Setting the Tone and Turning the Page

Setting the Tone and Turning the Page

By Tharon Johnson –

Going into the Democratic National Convention, one thing has become increasingly obvious – Georgia is in play, and the national party knows it. Circumstances have lined up perfectly to make our state a battleground in the presidential election this year. Demographics have shifted in Democrats’ favor, Donald Trump has alienated a significant portion of the Republican conservative base, and predictors have already begun moving Georgia from the “solid Republican” category to “leans Republican” or even “toss-up.”

The national party has acknowledged that by making some of the Georgia state party’s brightest rising stars – Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and former State Senator and candidate for governor Jason Carter – speakers at the convention. These three individuals represent a very diverse group with strong Democratic ties to Georgia and a willingness to fight for Democratic ideals, despite the nearly insurmountable opposition presented by full Republican control of our state. It is encouraging to see that their hard work is being acknowledged on the national stage.

So we can expect some focus on Georgia at the convention, but what else can we expect? In contrast to the pessimistic egotism at the Republican Convention, the focus of the Democratic Convention will be on issues and solutions. One need only look at the themes of the convention (United Together, A Lifetime of Fighting for Children and Families, Working Together, and Stronger Together) to see that the goal is to highlight the things that make our country great and how those things can be made better, rather than frightening attendees with the vision of a country on the brink of collapse which can only be saved by a single man.

Additionally, party unity will no doubt be a recurring theme, which should come as no surprise given the lengthy primary battle between Secretary Clinton and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. Even with Sanders’ endorsement, there have still been some resentful feelings coming out of both camps, which will no doubt be exacerbated in the short term by the recent release of the Democratic National Committee e-mails maligning Sanders and his campaign. The content of many of these e-mails was categorically unacceptable. There was no reason to suggest calling Sanders’ faith into question, there was no reason to malign his supporters as “Bernie bros,” and most importantly, there was no reason to behave in a way that gave Clinton any unfair advantage. While I know that she won the primary based on the strength of her experience and clarity of her vision, these e-mails will taint her victory for the time being.

However, it is important to not lose sight of the bigger picture. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz has made the admirable decision to resign as chairwoman of the DNC, a role she dedicated herself to for five years, for the good of the party. Regardless of any mistakes that may have been made along the way, she worked hard every day to ensure the continued success of the Democratic Party and must be commended for that. In addition, Sanders remains committed to helping Clinton win the White House in November. When he gives his speech later today, he will have a unique opportunity to bring a sense of calm and unity that would help ease tensions.  U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has a similar opportunity this week, in that she has a strong progressive message which will resonate with not only women and fellow Democrats, but the entire country.

The party must work together to overcome the hate and fear-mongering which was unleashed in the Republican primary and highlighted at their convention. If the Democratic Party splits along illusory ideological lines or because of a few party officials who made unfortunate mistakes, then we risk losing the general election in November. We risk alienating our allies abroad. We risk going back to a time in America when equality was a distant dream. That cannot happen.

Fortunately, Democrats see that and have already brought together both the Sanders and Clinton wings of the party to create the Unity Compromise this weekend, a compromise which will significantly reduce the power of superdelegates as soon as the 2020 election, a major goal for Sanders and his supporters. This compromise gets the convention off on the right foot, and if that much can be accomplished before the convention even starts, then I am very optimistic about what else will be achieved by working together.