How I Would Rebrand the Democratic Party

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Credit: Illustration by Phil Wigglesworth

American two-party politics has become a fight for the soul of the country in a way that is, like much of 2017, no longer remotely subtle.

One side is for white patriarchal supremacy, either overtly or through complicit silence: benefiting straight white men with power, opportunities and space in public life to the exclusion of all others.

The other side is for literally everyone else. And in rebranding, Democrats could take a page from the Twitter user who, after white supremacists marched with torches in Charlottesville, juxtaposed an image of them with an image of the Statue of Liberty. The caption: "Pick a torch."

We're in a battle for the viability of multicultural democracy, and it's time for Democrats to be clear about that in the way we talk about the historic nature of this fight.

It's how we'll get the big tent we need, filled with people who are united in prioritizing this fight over all others—because if we lose this battle, the specifics of health care policies or climate change stances will not matter one bit.

Losing the House, governorships and state legislatures in 2018 will mean we're in a poor position to re-draw gerrymandered district lines in 2020 and fight against racist voter suppression tactics that make it ever-harder for Democrats to win elections in the first place.

Being clear about the moment is important. But to make the Democratic brand succeed, we also need to do one other thing we didn't do successfully enough in 2016: Make the Democratic Party a true movement again, with millions of brand representatives—not just a handful. Or, Lord help us, just one messiah figure everyone's supposed to get behind as the one true representative of what the party stands for.

The problem with messiah figures is that they can be brought down to earth, leaving you with nothing (sorry, John Edwards supporters). They can hijack your party and set it on fire (Donald Trump). They can run into term limits (Barack Obama).

So, who should be the face of the Democratic Party instead? The 66 million people who voted to stop Trump in 2016, plus millions more.

We can embrace the grassroots movement brand and model of organization that helped Obama win over millions in 2008 explicitly because it made people feel like they were, as volunteers and supporters, an equal and important part of something larger than themselves.

That means doing more to conduct the Democratic Party as a chance for people to connect with others in their community and figure out how to best fight fascism in their own towns. If 2008 was the "Movement for Change," maybe 2018 will be the Movement for Freedom.

They're called grassroots movements because they grow from the bottom up, and Democrats have only won in recent years when we've been incredibly explicit and consistent about that in both our tactics and our messaging. The next great Democratic brand is what Democrats make of it. That's up to you. Don't like what your local group is doing? Join it and change it. Pick a torch.

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