From the outside looking in, Mount Vernon can look like a political circus, one for which no one is willing to purchase a ticket, except the local media. The political bickering surrounding Mount Vernon these days seems to cast a dark shadow over our city, concealing who we truly are. We are a city of mostly Democrats with over 95 different nationalities living together as one big family; and like all families, we to have our fair share of disagreements. However, no disagreement should ever be allowed to destroy a family because what we disagree on is never as important as what binds us together.
At last Thursday’s Democratic committee meeting, I watched a room filled with Democrats old and new, crafting exciting ideas for the betterment of our city. All eyes and ears were on our Chairman as he spoke about what it means to be a district leader in our community and the importance of having a united front. I’ve never felt the electricity in the air like I did that night although a few people mentioned the good old days with David Ford. While conversations can spark differences of opinion, they are vitally important to have nonetheless. The power to change our circumstances emanates from our ability to remove the cloak of silence that prevents our issues from being discussed, both internally and in broader society. Democrats give voice to those whose voices are drowned out and ignored; so it is only natural that Democrats debate and disagree sometimes. When we express our disagreements, it only exercises our rhetorical muscles, helping us become stronger and more powerful behind our collective voice.
As Democrats, these conversations uncover the differences between one another while opening our eyes to realize that we have much more in common than not. It is from this platform of commonality and possibility that we must learn to work together to empower ourselves instead of operating from our differences. Doing that only makes it impossible to find common ground because in order for someone to be right, someone has to be made wrong, leaving him or her powerless. That weakens our overall movement. But, when we choose to operate from a shared vision and common goals, people feel validated, respected and empowered, which strengthens our Democratic Party.
As with any human endeavor, opinions on how we get somewhere will vary dramatically, even when we share the same destination. Rather than stifling opinions, we need to embrace different ideas to foster a more robust plan and vision. The Democratic Party is the party of inclusion and our strength lies in our diversity of membership, backgrounds, experience and powerful ideas. As society evolves we must encourage the wellspring of new ideas and perspectives even more now than ever before. As Democrats, we must continue to welcome new entrants into our tent to expand our vision, numbers and leverage their new inspiring energy and interest.
There is a vibrant and vital Democratic message today because of the battles that have been fought long before many of us have shown up on the scene. The battles before us weren’t easy and there’s wisdom in those battle scars. We would be remiss if we did not appreciate and put that wisdom to good use. We have all seen the results when youthful energy is misdirected creating a chaotic and destructive environment. We have also seen the results when those new voices are ignored in favor of tried-and-true methods that worked decades ago.
Those “tried-and-true” methods failed us in the last national election. We’re living through a Presidency right now that succeeded because our focus was not on the message, but instead on the messenger. We attempted to anoint a successor instead of putting forth a leader, one who truly shared our vision. We’ve learned a lot in these last two years, and meetings like the one we had the other day are proof of that. It’s exciting again to be a Democrat.
The powerful conversations that night also demonstrated something that many didn’t realize before: the power to effect change is already in our hands. Together, we have the numbers, the message, and the ability to build up a new vision of America. The Democrats of today understand that this nation was built on a desire for change, even uncomfortable change, with the goal of making it a haven for people of all race, color, creed and religions. That is really what makes America great!
If productive change is what we seek, then change is what we can deliver. When Democrats see institutions, they see organic, changeable things that should adapt to include those who have been excluded. When Democrats see prosperity, they see a growing divide that is leaving too many behind. Inspiring words are not enough these days. We need feet on the ground. People who want to be included and who want to prosper must be empowered to do so. Policies, priorities and procedures need to change if that is to happen. Leadership needs to change if that is to happen.
However, none of that can happen if we stay home on Election Day. None of that change can occur if we let disagreements between ourselves create excuses for not showing up at the ballot box. Importantly, none of that will happen if we become the divided party we are accused of being by the other side. It has never been more important to fly your flag as a Democrat and to encourage your neighbors to do the same. Change, just like a victory in an election, begins with one person, one vote, and their desire to make a difference by showing up to be counted. There’s an old saying in American politics, one that we should not forget next week on Election Day: “When Democrats vote, Democrats win.” Let’s go win!
If you have thoughts or comments about this issue or any other, reach out to me at [email protected]