Who Will Lead Democrats Out of the Darkness?
With support, these progressive leaders can turn the political tables.
Published on November 15, 2016

Many of you are all still hurting from the results of Tuesday’s election. We are going to be hurting for a long time. Social media this past week has been filled with posts grasping at possible solutions for the unexpected implosion of the Democratic Party at every level last Tuesday. It is time to emerge from our mournful stupor and look at some hard truths. The electoral college will not change in a Republican-controlled government. Merrick Garland is not going to be on the Supreme Court. The popular vote doesn’t matter. We. Fucking. Lost.

We lost last Tuesday and now we need to think about winning in 2018, when senate seats will be up for grabs. The good news is that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, ushered into the national spotlight by Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign, is poised to take control of the party leadership. Shortly after Trump’s victory, a petition was circulated to make Progressive Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) the head of the DNC. This petition gathered over a half million signatures. Senators Chuck Schumer and Harry Reid have endorsed him. It looks like the job is his.

A change in the Democratic Party will only happen from the ground up. Once Democrats who think differently are in power, we will have hope of making real change. Let’s take a look at a few politicians for you to look out for, support, and lobby for in leadership positions going forward. Follow them on Twitter and look for the up-and-coming politicians they back. It is going to be a long, hard battle, and these are the people who are going to lead it.


Keith Ellison, Congressman (D-MN)

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison saw this coming. In July of 2015, he made the talk show rounds and insisted that Trump should be taken seriously and that he could win the presidency. He was literally laughed at. Beyond that, Keith Ellison has the experience and perspective to lead, and is passionate about the issues that will win back the government. Ellison is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. This group, which consists of one United States Senator and 75 members of the United States House of Representatives, operates under four guiding principles called the Progressive Promise:

1. Fighting for economic justice and security for all;
2. Protecting and preserving our civil rights and civil liberties;
3. Promoting global peace and security; and
4. Advancing environmental protection and energy independence

You did not hear a lot about economic justice on the campaign trail. Civil liberty violations like those experienced by Black Lives Matter protesters were often dismissed. The idea of global peace was looked at as foolish; there was no serious anti-war candidate in the race. Judging by the mealy-mouthed statements on the Dakota Access Pipeline from leading Democrats, there was no serious commitment to energy independence either.

These issues are winners. Keith Ellison is a winner. Support Keith Ellison for DNC Chair.


Elizabeth Warren, Senator (D-MA)

It was no surprise that the next major speech from Democrats after Hillary’s heartbreaking concession came from Senator Elizabeth Warren. Warren’s crusade against the big banks has been one of the few real stands taken by Senate Democrats in two years marked by concession after concession and capitulation after capitulation. Just the fact that Warren gave the speech anointing herself as a Democratic standard bearer at a union shows that her head is in the right place. Working-class labor support was the missing piece of Obama’s coalition that lost the Democrats the election. They had no reason to turn out because they were offered nothing on the campaign trail.

During her speech, she addressed Trump’s bigotry, as any serious progressive must do. She also addressed the Democrats failure to provide any incentive to working class people. “The American people want Washington to change,” she said. Working families across this country are deeply frustrated about an economy and a government that doesn’t work for them. Exit polling on Tuesday found that 72 percent of voters believe “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and the powerful. That’s 72 percent of all voters … Voters are angry about a Federal Government that works for the rich and powerful and leaves everyone else behind.”

She continued: “The truth is that people have a right to be angry. Angry that wages have been stagnant for a generation while basic costs, like housing and healthcare and childcare, have skyrocketed. Angry that our political system is awash in barely legalized campaign bribery. Angry that Washington eagerly protects tax breaks for millionaires while it refuses to raise the minimum wage or help millions of Americans who are struggling with students loans….”

People are angry. And it’s nice to see that Elizabeth Warren is angry too.


Bernie Sanders, Senator (I-VT)

I don’t need to tell you who Bernie Sanders is. He ran the most exciting, compelling insurgent campaign in recent democratic memory. It is too late to litigate whether or not Senator Sanders would have won the general election, and it doesn’t matter. Frankly, speculating at this point is a waste of time that will alienate the people who fought so hard for Hillary and felt her loss most deeply. What is true is that given the returns on Tuesday, it is clear that Bernie’s policies are the way forward. This will only become more true in coming years. If you look at recent geopolitical history, you will see that the only way to fight fascism is to organize the underclass. You can call this socialism. You can call this populism. You can call this progressivism. But, whatever you call it, it is the reality. The quaint kindness and compromise of neoliberalism will have no place in the new political landscape.

Sanders went on CBS This Morning on Monday to lay out his agenda. He said, “What Trump did very effective is tap the angst, the anger, the hurt, and the pain that many people are feeling … I come from the white working class and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to where I came from.”

The Democratic coalition that wins in 2018 will be people of color, young people, working class people, and urban progressives. It turns out that middle-aged, middle class suburbanites do not care about any of those groups as long as they are comfortable. Suburban Philadelphia (a.k.a. the Main Line) was supposed to win Hillary the White House. It screwed us. Chuck Schumer said: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

They. Were. Fucking. Wrong. They proved it last Tuesday. They fooled us. We will only win in 2018 if we are not fooled again. If we do not turn out this coalition, we will keep losing.

Brenden Gallagher
Brenden Gallagher works in television and writing in Los Angeles. He worked on Revenge, Heartbeat, and Famous in Love. His writing has appeared at Complex, VH1, and MERRY JANE. Follow him on Twitter @muddycreekU
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