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Voters Reject Republican Candidates as New “Autopsy” Report Finds the Democratic Party in Crisis

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As voters on Tuesday turned against the Republican Party one year after Donald Trump was elected president, a new report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis,” examines the role of Democratic Party loyalists in the party’s 2016 defeat. We look at the outcomes from election night and speak with the report’s co-author, Norman Solomon.

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We turn now to the outcome of Tuesday’s elections around the United States, where Democrats made big gains as voters turned against the Republican Party one year after Donald Trump was elected president. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy defeated Kim Guadagno in the race to replace the deeply unpopular Republican Governor Chris Christie. In Virginia, Democrat Ralph Northam defeated Republican Ed Gillespie in a gubernatorial race that was widely seen as a referendum on President Trump’s policies. Northam addressed his supporters Tuesday night.

GOV.-ELECT RALPH NORTHAM: We are back by popular demand. Virginia, we have witnessed yet another Democratic sweep today. … You know, it was said that the eyes of the nation are now on the commonwealth. Today, Virginians have answered and have spoken. Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry, and to end the politics that have torn this country apart.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: In response to the defeat of Republicans, Trump tweeted, quote, “Ed Gillespie worked hard but did not embrace me or what I stand for.” Northam’s acceptance speech was briefly interrupted by immigration rights activists, who protested Northam’s pledge to sign a ban on sanctuary cities as governor. The protest prompted a security official to rush Northam off the stage.

In Maine, voters approved an expansion of Medicaid for low-income adults, defying Republican Governor Paul LePage and lending support to the Affordable Care Act. In Ohio, voters rejected a measure that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to reduce the price of prescription drugs, after Big Pharma outspent its opponents by a three-to-one margin. In Washington state, Democrats have flipped the state Senate and will take control of the entire Washington state government.

AMY GOODMAN: Here in New York, voters rejected a convention to rewrite the state’s constitution. And in New York City, incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio won a second term in office in a landslide election.

In Philadelphia, civil rights attorney Larry Krasner has been elected district attorney. Krasner, a longtime opponent of capital punishment who opposes police stop-and-frisk policies, has represented protesters with Black Lives Matter, ACT UP, Occupy Philadelphia and other progressive groups. This is Krasner at his victory party on Tuesday night.

DISTRICT ATTORNEY-ELECT LARRY KRASNER: This is a mandate for a movement that is loudly telling government what it wants. And what it wants is criminal justice reform in ways that require transformational change within the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office. … This is a movement that says we are not just voters, we are the bosses, who pay the taxes that fund the salaries of the city workers. And we have every right to expect that we will get what we just told you we want, which is transformational change in criminal justice and in this District Attorney’s Office.

AMY GOODMAN: The Minneapolis City Council made history Tuesday night as voters elected the city’s first transgender councilmember, making Andrea Jenkins the first transgender woman of color elected to public office in the nation. And in Virginia’s Prince William County, Democrat journalist Danica Roem is set to become the nation’s first openly transgender state lawmaker, after she was elected to represent the 13th District of Virginia’s House of Delegates. This is Roem speaking with a reporter after she won.

DELEGATE-ELECT DANICA ROEM: On the trans part there, yeah, I am a transgender woman. We won because I am a transgender woman, because I am a reporter, because I am a lifelong resident of Manassas, because of my inherent identifiers, not despite them. I never ran away from them. I champion them. And because of that, yeah, Prince William County is now more inclusive than it was before this election.

AMY GOODMAN: With her victory, Danica Roem will unseat 73-year-old 13-term incumbent Republican Bob Marshall, who’s repeatedly called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Marshall authored an unsuccessful “bathroom bill” that would have prohibited transgender people from using public restrooms matching their gender identity.

For more, we’re joined by Norman Solomon, co-author of the new report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” He is co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org, author of many books, including War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.

Before we talk about your report, Norm, let’s talk about the elections that just took place. Do you see this as a referendum on Donald Trump?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Well, certainly he’s back on his heels, and it’s always good when the proponents of bigotry and racism and xenophobia are defeated. So, in that sense, certainly, we had a good night last night. And yet, a very steep climb ahead, with so much power vested in the right-wing corporate America and the military throughout government agencies and the federal government, as well as most state governments.

AMY GOODMAN: Juan, you’ve been closely following these elections all over the country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, some—I think some of the interesting things—and, Norm, you may agree on this. First of all, in the—the Washington state result, where now Democrats are in control of both houses as well as the governor’s chair, means that the entire West Coast of the United States—Washington state, Oregon and California—are all probably the bluest sections of the country, in that they all have Democratic governors and Democratic legislatures. And also, in New York City, apparently, not just Bill de Blasio’s 40-point victory in the city, but also in the suburbs, Westchester County and Nassau County, both now have Democratic county executives where they previously had Republican ones. So it seems to be that some of the blue areas of the country are becoming even bluer, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the country necessarily is shifting that much. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on that.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Right. Well, what happened in Washington state means that now seven states, out of 50, have total Democratic Party control over the governorship and the legislatures. But at the same time, we have fully half of the states—so we’re talking 25, 26—where Republicans control every branch of government. And I think that’s an indicator of just how many gains have been made by an extremist right-wing party, which Noam Chomsky correctly calls the most dangerous criminal organization in the history of the world. That’s where we are right now.

And unfortunately, the Democratic Party has not been able to put together the mobilization of the base in a way that can counteract that kind of very vile corporate, militarist force that we have. As a matter of fact, we have a situation where in the last nine years—and this is particularly important because it spanned the entire Obama administration—there were 1,000 state legislative seats lost by Democrats to Republicans. And that tells us something about the overall effect of the corporate policies that have been pursued from the top of the Democratic Party.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Norm, let’s get into your book, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” What are some of the key issues that you raise in that book?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yes, well, this special report, which we had a task force assigned for several months to work on, I co-coordinated with Karen Bernal, who’s the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. And our findings were particularly, I think, striking, in that last year the Democratic Party, in the general election campaign, pursued priorities and policies that have remained in place to this moment.

And most strikingly, perhaps, it’s to disrespect and defund approaches and outreach towards the base—young people, people of color and the working class overall. And rather than put the messaging, the policy, their priorities, the funding and outreach, the advertising towards that base, which is the future of the party and the future, I might say, of human progress, in terms of decency, human rights, environmental protection and peace, the top of the Democratic Party, last year and this, has continued to fund enormously expensive pursuit of what are called the persuadables—Republican, often suburban, voters who voted for Romney in 2012. And according to the Clinton mythology last year, and continuing from the Democratic National Committee, somehow they’re going to be dissuaded from voting for the Republican Party now. And that is a dead-end, a very dangerous one. And it’s actually a major reason why we have Donald Trump in the White House today.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the issues that was raised across the country, that their top issue was healthcare. And something unusual happened in Maine, voters approving an expansion of Medicaid for low-income adults, defying the Republican governor, Paul LePage—an early supporter of Donald Trump—also lending support to the Affordable Care Act. But, Norm, this whole issue of healthcare, of single-payer healthcare, of Obamacare, and how significant it is?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yeah, it’s crucial, and it goes to the underlying, broad question of: Who is the government to serve? Will it serve Wall Street or Main Street? And the mythology that keeps being propagated by so many pundits and the top of the Democratic Party is that the party needs to “move to the center,” quote-unquote, which is code for saying that Wall Street and the big donors should determine policy, which very much means—and you have people who were in the Democratic Party leadership, like Dick Gephardt, who have been spending years preventing single payer, to the best of their ability, from even getting on the top of the congressional agenda.

And I think this goes to the question of: What does it mean to have progressive populism? And if we’re going to have a meaningful social change movement that can exercise great muscle inside and outside the electoral arena, then we need to redefine what it means to have progressive politics. You know, there are many people in the Democratic Party, officials, who call themselves progressive. But there’s an insurance company that calls itself Progressive. That doesn’t mean much of anything.

And what we need today, I think—and I’m very happy that the “Autopsy” report has been getting such a strong response, including a cover story in the current issue of The Nation magazine—what we need now is a conscious effort, with the Tuesday elections behind us, to transform the Democratic Party, to do that from the bottom up. I was just watching on MSNBC this morning Donna Brazile, the former interim chair of the DNC, with, of course, her now blockbuster book out, telling the national audience—she said, quote, “I like what Tom Perez is doing,” unquote, referring to the chair of the DNC. Well, progressives should not like what Tom Perez is doing. He engineered the purge of more progressives out of the DNC apparatus in a meeting in Las Vegas, a national meeting, a couple of weeks ago. There’s a conscious effort to maintain the corporate control over the power.

We can stop that. I think an uprising and a groundswell can transform this party to achieve the two goals that are spelled out in our “autopsy.” And by the way, anybody can download it—it’s not copyrighted; make any use of it you want—at DemocraticAutopsy.org. The first goal is to fight the right—the xenophobes, the racists, the misogynists, the Trump Republican Party. We’ve got to roll them back. We’ve got to defeat them. And the other goal is to advance progressive agendas. And we’re told constantly by the mass media that those are in contradiction: “You’ve got to moderate your message in order to defeat the Republicans.” On the contrary, we’ve seen what happens when you send across a Wall Street moderate message, a conciliatory so-called centrist message. We saw what happened to Hillary Clinton when she tried to do that. We’ve got Trump in the White House as a result.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Norm, I wanted to ask you—you mentioned Donna Brazile and her recent statements about the unethical agreements that were made between the DNC and the Hillary Clinton campaign. Of course, Donna Brazile is a mainstream—a centrist Democrat, and yet she’s suddenly now diming out her own DNC. Could you talk about that and your reaction to it?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yes. Well, what we have with this whole kerfuffle, this major uproar about Donna Brazile’s book and so forth, is a falling out among corporate Democrats. Some of it’s personality. Some of it is, OK, since Clinton lost the presidential race, then there needs to be some second-guessing, that’s almost inevitable.

I should say that three days before her explosive exposé, excerpt from her book, appeared in Politico, from Brazile’s book, we issued our “autopsy.” And one of the sections is titled “Democracy and the Party.” It was written by a member of the “Autopsy” task force, Pia Gallegos, who is a civil rights attorney based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And we spelled out the gist. I mean the loss, the suffering from—of democracy, the wounds to democracy of a thousand cuts that have continued to be implemented by the Democratic National Committee. And in writing that section, Pia really detailed the way in which the Hillary Victory Fund and the really reprehensible shenanigans with the financial agreements were implemented. So, we were glad to have that in the “autopsy.”

Three days later, with some details, some gory details, about those deaths of a thousand cuts of democracy in terms of funding, came out from Donna Brazile. But what does it all boil down to? It’s a falling out among people who are basically on the same agenda, the same corporate page, to have Wall Street—you know, it’s like serving two masters, but the real master is Wall Street, and then their appeals to the base voters when election time comes around. So I would just sum up and say, yes, Donna Brazile provided some useful information; no, she’s really not an ally of progressives.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s go to Donna Brazile speaking on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos to respond to the criticisms she made in her book, Hacks.

DONNA BRAZILE: I wasn’t a staff person. I did not work for the Hillary Clinton campaign. I was not on their daily strategy calls. I had nothing to do with their data analytics. I was the chair of the Democratic National Committee. I was concerned about the entire party, not just the presidential, but the senatorial, congressional and all of the other candidates.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: From the sound of it, it sounds like you had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with the high command in Hillary’s campaign. You even talk about telling them at some point, “I’m not Patsy the slave”?

DONNA BRAZILE: Oh, George, let me tell you something. I could not control the—the purse string of the Democratic Party. And I had to figure out what the—what was going on within the party that the chair of the party—and remember, I wasn’t just the chair, I’m also a vice chair. I was an officer for eight years, eight years under President Obama. I knew what was going on within the party.

I become chair, and I’m trying to write a check for something. I raised the the money, and they’re like, “You’ve got to get the sign-off from Brooklyn.” I said, “Brooklyn?” This wasn’t a standard joint fundraising agreement. They had a separate memorandum of understanding. And I needed to break that, but in order to break it, I would cause a great commotion.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren speaking to Jake Tapper on CNN, who made a plea to the current DNC chair, Tom Perez.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: This is a test for Tom Perez. And either he’s going to succeed, by bringing Bernie Sanders and Bernie Sanders’ representatives into this process, and they’re going to say, “It’s fair, it works, we all believe it,” or he’s going to fail. And I very much hope he succeeds. I hope for Democrats everywhere, I hope for Bernie and for all of Bernie’s supporters, that he’s going to succeed.

JAKE TAPPER: Very quickly, Senator, do you agree with the notion that it was rigged?

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Elizabeth Warren saying that the election, the Democratic part of it, was rigged. So, Norman Solomon, your report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis,” along with this book, extremely significant, but now, with the Democratic victories around the country, how will you push it forward?

NORMAN SOLOMON: We’re going to push it forward by launching a national campaign tomorrow through RootsAction.org, which has now 1.3 million active people online, most of them living in either congressional districts and/or states, for that matter, with a Democrat in the Senate or the House representing them. So, we’re going to be urging, starting tomorrow, those 1 million-plus people to email or otherwise contact their Democrats in Congress to urge that they read fully this “autopsy” and then get back to the constituent, so we can get a dialogue and a public discussion going. We’re going to do that for the House starting tomorrow. We’re going to do that for the Senate next week.

Already, the organization Progressive Democrats of America has endorsed the “autopsy.” They’re going to reach out to their membership likewise. Now that the elections are over from yesterday, we’re reaching out to many other groups, who were preoccupied with Virginia. And also we’re going to be going to literally thousands and thousands of legislative people around the country, people holding state legislative seats who are Democrats, likewise to say, “Here’s the report. You can read it. Let’s talk about it.”

So, this is an “autopsy” not to just be a report, but to be a catalyst and a tool and a nonviolent weapon, if you will, to help organize to transform the Democratic Party, because, as Elizabeth Warren, I think, was alluding to, this is a test for the leadership, among other things, of the Democratic National Committee. And frankly, so far, it has not passed the test. It continues to flunk.

Karen Bernal from the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party and I had a meeting at the DNC headquarters last Thursday afternoon—by coincidence, just after Brazile’s Politico exposé had been published. And we met with Will Hailer, who is a senior adviser to Tom Perez. And Karen sent him a letter afterwards with six specific questions to Chairman Perez, very pointed questions, gave him politely 'til Thanksgiving to answer those questions about whether he's serious about democratizing and having an even-handed DNC and Democratic Party. And we’re going to up the ante if he does not respond appropriately.

AMY GOODMAN: [Keith Ellison] is the deputy head of the Democratic National Committee. Do you feel that Keith Ellison makes a difference? Though he lost to Perez, he is really his deputy now at the DNC.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Yes. Well, and Will Hailer, who we met with, came in with Ellison, a longtime Ellison aide before that. Frankly, just between you and me, Keith Ellison is boxed at the DNC. As you noted, he lost. He ran a good race to be chair. He lost to Perez. And he couldn’t say no when he was invited to be a deputy. But it brought him inside the tent. And that put some limits on him in terms of being able to strongly critique what the DNC is doing.

It’s illustrative that after the Brazile stuff broke last week, you had Tom Perez issue just a double-talk statement, basically doubling down and justifying the unjustifiable, this sweetheart financial deal between the Clinton campaign and the DNC. And at the same time, Perez said he was going to be even-handed. Well, in federal court, two months after Perez became chair, a lawyer for the DNC said that the DNC has a legal right, despite its charter requirement to be even-handed during the nomination process—asserted that the DNC has a legal right, if it wanted to, to choose the nominee in a smoke-filled back room. That was under Perez’s chairmanship, chairpersonship.

So, we’ve got Ellison in a particular role. He’s doing the best he can. But it’s the grassroots that has to do pressure. It’s the grassroots that has to organize effectively. And I would say to people who dismiss the Democratic Party: How are you going to defeat the Republicans next year? How are you going to prevent there being a Republican speaker or a Republican majority leader? The only way to do that, the only feet-on-the-ground, eyes-on-the-horizon way to do that is to organize effectively and, in the best sense of the term, progressives take over the Democratic Party.

AMY GOODMAN: Norman Solomon, co-author of the new report, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis,” co-founder of the online activist group RootsAction.org.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, more explosive revelations from the Paradise Papers. Stay with us.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Mirror Monster,” here, performed by Deerhoof, performed in our Democracy Now! studios. To see the full performance and interview, go to democracynow.org.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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