Dec. 1 discussion: “Whither Democracy?”surfaces ideas, vents frustrations

December 13, 2016

On December 1, the committee held an abbreviated business meeting, set its 2017 caucus date of Saturday afternoon, March 4, and then turned the rest of the evening over to a discussion for concerned progressives about where we are and where we are going, politically, in the aftermath of a disappointing election.

“Whither Democracy?” drew two dozen people from 8 North Shore towns including Boxford.  A member of the group and a Sanders delegate to the July DNC in Philadelphia, Tristan Whitehouse of Manchester has been doing us all a great service by attending these discussions all over the state, and drafting summary notes on each.

The email distribution list that emerged from this meeting, self-styling ourselves Democracy Forward, is ongoing and welcomes others to join.  Send your name, town and email address to mariannerutter@yahoo.com if you want to be added to the list.

Here is Tristan’s excellent report that he filed with the Massachusetts Sanders delegation:

On December 1st, I attended a meeting hosted by our own Marianne Rutter in Boxford.  I apologize for the late nature of this report.  Look for a report from the Next Four Years  conference that was held last weekend, in the next few days.

Marianne Rutter, Chair of the Boxford Democratic Town Committee, held a post-election meeting titled “Whither Democracy?”  Prior to the meeting, Marianne emailed many people drumming up support for the event and 25 people attended the event.  After dispensing with formalities for the monthly Boxford DTC meeting, Marianne broke the crowd into small groups.

Since I was in a small group myself, I can only speak about the specifics introduced in my group.  Each member of the group was given three minutes to share their thoughts and the remaining time was devoted to ad lib discussion.  The following points were brought up during this discussion:

  • Almost all of the members expressed a general feeling of “shell-shock” from the election.  Many mentioned that they were “devistated”, “numb”, and “worried”.  More than half of the group also revealed that this meeting was the first political meeting they had ever been to and felt personally responsible, saying they “could have done more”.  
  • Candidate support was mixed in this group.  While most voted for Hillary, one member said he wrote in Bernie Sander’s name in protest, as he “truely hated Hillary”.  Another member expressed a frustration with Bernie supporters, saying “Just shut up! You lost!”  This same woman expressed a sadness that she “would never see a woman President”.
  • A large component in this conversation centered around racism in the Age of Trumpism.  Several group participants expressed frustration and fear in this capacity.  One woman of Indian decent, argued that the post-election reports say the Democrats failed to court working people and the economy issue was why they lost.  She disagreed, saying that overt rascism was to blame for Trump’s win, and she was “furious” to see the Democratic Party blame the election on economic demographics.  She suggested that we all look into minority voices like Imani Gandy on Twitter, and Roxand Gay.  She finished with “Once they cast Superman with a Black man, and no one bats an eye, then we’ll be equal.”  Another woman told us how she was afraid for her daughter who had recently converted to Judaism and is getting married to a Black man.  “What can we do to protect them?” she asked.  
  • Another topic of concern was the environment under a Trump Presidency.  Mebers said they had already given money to conservations groups like the Sierra Club and National Parks Foundation, fearing budget cuts for Interior projects in the near future.  One woman told us how she woke up the day after the election, saw the results, and cried thinking about how we were going to loose the National Parks.
  • Lastly, the group talked about how the Democrats can engage with more voters and spread their truth.  One man spoke about how talk radio is dominated by Conservative voices.  Others expressed a desire to see the Party use social media in a meaningful way in the future.

The second phase of this discussion was a large group meeting.  This fell into two parts, the first saw representatives of each of the small groups presenting their findings to the group.  The expressed the following:

  • The Democratic Party should refocus on their branding.  We lost becuase our message was complicated and pandering.  Our message in the future should be simple.  Furthermore, conservative voters are not a monolith and should not be attacked with broad stokes.  Focus on solving the issues that brought them there.
  • A huge campaign should be waged to bring young people and independents into the party.  Not only that but they should be provided with infrastructure to pursue issues that they’re passionate about.
  • Almost all of the groups reported that their members expressed a desire to do more.  While many had never been to a meeting in the past, they all shared the passion to work in the future.

The meeting in Boxford was a special one as this showed a strong liberal force in a town dominated by Republican politics for decades.  Props are deserved to the Boxford citizens and Marianne Rutter who worked hard, resulting in Boxford turning blue for the first time in years.  This meeting was a great example of how passionate people can get together and organize when a strong town committee works well.  Just an update in the fallout of this meeting, Marianne Rutter has emailed the participants, letting them know of ways to get involved.

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