Friday, July 1, 2016

Party Unity Means Persuasion Possible

In the media lately there’s been much talk of “party unity” when discussing support for the presumptive nominees of both parties. While I had worked for and contributed to Bernie’s campaign and had real hope he could pull off an upset we can now see it was not to be. I hope my fellow Bernie supporters, especially those of the “Bernie or Bust” mindset, will take heed of what I have to say.

First you must understand that although the national party apparatus didn’t help Bernie get his message out and various establishment members did put their fingers on the scale to assist Hillary Clinton it’s clear now she didn’t need it, she won resoundingly. She is the choice of the majority of Democrats. I won’t belabor the discussion with statistics other than to say she won millions more votes and won them in the most democratically run primaries, meaning elections not caucuses. We don’t have to like it, we just have to make the best of it.

Now here’s why it should matter to you that Hillary becomes our next president instead of the reality show blow hard. To explain I’m going to tell you a little story about how our then congressman Henry Cuellar came to support the Affordable Care Act back in 2010. Cuellar, who is the only Democrat endorsed by the right wing, anti-tax group called Club for Growth, was unwilling to commit to voting for the bill. I and others called his offices repeatedly that winter and spring urging him to come out in support of the bill. When he continued to keep his distance we organized rallies in Schertz and Seguin and met with his local staff several times hoping to up the pressure. We wrote him letters and emails, we wrote letters to the editor. We made such a nuisance of ourselves that we heard through back channels that he was asking his contacts what was going in Guadalupe County since we’d never made a ruckus before.

Late one evening a couple of days before the vote was to take place I received a phone call from a member of his Washington, D.C. staff asking if I could manage to get some Affordable Care Act supporters to attend an event in Laredo the next day at which he was speaking and would likely commit to vote for the bill and he knew there would be opponents present. Since I was working with a nationwide group and had the phone number for an organizer with a wider range of contacts I called her and she agreed to make some calls. When Cuellar spoke the next day there were roughly equal numbers of supporters and opponents and he committed to vote in favor of the bill.

In an effort to persuade Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn to support the bill knowing that it would improve the lives of nearly one million Texans we held many more events with many more people in attendance. We held petition drives and delivered the petitions to their local offices. We organized phone calls to their offices from Texans from all over the state. Even with all that effort neither of them ever showed the slightest inclination to support the bill.

If you haven’t figured out my point yet, I’ll make it crystal clear. It is better to elect a wavering Democrat who can be pushed to move in our direction than to allow a Republican of any sort to hold office as we won’t have any persuasion power over them at all.

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