The Democratic party must change
Letter to the Editor | Monday, September 7, 2020
The attempted murder of Jacob Blake by the Kenosha Police on Aug. 23 is the latest in a long sequence of events that have made one thing crystal clear: the epidemic of police brutality in the United States is a direct effect of deep-rooted systemic racism in our government. This systemic racism is rooted in the original sin of America: slavery. Systemic racism manifests itself not only in police brutality, but in the racial wealth gap, incarceration rates and access to education and job opportunities. Explicit legal discrimination may have been ended in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act, but implicit discrimination is alive and well in our society today. In America, a Black man is two and a half times more likely to be killed by police than a white man over the course of his life. In America, the median wealth of a white family is ten times that of a Black family. Black Americans are incarcerated at a rate nearly six times that of white Americans. The homeownership rate is nearly 30 percentage points higher for white Americans than Black Americans. Black Americans will be hit hardest by the climate crisis. Structural racism is America’s most deep-rooted and serious problem, and it requires large, systemic change to resolve.
Despite this, our own Democratic party has largely failed to address the problem, and has exacerbated the problem in the past. The 1994 Crime Bill was one of the most devastating pieces of legislation for Black communities, and it was authored in part by Joe Biden, and signed into law by Bill Clinton. Today, while the Democratic Party does accept the validity of the Black Lives Matter movement, many Democratic officials do not accept the validity of their proposed policies, instead opting for superficial gestures like painting a street or a crosswalk. Representation matters, validation matters, but the elimination of structural racism matters so much more. The fact that the Democratic establishment consistently fails to endorse progressive nominees that advocate for systemic solutions to tackle these racial gaps is enormously problematic, and they are a primary reason that substantive change has not occurred.
The Democratic Party isn’t even the worst offender in American politics. Republican officials have denounced BLM as a Marxist, terrorist movement, and have actively stoked racial tensions that have generated violent conflict. Their “tough on crime” policies devastated Black communities by locking away millions behind bars, denying the right to vote and terrorizing their neighborhoods with police forces. Today, the Republican Party has made it clear that they will not consider the reforms needed to address racial injustice in the United States, and that they will actively fight those reforms if Democrats obtain power.
As such, we do not currently see any potential for change within the Republican Party, but the Democratic Party may be reformable. A large majority of young voters within the Democratic Party supported the two most progressive candidates in the primary: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. This indicates a desire among young people for the structural change needed to fight systemic racism. Seven million Americans turn 18 every election cycle, and become eligible to vote. This potential for demographic change within the Democratic Party means that systemic change is possible, but only if constant pressure is exerted on the party establishment.
We write this letter to ask all young people who care about enacting systemic change to join us in that pressure. As the co-Presidents of the Notre Dame College Democrats, we are committing to use any and all power we have, now and in the future, to leverage the Democratic Party towards systemic change. We ask that you hold your officials accountable, even when you risk everything. Organize your communities and take your rights, instead of begging for them. Vote in every single election, especially primary elections, where the most important transformation will occur. And never, ever shy away from calling out injustice wherever you see it, especially when you are pressured not to. Change will only happen if we fight for it. And the Democratic Party must change.
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.