downstream quickly, leaving unfinished business behind and forgotten. We must not let this happen. We are, in fact, swamped with unfinished business, to be done on behalf of our nation, our children, and our planet. Whether face-to-face or over the internet, it is essential that we keep talking about what to do next.
 


Our first topic of conversation, however, requires of us some serious introspection: What is it about fifty-six million of us to which another fifty-nine million of us cannot relate, such to the degree that they would vote for a man whose policies generally run counter to their own economic self-interests? By this I do not mean to imply that our character is at fault for the loss of this election, but until this question is seriously considered, we can look forward to defeat again in 2008.
 


Next among our tasks is to demand a change of leadership within the Democratic National Committee. While Mr. McAuliffe may well be the world's nicest guy, two elections lost (arguably, one) under his helm to a candidate so poor as Mr. Bush is a damning indictment, and does not inspire confidence for 2008. He should step down soon, or be forced to resign. Any reader who feels the same should contact the DNC at www.democrats.org/contact/. As for his successor, we must demand someone who would continue our momentum, and personify our energy. My vote would be for Mr. Dean.
 


With new leadership, we then should simplify our message, and do it soon. Besides "Bush Is Bad", a valid message to be sure, what really was our message this election? What messages were there that voters could regurgitate without thinking, in the manner they could the Republican themes of "fight terrorism", "tax relief", and "moral values"?
 


Crafting a new Democratic message requires that we ease up from being so intellectual about everything, and distill our message down to three simple themes, for example: Fairness (in taxation, in education, in civil rights, and so on), Universal Health Care, and Protecting The Environment. We're not really as divided as we're led to believe. The majority of Americans agree with the importance of these plain, unsophisticated themes. We need to hit these themes fast, and hit them hard, so that as each realm inevitably suffers over the next four years, or even over the next two ahead of the mid-term elections, voters can reflect and say: "Yes, you were right. You were right all along."
 


Finally, our faith is an unnecessary mystery to most voters. It ought not to be. We need to take our spirituality out once in a while, and wear it on our sleeves. It's really ok to do this, provided we take care not to leave it out there so long and so far away from the heart that it withers away or becomes something false. It says something that the most successful Democrat over the past twenty-five years, Bill Clinton, speaks with tones of spirituality, and that people of all faiths and colors respond. Mr. Obama appears destined for political greatness in part for also infusing spirituality into his words.
 


"Heartland" voters tend to see Democrats as amoral heathens, or, at the least, spiritually-impoverished, out solely to defend homosexuality and abortion. We can do better to articulate how our social conscience is consistent with and often learned from the teachings of the world's great religions. We need to do better at explaining how religion exhorts us not to promote divisiveness and intolerance, but to seek equality and justice. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this, and to some extent so did LBJ and FDR.
 


The Democratic Party is in desperate need of an "Extreme Makeover", which is why Senator Clinton should not be groomed as our candidate for 2008. Bright, articulate, passionate - yes, all these things - but she represents the centrist-right policies and politics of the past three election cycles that have failed us, and, for that matter, have not even truly represented us.
 


Ms. Clinton is as polarizing a figure as Mr. Bush, and not one "red" state will change color to "blue" for her. In order to avoid defeat again in 2006 and 2008, we must seek and groom candidates who can speak loudly and without apology of theirs and our spiritually-soaked social and environmental conscience. Voters must draw a clear distinction between the deeds and words of our candidates, and the deedless words of faith spoken by many leaders within the Republican party, though not by the majority of Republicans themselves.
 


It's time to get back to work.
 


Todd Huffman, M.D.

Pediatrician, Writer, & Social Activist

Eugene, Oregon