Massachusetts Democrats Need to Join Local Party [OPINION]
The Democrats in Massachusetts made change a reality this year. The folks who worked for change should embrace their role and join the local Democrat committees.
It's fun to be an outsider and to launch raids on the "establishment" from the hills. The "outsider" label is useful to all political activists, regardless of their beliefs. The Tea Party movement members were the outsiders of the Republican party and the Bernie Sanders supporters were the outsiders of the Democratic party. The Reagan supporters and the anti-war supporters were also once the outsiders of their chosen political parties in America.
The goal of self-proclaimed outsiders is to get a seat at the table. The Massachusetts Democrat Party activists who forced change now need to embrace their role as leaders and join their local Democratic party ward/town committees. Those local committees are an important part of our political system, and are where the action is now.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley is going to be sworn in as a member of Congress in January. She defeated Congressman Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary this year. Her supporters went up against his supporters, and they won. The individuals who supported Pressley in this battle should not rest on this historic victory. They should join their local Democratic committee and develop their own voice and influence within their party.
The supporters of Pressley beat an impressive cadre of longtime political and union activists who sided with Capuano. Those defeated include: Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Gov. Deval Patrick, the AFL-CIO of Massachusetts, New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Massachusetts Teachers Association, Massachusetts Peace Action, Massachusetts Police Association, Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, and the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE.
The members of the organizations who supported Capuano and lost aren't happy about it. They were opposed to the election of the first African American woman from Massachusetts to the House of Representatives. I don't think they were motivated by racism. They were motivated by power. They assumed that incumbent Capuano would defeat challenger Pressley. The supporters of Pressley now must move into the local Democrat committees and build their power and influence.
The Pressley supporters' lack of institutional power within the Massachusetts Democratic Party also created an opportunity for leading African American Democrats to side with an "old white man" over a rising African American woman. Ayanna Pressley had already proven herself as a leader and a vote gatherer by being elected and re-elected to the Boston City Council. However, the Capuano forces were able to attempt a viable strategy of undermining her legitimacy by showcasing his support with national black leaders.
The national black leaders who publicly tried to stop Pressley include Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California, Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee, and Congressman Greg Meeks of New York. The first African American Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, felt comfortable enough to dismiss Pressley and support Capuano.
Chicago Congressman Luis Gutierrez and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus also joined the campaign to stop Pressley. The Congressional Progressive Caucus, a volunteer gathering of members of Congress who support various types of socialist public policy chose to endorse Rep. Capuano.
The Representatives who are members of the Black and Hispanic Caucuses probably didn't like their role in the campaign to defeat Councilor Pressley. They are smart political operators, and they realized their opposition to an African American candidate and support for an "old white man" was a particularly vicious tactic. Their public support was designed to undermine her with her community and to create a divide within the African American community.
The support of African Americans like civil rights icon John Lewis and the entire Congressional Black Caucus also provided political cover for white labor union bosses and elected officials to support Capuano, and halt the ambitions of Ayanna Pressley and the folks in that majority-minority congressional district. This is not a nefarious racist plot to keep down a black candidate, it is just hard-nosed politics.
Working within the system is the best way to make a change in America. The supporters of Ayanna Pressley proved they have the ability to win and I hope they continue their activism as members of the Democratic Party organization.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.