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WAGNER: Democrats must capture the nation's energy

February 11, 2017

Wagner
Well, hello.

How ya doing?

Having trouble sleeping?

Feeling overwhelmed by what’s going on in our country right now?

Simultaneously addicted to and trying to avoid cable news?

Welcome to the First 100 Days Club.

Pull up a chair, grab a stiff drink, and brace yourself for the next push alert. I’ll be your host, and it’s going to be a long four years.

Seriously, though, it’s going to be a long four years, but we’ve got to get through it—and make sure our democracy comes out alive.

That’s going to take sustained effort and attention from folks on both sides of the aisle who believe our Founding Fathers established a pretty good system of government that relies on give and take and a commitment to one another that’s deeper than our own self-interests.

I recently quit Facebook, the referral source for more than one-quarter of fake-news-site visitors, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. I’m also considering turning off Twitter. I won’t be gone long, though.

Those who would prefer to run our country with little regard for history or public input want us to check out. They would rather we didn’t sound the alarm.

I’m thankful the alarm has been sounded multiple times in the first few weeks of this administration, and it’s clear the resistance isn’t going away.

But we also can’t let that rinse-repeat—something outlandish happens, Americans push back, end of news cycle—become the new normal.

Thus far, those resisting this administration have risen up organically around issues that could largely be considered Democratic. But those who are resisting do not necessarily identify as Democrats. Enter an important opportunity to revive a party that’s on life support in many states with a less-than-stellar win record at the federal level.

As we look to the future, we will have to pick and win our battles, but first we have to lay down our weapons from 2016.

Neither Bernie Sanders nor Hillary Clinton (nor Barack Obama) is president today. And if we want to succeed in 2018 or 2020, we need to commence our rebuilding effort de novo—with new leaders and new voices.

In the darkness many Americans feel right now, I see a ray of hope in South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who’s running to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

The field is crowded, and proxies for Sanders and Obama have consumed much of the oxygen thus far.

Pete is different—a young, experienced CEO of a midsize city who’s served our nation in uniform and actually listens to people from all walks of life. I don’t know if he can pull off a victory, but I know he’d be able to engage a lot of the people who don’t presently identify as Democrats because the party hasn’t given them a reason to join.

Much has been written about the Trumpian rise of post-partisan politics and the need for a third party on the right or left to either restore the GOP establishment or encapsulate the progressive movement.

As for me, I’ll stick with the Democratic Party, which has consistently reflected my values despite some policy disagreements, but I’m going to push for leadership that breaks our dependence on recycled candidates and ideas.

We have a chance to move forward and capture the energy that’s consuming our nation right now, but it’s a limited-time offer, and we’ve got to act fast.•

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Wagner is a lifelong Indianapolis resident and founding principal of Mass Ave Public Relations, a local public relations and publicity firm. Send comments to ibjedit@ibj.com.

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