Once again, the 2016 presidential primaries have been an emotional roller-coaster. The Democratic Party, while not engaged in open civil war like the Republicans, has certainly felt the sting. Nasty things have been said, hurt feelings have been felt. Therefore, while Hillary Clinton has all but won the Democratic Party nomination and Bernie Sanders has all but conceded, and the endgame is near, no one can expect Democratic Party unity overnight. Instead, Democratic voters should now focus and fight together on the issues that unite them against the Republicans. Here’s a partial list of such issues:
Confirmation for U.S. Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland — Republicans are again denying President Barack Obama a basic power given to him by the Constitution: to nominate and appoint U.S. Supreme Court justices when vacancies occur. Republican Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, with more than 11 months left in President Obama’s second term, which is ample time to nominate, hold hearings for and confirm a new justice. To that end, the progressive group Americans United for Change:
is conducting what it calls its 9-9-9 Tour, taking mobile billboards to nine states over nine days to push for confirmation of a ninth justice to what is now an eight-member court after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February.
At the same time, President Obama and Democratic members of Congress are pressuring Senate Republicans to hold a confirmation hearing for Garland. This is the kind of effort from diverse opponents to the GOP that we need.
Anti-LGBT Laws — North Carolina and Mississippi have made the news recently with their anti-LGBT laws. In response, a growing number of high-profile organizations and corporations have pulled out of these states, or have threatened to do so. That’s a good beginning, and both Clinton and Sanders supporters should be out there fighting these Republican state laws that violate principles of civil rights and basic decency.
Climate Change — Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders recognize that climate change is one of the biggest challenges the world faces, and both want to do something about it. Climate change is also an area of big difference with the Republicans, who, bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, almost universally deny that humans have anything to do with climate change and should do anything to reverse it. Thus, climate change is a natural issue on which Democratic primary voters of all stripes can join together to support the Paris climate change agreement recently signed by 175 nations including the U.S., and to keep front and center for the general election and beyond.
Strengthening Voting Rights — Although some Sanders supporters have misplaced their blame a few times, Republican-run states like Arizona have curtailed voting rights in this primary cycle via longer lines, reduced polling locations, etc., which has hurt all Democratic primary voters, as well as all but a few elite Americans. The ability to vote freely is a bedrock Democratic Party principle, which is why the Democratic Party and Democratic groups sued Arizona over its voter suppression. In a hopeful sign of unity, both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns reportedly joined the lawsuit. A further step that all these groups can take is to get together to fight for passage of the Democrats’ Voting Rights Amendment Act.
There are plenty more such issues on which Democrats and progressives of all stripes oppose the GOP, such as raising the federal minimum wage, passing sensible gun safety laws and achieving universal healthcare coverage. Many of these issues are low-hanging fruit. And that’s exactly the point. The different factions of the Democratic Party electorate need to unite to defeat the Republicans in November, and, after a contentious primary season, building trust one step at a time by working together on these issues now is a great way to start.
Photo by Senate Democrats, used under Creative Commons license. http://is.gd/l2yXxg