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“Hues of Blue” is a three-part series in which each article will focus on an issue facing the Democratic Party, and the opinion of a Hopkins student as it pertains to the Party’s actions. The goal of this project is to highlight the complexity behind the label “liberal.” What different philosophies govern the political beliefs of the members of the Johns Hopkins University, an institution lauded for its progressiveness and inclusivity?
Standing behind thick bullet proof glass – on a stage high above thousands of onlookers and supporters, President Barack Obama appeared as a prized possession – the Democratic Party’s Knight in Shining Armor, the symbol of progression liberals had wanted to lead the country. Seven years later, the Democratic Party attempted to, once again, paint itself as the party of progression by throwing its support behind the first woman to be the nominee of a major political party.
Accepting huge donations from multinational corporations and the governments of nations demonstrating flagrant violations of human rights, raking in thousands of dollars from speeches made to Wall Street banks, agreeing to throw support behind governments engaging in acts of ethnic cleansing – none of these actions should be demonstrative of the beliefs that supposedly drive the Democrat Party’s platform. Yet, in a hypocrisy that senior members of the DNC refused to acknowledge, their next symbol of American progress was the culprit. Hillary Rodham Clinton – meeting with Walmart, accepting contributions from King Salman, and lobbying for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – does not, and should not, represent the future of the Democratic Party. If we wish to see a Democrat in the White House, it is time to work towards expelling the remnants of the Clinton Era.
Disheartened by the election of Donald Trump to the White House, I began to follow countless news outlets on Facebook and Twitter, anxiously counting down the days before he made good on his campaign promises. At the same time, I kept an eye on the happenings of the Democratic Party, hoping that leaders were working on party unity and outreach. Instead, the same senior members who set the Democrats up to fail were bickering over the cause of their losses; some blamed FBI Director James Comey, others blamed Putin, but none blamed themselves. In a country whose economy is becoming increasingly reliant on the white-collar sectors of finance, medicine, and technology, the educated elitists of the DNC no longer appeal to a poor white man and his family in the Ozarks. Being funded by large corporations and rallying the support of the average American worker should be a dichotomy – it is wholly hypocritical to have the latter if you have the former. Junior Aurel Malapani, who serves as President of the University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, agrees with this sentiment. “I do not think that the Democratic Party can do what needs to be done, since it is a corporate party,” he stated.
Asked if he identifies as a Democrat, Malapani answered “definitely not,” adding that he “thought it was a mistake for Bernie to run as a Democrat.” Having heard of Malapani’s heated exchange with DNC Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile, who was invited to speak at the Homewood Campus by the Hopkins College Democrats, I sought to gain some understanding from someone who identifies as a liberal, but not in the sense that Democrats do. Malapani registered to vote as a Democrat to cast a vote for Senator Sanders in the primary, who he believed would be able to push the United States to the left. The Senator’s denouncement of a government controlled by corporate America resonated with Malapani, who grew up reading literature regarding leftist economics.
Not beholden to Super PACs, a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights movement, a dissident of nefarious trade deals that hurt the average American worker, Senator Sanders epitomized social progression. However, in the existing political landscape, his message was written off as “radical;” the last thing the DNC wanted was an independent speaking to Americans and turning his back on the corporations that so frequently funded their respective campaigns.
Malapani shares Senator Sanders’ belief in supporting grassroots struggles and inspiring change on a large scale. “Revolution is a much more complicated process than electing the ‘right’ politician,” he began to explain. “I don’t think we can elect the revolution. We have to give more power to the people.” Politicians must bend to the will of their constituents, not to the executives of Fortune 500 companies.
The last point is reminiscent of the cries that filled the DNC meeting in Atlanta earlier this week, when Keith Ellison lost the election for DNC chairmanship to rival Tom Perez. “Party for the people, not big money,” Ellison’s supporters chanted as Brazile announced the winner. When asked about the implications of Ellison’s defeat, Malapani answered “it’s a clear indication that [the Party] wants to stay on the route that it’s been on since Ronald Reagan won the election.” Perez – who was backed by both President Obama and Secretary Clinton – was the establishment favorite, often aligning with the centrists in the Party, and cozying up to big donors: in 2015, then Labor Secretary Perez granted waivers to UBS, Barclays, J.P. Morgan, and Citigroup to continue managing pension money even after they were found guilty of conspiring to rig the foreign-exchange markets. The DNC favored Perez because of his ability to vouch for the American Dream – the American born son of Dominican immigrants and graduate of two Ivy League universities – and his record of being soft on financial institutions found guilty of crimes. “It’s indicative of who has power in the Democratic Party: large donors,” Malapani said. “Ellison would’ve espoused policies that are not aligned with their [corporations’] best interests.”
In a move that angered progressive voters nationwide, the DNC appears to have failed to learn its lesson: an establishment candidate is not what this nation needs. In fact, Americans flocked in droves to vote for Trump, citing his “anti-establishment” approach (which has since been proven wrong). Nevertheless, Secretary Clinton and Chairman Perez embody the establishment. Progressivism means more than supporting a minority in an election. Had this been known, the Democrats would’ve been able to change the trajectory of American politics, steering it towards a progressive path… but now we’re facing a conservative resurgence. “What should the Democratic Party do to change the course of American politics?” I asked Malapani.
“I do not think that any Democratic Party of any hue of blue would be able to effect change.”
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