Tonight, I attended a town hall meeting featuring John Zody, the utterly uninspiring and banal Chairman of the Indiana Democratic Party. The meeting was as informative and inspiring as it was frustrating and sad. Without doubt, the Indiana Democratic Party is in serious trouble. In a county that’s 48% people of color, less than five of the 65 folks in attendance were black or brown.
Honestly, I actually feel bad for the party and its die-hard supporters. That’s no bullshit. They’re so fractured and disorganized it’s almost unbelievable. For instance, the so-called leaders of the Lake County Democrats were too busy drinking Budweisers at the VFW bar to even pay attention to what most of their constituents were saying. That’s the level of respect the Democratic Party gives its people.
Mark Lopez, the top aide for Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN), spent the night walking around the room, making sly remarks under his breath, and shaking hands with the local drunks and criminals who operate the party at the county level. If you don’t know the history of the Democratic Party in Chicago or Lake County, Indiana, please, do some research.
At this point, I’m convinced that anyone who thinks they’re going to reform the Democratic Party is not only wrong, they are completely out of touch with reality. The Democratic Party resembles a walking zombie that doesn’t even realize it’s dead yet. That’s how bad tonight was, at least in terms of what people should expect for the future of the Indiana Democratic Party.
However, and this is a very important distinction, the people who attended tonight’s meeting, particularly the women in the room, had very interesting things to say about organization, values, vision and the future. They want a serious platform and they’re willing to work for it. They made tonight’s meeting worthwhile and interesting.
That being said, my frustration with the Left is limitless. To be clear, if the Left had its shit together, it could control entire swaths of this country, including places like Northwest Indiana. The people are ready. They want to organize. You know what I heard people say throughout tonight’s event? “How can we organize? How do we create grassroots organizations? Where are the tools and resources?”
In other words, the things that people were asking of Zody and the Democratic Party – resources, vision, money, manpower – should be provided by the Left. Those things will not come from traditional unions. In fact, as time moves along, I have less and less faith that organized labor will do a damn thing for the people of Indiana. After all, in 1962, Indiana was the third most unionized state in the country. Today, those unions are in shambles.
In many ways, unfortunately, they are part of the problem. The unions who operate in Indiana do not educate or organize their members, yet they badger those who voted for Trump. That’s not a winning strategy. I heard several people tonight talk about ignorant “hillbillies” and union members who “don’t get it.” In the meantime, instead of organizing their members and helping local community groups, unions in the Hoosier state wasted millions of dollars trying to elect centrist Democrats like Evan Bayh and John Gregg.
Undoubtedly, we need new institutions and we need to build them now. That’s the sort of work that gets me excited. And yet, I’m willing to work with local progressive Dems, for strategic reasons, but on our terms, not theirs. There is, for lack of a better term, a power vacuum in Northwest Indiana.
The Republican Party sure isn’t going to fill it. Black and brown people in the sate of Indiana aren’t going to all the sudden turn conservative. And after tonight, I’m more than convinced that the Democratic Party isn’t going to fill the gap. So, who, or what, will? That’s the question activists and organizers must answer, and soon.
Yes, right now, we have plenty of people in the streets. But these actions remind me of 2006-2008, when people were overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush regime. Yes, we were anti-Bush, but we never created alternatives to the Democrats or the major NGOs, many of whom continue to influence and/or control the major demonstrations taking place against Trump.
In many ways, I liken the Left’s current dilemma to someone thinking about getting back into good physical shape. You don’t go to the gym and expect to bench press 300lbs without years of laying a solid foundation. You don’t go to jiu jitsu practice expecting to successfully grapple black belts in your first couple years. These things take time.
We need to build a solid foundation and that becomes very difficult if we’re beholden to news cycles. My advice: stop watching the news. Stop paying attention to the day-to-day madness of the Trump regime. Sit back, read, think, reflect and learn. That’s the only way we’ll stop making the same mistakes we’ve made for decades.
People want to act, and that’s great. But if those actions aren’t tied to something larger, more substantive, they’ll be fruitless in the long-term. I fully understand everyone’s sense of urgency, but I’m starting to think that level of anxiety is extremely unhealthy and rather unproductive.
We need activists to operate with less emotions and urgency, and with more focus, which requires discipline, education and time. We don’t have time, but we can engender discipline and a radical political education.
Vincent Emanuele is a writer, journalist and activist who lives in Michigan City, Indiana. He hosts “Meditations and Molotovs” which airs every Monday @1:00pm(CST) on the Progressive Radio Network (prn.fm) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org