Independent Report Slams Democrats in Post-2016 Election Autopsy

Posted Nov. 8, 2017

MP3 Interview with Pia Gallegos, longtime civil-rights lawyer and New Mexico activist, conducted by Scott Harris


As Donald Trump enters his tenth month in office, public opinion polls find he is the most unpopular president at this stage in his term than any other occupant of the Oval Office in modern American history. His actions at home and abroad have alarmed Democrats, Republicans and independents. Apart from recent indictments by the independent counsel investigating charges of collusion between the Trump’s campaign and Russia, the president is seen to have triggered an number of ugly spats with Gold Star family members, NFL players, and the mayor of San Juan, Puerto, exacerbated tensions with North Korea and praised white supremacists as “very fine people.”

But as many U.S. voters remember the shock and dread they felt on election day 2016, when Donald Trump unexpectedly won the presidency, there are growing concerns that the Democratic party has failed to learn the lessons of last year’s election defeat. The Democratic National Committee chose not to do a public “autopsy,” examining the reasons their party no longer has control of any branch of the federal government, only holds 16 of 50 governorships, and has lost 1,000 state legislative seats since 2009.

Filing this void, a group of activists with the nonprofit Action for a Progressive Future, wrote a 34-page report titled, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” The report focuses on some key factors that have contributed to the Democrats' recent string of defeats, including low voter turnout among the party’s base. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Pia Gallegos, a longtime civil-rights lawyer and New Mexico activist, who was one of the team of four authors of the Autopsy. Here, she summarizes the report’s conclusions and recommendations.

PIA GALLEGOS: The Democratic party itself did not do a self-analysis or a critique regarding its failures of how and why it lost the presidential election in 2016. Oftentimes, a party does that when it loses a major election. It didn't do that, and if it did, it didn't publicize it. And so, a group of us took it upon ourselves under the leadership of Norman Solomon to do this report. And so, we looked various factors that failed within the Democratic party. We looked at corporate power and the party and we looked at race, and we looked the youth vote, and we looked at social movements and we looked at democracy – or the failure of democracy – within the party, and war and the party.

And we divided the report into sections like that and showed how the Democratic party has continuously, in all of these areas, failed to address the concerns of its constituencies.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Maybe you could talk a little bit about what you see in terms of the leadership of the Democratic party right now, following the election defeat.

PIA GALLEGOS: Right. I'm sorry to say that there's really two wings to the Democratic party and we see this even with the head of Democratic party right now, Tom Perez who's head of the DNC. And he's just acted recently to purge the DNC of some of the most progressive members of the DNC ––because he's allowed to appoint people and to depose people from the post. And so he's brought in a whole bunch of political operatives and lobbyists – corporate lobbyists – as members of the DNC who will have superdelegate status, which means that they will be able to vote for a presidential candidate without regard to the pledged delegates that are required on every state level through the Electoral College.

As long as the Electoral College is not allowing a popular vote to determine who's going to be president, the Democratic party has superimposed on top of that flawed scheme this idea of superdelegates who are people who are not responsive to the vote at all, who have no obligation to vote the will of the people, but who can vote the will of their corporate sponsors.

Perez also gets to nominate his own superdelegates and he has chosen corporate operatives and corporate lobbyists. So the Democratic party is far away from the will of the people and the realities of poor people who are struggling and students who are burdened by thousands and tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, and we do have a fractious Democratic party here.

But fortunately, you know, the people who are working the footsoldiers of the Democratic party – the ones who are working on the level of the neighborhoods – we're the ones who are right trying to get the elected Democrats to be accountable, to be held accountable to what it is our real needs on the level of neighborhoods and working class people.

BETWEEN THE LINES: A lot of pundits these days look at the Democratic party these days and they see this ongoing conflict between the forces that supported Hillary Clinton and those that supported Sen. Bernie Sanders. Are you concerned that this conflict, if it continues on within the party will detract from any gains that the Democrats could make as a party in the upcoming critical 2018 election, given the stakes are so with all the rollbacks of progressive policies with the Trump administration in the White House and Republicans controlling Congress?

PIA GALLEGOS: It is absolutely essential for the Democrats to get elected to be taking care of the people of color and the youth vote and listening to their voices. That's how they're going to bring them back. If we could pay attention black communities and the Native American communities and the Latino communities and bring them back to vote, that's how we're going to win elections here. And so, we're doing the only thing that can be done to get the Democratic party in power again – which is to go to those neglected communities. That's the only way we're going to win.

See the report at titled, “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis” at Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis [pdf] or

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