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‘This fight is not over’

Oct 23,2017 - Last updated at Oct 23,2017

Having come through a difficult 2016 primary campaign and a hotly contested 2017 race for party chair, what Democrats desperately need is to unify their ranks to confront the challenges they will face in the 2018 mid-term elections and beyond.

What happened over the last three days of Democratic National Committee (DNC) meetings not only failed to contribute to unity, it added to our division.

It has not been an easy three days.

There were a few personal setbacks. The new chair removed me and a few other colleagues from the party’s executive committee.

What we all had in common was that, earlier this year, we had been supporters of the losing candidate in the contest for chair. To make matters worse, someone started an ugly rumour that attempted to implicate me and two of my close associates from the Sanders’ campaign in an effort to challenge the presence of three prominent African American women who had just been nominated to serve on the Democratic National Committee.

Both the removals and the rumours were not only wrong and hurtful, they were political blunders in that they deepened divisions and became negative news stories that cast a pall over the proceedings.

The removals were referred to as a “purge”.  And even though the rumours, which had been cast as a fight between Sanders and Clinton loyalists, were debunked, they still left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

Despite the upbeat tone of the speeches delivered by party leaders at public sessions, the reality is that Democrats face serious problems.

Over the past nine years we lost over 1,000 state legislative seats, 12 governorships, and nine seats in the Senate and 62 in the House, resulting in our loss of control of both Houses of Congress.

To recover from this disastrous decade of defeat, Democrats will need both a clear-headed, honest assessment of the reasons for these losses and all hands on deck.

In all the years I worked on controversial and contentious issues, I learned that dialogue and compromise are essential ingredients for unity and progress.

As a first step to secure this needed unity, Democrats must make a determined effort to engage supporters of both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Dismissing or ignoring this imperative can be fatal.

The two camps are real and the wounds left from the 2016 contest are still open sores.

The charge made by Clinton during her recent book tour that Sanders cost her the election only served to fan the fires of division. 

And the hostility in evidence on social media is pouring gasoline on these fires.

Neither side will eliminate the other. Both must find a way to engage in civil discourse and work towards finding common purpose.

This is why I was delighted to accept Sanders’ invitation to become part of his team working with Clinton’s team on the Democratic Party’s Unity and Reform Commission (URC).

And this was why I was pleased to pass a resolution at this DNC meeting calling on all sides to engage in civil discourse.

Our goals at the URC are to work for reform in the presidential selection process and party operations.

We sought to make both the electoral process and the party more inclusive, transparent, accountable and democratic. 

We believe that if we can find consensus on these reforms, we can help make the party stronger, more unified and ultimately better positioned to win.

Given this ongoing effort to unify, the decision to remove some of us from our posts and to then spread false rumours designed to drive a deep wedge between Sanders and Clinton supporters can only be seen as a distasteful and disappointingly shortsighted.

On a personal note, of course I am upset to have been removed from the executive committee and the chairmanship of the party’s resolution committee. I have been on the former for 17 years and the latter for 12. But I retain my seat on the Democratic National Committee, where I have been a member for 26 years. And I am still a member of the resolutions committee and the URC.

I will not walk away from the challenges we now face, for two reasons. First, and foremost, I cannot leave because it is too important that we win this fight.

Jesse Jackson once told me: “Don’t ever quit, that’s what they want you to do. If the fight is worth having, then stick around and fight.”

The other reason I will keep fighting is because as an Arab American, I know the pain of exclusion.

I had to fight to get into this party and secure a place for my community. All through the 1980s, the Democratic Party would not accept Arab Americans.

When Jackson first secured a DNC post for me, party leaders balked. It was not until 1993 that I secured a position on the DNC. 

When I was elected to the executive committee in 2001, I became the first and only Arab American to serve on that body.

I know what challenges now lay before us and despite the temporary setbacks I am committed to stick around.

 

I have known exclusion and I know how to fight back. This is not over, by a long shot. The stakes are too high.

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Comments

If you are a Democrat and wondering what happened, see Andrew's comment above! I couldn't explain it any better.

I'm an immigrant from Indonesia who grew up in a very Republican community in Ohio. Overall I have never held any strong party affiliations until late 2015. That year I was working with two veterans who I made the mistake to mention that I wasn't going to vote in the upcoming elections. I personally didn't want to get involved because it seemed like an endless cycle of money and corruption. They told me that if I felt that strong that I should vote to fix that issues, to make the changes I wanted to see and that our soldiers are fighting for that right. That led me to explore the ins and outs of politics so I could be informed before I chose any party or candidate to support. The only candidate that I could support in good conscience was Bernie Sanders. His candidacy provided the hope I needed to have faith in our democratic system. The faith I had didn't die when Bernie lost.

It died when the DNC rolled back the Ban on Lobby Donations

It died when Hillary's campaign painted Bernie supporters as nothing but white misogynists.

It died when Tim Kain was chosen over a progressive.

It died when the DNC's dirty laundry was aired and the accuser denied wrong doing on their part.

It died when Debbie Watzerman-Schultz was brought into Hillary's campaign.

It died when the DNC won a lawsuit filed against them by arguing "look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way" - DNC Lawyer Bruce Spiva

It died when one of the biggest offender during the leaks, Donna Brazile, was nominated back into the DNC by Tom Perez and his team.

So don't frame this as 'we all did things we weren't proud of but right now is the time to unify'. Hillary's behavior on her campaign trail was deplorable, the DNC's conscious decision to support one candidate over the other by creating the conditions for lower voter turnouts, leaking talking points, and threatening someone's job because he was to harsh Clinton is nothing short but disgusting. The icing on the cake is while the party is trying to recover. Hillary is doing a book tour, blaming Sanders for all her election follies and flat out lying about the events that occurred in the last year. Unity now can only be achieved by reformation and nothing less. This is the situation that the DNC has put itself into.

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