David Brock knows how to the fight the right. At SiX, the first major gathering of Democratic lawmakers since the election, he charted the path forward against Trump. According to Brock, "Trump is off-the-rack impeachable." And progressives have "a moral obligation to the majority of voters who did not vote for this administration to resist Trump now with every fiber in our beings."
The full video of David Brock’s speech:
Full transcript (annotated with links to Shareblue content for further context for this fight):
Four weeks after a bleak evening of deep disappointment, we progressives gather today to take stock of where we are and where we’re going. As we blaze a new path forward, the work of groups like SiX takes on ever-greater urgency.
Some of the few bright spots this cycle were the hard-fought ballot initiatives we won in the states. From modernizing voter registration in Alaska, to requiring background checks in Washington state, to securing paid sick leave in Arizona, voters approved progressive ballot measures that will make a meaningful difference in people’s lives. And SiX was in the trenches for each of those fights, making the case to voters for common sense reforms.
Those successes, and the remarkable turnout at today’s conference, are testament not only to Nick’s strong leadership, but to the hunger in statehouses from coast to coast to make your voices heard and agitate for progressive change.
I don’t need to tell you that we have our work cut out for us. Hillary’s loss has exposed a collapse of power for the Democratic Party.
Maybe you’ve heard of the “Five Stages of Grief.”
First, there’s shock and denial. “This isn’t happening. This can’t be happening.”
After that comes anger.
And next—well, I don’t know what comes next. I haven’t moved past the anger phase personally.
I’m angry at FBI Director Jim Comey. There was a wide consensus among pollsters that on October 26 Hillary Clinton had an electoral majority. While Hillary aimed to turn out the Obama coalition, she had also made impressive inroads with college educated whites, a co-hort Democrats historically lose. And she was running strong with them, up by 12 points, until Comey’s reckless and unprecedented intrusion into the election.
The email story followed a familiar pattern. Hillary’s support dipped whenever the email controversy was in the news. As soon as the story faded from the headlines, people dismissed it, and she recovered.
We built up a strong immune system to the email nothingburger, but, in the end, Hillary was unable to fight off the Comey virus, given all the other pathogens of the cycle. There was simply no time to recover, especially among late-deciding college-educated women. The Comey letter also depressed turnout with our base.
In short, the late-stage release of the Comey letter cost Hillary the election. Independent analysts from Nate Silver to Mike Podhorzer of the AFL-CIO have reached the same conclusion (Note: Still confirming this)
Yes. It’s that simple. Numbers don’t lie.
So, I’m angry at Jim Comey, and I’m even angrier at the Clinton-haters in the FBI, egged on by Trump sycophant Rudy Giuliani, who forced Comey’s hand.
I’m angry at the media for their inexcusably awful coverage of the email story. How many consumers of news know that, despite his personal disagreement over the use of a personal email server, Comey testified under oath that Hillary Clinton did not lie about her emails? I repeat, Jim Comey confirmed under oath that Hillary never lied about her emails.
The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of the media old guard turned a minor story into a central issue of the campaign. Each time we thought the zombie story was dead, it would rise again in all caps above the fold, burying the truly consequential stories.
And speaking of buried consequential stories, I’m also angry at Russia, a hostile foreign power that engaged in a criminal conspiracy to hack Democratic computers and employed ruthlessly effective KGB-style propaganda tactics to sway the election to their candidate, a Putin puppet.
Let’s be clear about how much trouble we’re in: The FBI and the Russian government just allied with the Republican Party to elect a president who is an enemy of our small-‘d’ democratic system of government, whose methods and instincts are those of a dictator in the developing world. The NSA failed to stop the Russian interference—in fact, the NSA itself got hacked. Now Trump controls the NSA.
It’s not yet accurate to call this a coup d’etat, but it’s important to recognize the similarities.
I’m angry at the purveyors of fake news. I’m even angrier at companies like Facebook that caved to organized right-wing pressure and enabled a wave of misinformation. An analysis by BuzzFeed found that fake election stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined.
Fake news is an existential threat to our democracy. And now, for the first time in our history, we have a minister of disinformation, Steve Bannon, who commanded a vast proto-fascist media empire, operating from a plum perch in the West Wing.
I’m angry at the mainstream media, which framed the election as a choice between two detestable people – one an aspiring banana republican – and the other, one of the most qualified, dedicated, forward-thinking and honorable candidates ever to seek the office of the presidency.
Abdicating their vital public mission, the media built Donald Trump up for money and ratings. They tipped the scales by, for example, sweeping the sham Trump Foundation and its illegal donations under the rug while smearing the Clinton Foundation, which has saved millions of lives in the developing world.
In the closing weeks of the campaign, faced with having to cover video footage of Donald Trump bragging about routinely groping women, I know of news editors demanding more coverage of how Hillary used her own email address. They didn’t have truth or fairness foremost in mind; they were desperate to satisfy some perverted notion of “parity,” the virtuous-sounding news term for false equivalence.
The only hint of self-reflection I’ve seen in the media are a few articles suggesting they don’t understand Appalachian whites as well as they ought to. As if their only sin was not reading J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” soon enough. Nothing about their news judgment, nothing approaching former New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan’s gently-presented piece after the Times erroneously reported that Hillary was about to be indicted.
The bottom line is this: The press helped install in the White House a “ringside revolutionary,” a racist demagogue who doesn’t even believe in a free press. Good luck with that.
I’m also angry at Republican suppression of the vote. For years, Republicans have stealthily advanced laws that unconstitutionally restrict the franchise in states like North Carolina, Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio and Texas. By requiring specific forms of ID, limiting early voting, and even applying literacy tests, these states erased the African-American and Latino firewall that could have thwarted a Trump presidency.
I’m angry at those who voted for Green party candidate Jill Stein, the Ralph Nader of 2016. Stein’s vote exceeded Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and, nearly 5-to-1, in Michigan.
Dr. Stein midwifed the birth of a national crisis that will be a nightmare for the causes she professes to care most about, from protecting the Supreme Court to healthcare for all.
So much for the revolution.
I’m really angry at those in America who still refuse to give a woman a shot in the top job.
And I’m angry at the millions of disaffected millennials who sat on their hands in the most consequential election of our lives and didn’t even bother to vote. From gay rights to college affordability to the threat of global climate change, the Trump administration will be a disaster on the issues that matter most to millennials.
But most of all, I’m angry at Donald Trump and his campaign. I’m angry that he openly encouraged and capitalized on Russian criminal espionage. I’m angry that we have a president-elect whose path to power ran straight through the Kremlin.
And I’m angry at Trump for running an overtly anti-Semitic campaign. I was outraged when he slapped a Jewish star on a photo of Hillary, with cash raining down above her. Even his closing argument—the television ad he ran in the final days of the campaign—put anti-Semitic tropes front-and-center, casting prominent Jews like Janet Yellen and George Soros as villains who control global finance, an anti-Semitic slur right out of the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
I’m angry about the misogyny that permeated Trump’s campaign. I’m angry about the nativism. I’m angry about the racism. The list goes on and on.
Have I mentioned that I’m still not past the anger stage of grief?
Well. It’s imperative that we soon move beyond our grief.
It’s worth remembering that this was a maddeningly close race.
Six million more Americans cast a vote for a Democratic Senate candidate than for a Republican. We picked up seats in the House.
Hillary won the popular vote, not just by a few hanging chads in Broward County, but by a staggering margin of 2.5 million votes—and counting.
Hillary would have won the electoral college were it not for fewer than 80,000 votes spread across 3 swing states. That’s .57%. That means more people attended the Ohio State-Michigan college football game than decided the future of our country on Election Day.
Even Trump’s electoral college tally falls short of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 victories.
Not since Rutherford B. Hayes in 1877 has someone assumed the presidency who was so thoroughly repudiated by the American people at the ballot box.
It can’t be said enough: Despite his Twitter braggadocio, the fact is Trump has no mandate for his dangerous plan to overturn not just 8 or 40 years of progress, but 100 years dating to Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Era.
At the same time, we must face certain painful facts: Trump is the president-elect. For the first time in a decade, Republicans will control both chambers of Congress.
And there’s not a damn thing we can do about that.
So how did we get here? What on Earth happened?
It goes without saying that no campaign is perfect, and the Clinton campaign is no exception. We know that President Obama’s brilliant efforts at turning out voters for his own two elections did not transfer to Hillary or to Democrats down ballot in the states.
But we need to know more. We need to know what we did well and how we can do better in the future.
I don’t have all the answers. No one does yet. Talking heads try to distill overwhelming complexity into shallow sound-bites, but these diagnoses are flawed and shortsighted.
It’s essential that we in the Democratic Party resist the impulse toward hyperbolic reactions and knee-jerk over-corrections.
Everyone needs to take a deep breath. This is not the time for finger-pointing, self-flagellation, or ideological factionalism. Should we be liberal or more liberal? Spare me.
We need to proceed cautiously, and not rush to issue overly broad indictments of our party’s candidates, messages, or strategies.
Democrats aren’t suffering from an identity crisis. The things we stand for are right, they’re true and they’re good. I’m not into apologizing for who we are.
But the truth is our party faces a crisis of competence at all levels. Progressive politics in America is an organizational disaster.
And we can’t have a coherent or effective roadmap forward unless and until we have a mutual understanding of what happened last cycle, and an accepted conclusion of where we can do better and how.
And that understanding needs to be backed up by rigorous, reliable data.
It would be short-sighted, for example, for Democrats to suddenly only double-down in the Upper Midwest, which Trump won by flipping a handful of states by the slimmest of margins and ignore the fact that demographic changes made a slew of red states more competitive – like Arizona and Georgia – likely expanding the number of competitive battlegrounds on both sides four years from now. For instance, while in 2012 just two states – Florida and Ohio – were decided by two percentage points or less, in 2016, six states fit that category.
Today, I’m urging party leaders and those running for DNC chair to commit to appoint a truly independent commission to audit party-wide efforts in the 2016 cycle. People involved in campaigns and national and state party committees and major outside groups including SuperPACs should participate, but the inquiry should be led by people who don’t have a dog in the fight.
Like the DNC’s 2014 audit, the results should be made public for everyone to read and review, to learn from and grow.
In the meantime, I do want to offer a few observations from where I sit.
First, the simplistic media narrative that emerged in the immediate aftermath of the election is that economic anxiety in white America propelled Trump’s candidacy. The chatter in green rooms was that Trump votes were the anguished cries of economically disadvantaged whites.
But the facts tell a more complicated story. Most people earning less than $50,000 a year voted for Hillary. The median income of a Trump voter was $70,000—well above the national average. Clinton won majorities among voters who said the economy was their primary issue in nearly every swing state, including across the Rust Belt.
There is absolutely no evidence that Trump supporters, either in the primary or the general election, are disproportionately poor or working class.
No, something else was happening. As Monica Potts wrote in The Nation, this election was not about economic anguish, it was about identity.
Donald Trump tapped into the politics of resentment, a revolt against so-called elites, and an inchoate desire in all-white rural areas and among suburban whites in medium and small counties for “change.”
Call it the Abigail Fisher coalition. Trump rallied voters who feel that everyone else gets a leg up: women, African-Americans, immigrants – everyone, they think, but them.
These fearful feelings are what produced President-elect Trump.
Given the reality of the election, the Democratic Party must quickly learn to be an opposition party. I know it’s not in Democratic DNA, but the need to aggressively oppose Trump is urgent. We won the most votes in this election, and we should act like it. It’s time to put on our big boy pants.
We can’t afford to wait until inauguration to begin. We have a moral obligation to the majority of voters who did not vote for this Administration to resist Trump now with every fiber in our beings.
This fight is not about partisan sour grapes. With Trump ascending to office, America faces, for the first time since 1860, a crisis of basic principles. Every patriot must do everything in his or her power to sustain our Republic, 240 years young. In that spirit we must invite like-minded Republicans to join us.
Now, some will say this sounds like obstruction. Indeed, I predict that the coming divide in the Democratic Party won’t be ideological so much as it will be between those who resist and oppose Trump and those who accommodate and appease him.
For example, there’s a lot of talk about Democrats cooperating with Trump on infrastructure. Let me be clear: Trump’s infrastructure bill is as fraudulent as Trump University. Besides, we can’t pass a bill without seeing Trump’s tax returns, because we don’t know how he’d potentially benefit financially.
This is not just about blocking and tackling. There is great opportunity for Democrats to foment backlash among some Trump supporters and win back their votes in 2018 and 2020. The early indications are that the GOP and Vice President-Elect Mike Pence will take Trump decisively down the road of a very conventional, very conservative agenda rather than the more populist agenda that contributed to Trump’s GOP nomination and election.
Ending Obamacare. Weakening public programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Increasing military spending if not military action. Tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy and corporations. Immigration enforcement rather than comprehensive immigration reform. Reducing oversight on Wall Street.
You see what I mean. This agenda is not remotely responsive to the needs of working families who, in this election, not entirely wrongly, saw a corrupt Republican-Democratic duopoly and sought the change that comes with throwing the bums out. Played right, in 2018 and 2020 we can flip the script.
Our vision should be clear, our strategy obvious. It’s only been a few weeks, and Trump has already assembled a governing team of right-wing zealots, predatory billionaires, and unqualified wackos.
Moreover, the Trump Administration is shaping up to be the most corrupt since the days of Teapot Dome. His half-baked plan to set up a “blind trust” run by his three adult children is a sham and a scandal. From his new hotel in the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue to his massive overseas financial interests that can flourish or fail depending on U.S. government policy, he is laying the groundwork for a kleptocracy that would make Boss Tweed blush.
Now, Trump has insisted that the president can’t have a conflict of interest. He’s dusted off Nixon’s twisted logic that “when the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.”
Trump is off-the-rack impeachable.
I want to conclude by discussing one final front in the fight against Trumpism, and it’s the one that you in this room know better than anyone.
Last month’s victory was no aberration. It was, in many ways, the culmination of 30 years of methodical plotting by anti-government radicals, led and funded by the Koch brothers. Conservatives have spent decades nourishing a thriving ecosystem of think tanks, communication hubs, training institutes and advocacy groups that spread their propaganda.
The Republicans captured the government from the ground up, not the top down.
From 2004 to 2012, conservatives made a concerted, multi-year push to capture state governments for the bargain price of 120 million dollars.
They knew that state legislatures, which control the redistricting process, would go to work on gerrymandering districts, drawing electoral maps that look like bad Kandinsky knock-offs, so that they could keep the House of Representatives for decades to come.
ALEC has a budget of $10 million a year, roughly four times as much as SiX. We need to help SiX raise the funds necessary to scale up and compete with ALEC. And one small silver lining of this election is that national donors might be more willing to write checks to state-based efforts going forward.
To that end, I’m convening a conference of progressive donors on inauguration weekend in South Florida, far from the horror show in Washington. One of our emphases will be building progressive power and infrastructure in the states, and donors will be called on to step up their investments in a major way to accomplish that.
The need is acute: as Nick mentioned, come January, Republicans will control 67 of the nation’s 98 partisan legislative chambers, and 33 of its governor’s mansions. That’s a heartbreaking new nadir for Democrats.
With shrunken ranks, we need to be creative about how to oppose Trump. Much as GOP governors and attorneys general engineered novel legal strategies to stymie President Obama on issues like healthcare and immigration, Democrats need to think about how we can reject Trump actions that are antithetical to our values.
In this effort, of course, SiX will be critical. One of the great things about this group is that you lend progressive legislators the support they need to deliver results for their constituents, which is key to long-term electoral success. We can’t just focus on near-term elections; we need to help promising young Democrats stay in office, raise their profiles, and ultimately climb the electoral ranks.
The good news is that we’re up the challenge. There is no wall we can’t scale. No divide we can’t close. The progressive movement is vibrant and growing.
Progressives are for ALL, not just for some. Progressives are for respect and unity, not discrimination and division.
And, progressives have always looked FORWARD, not back.
Those are messages we will continue to drive home with relentlessness and optimism.
When Joe Hill, the early 20th century labor activist, was condemned to death row 100 years ago, he sent a telegraph to a friend and fellow labor leader. “Don’t waste any time in mourning,” he said. “Organize.”
Democrats are understandably disappointed with the results of the election, but we should not – we must not – be disoriented. We can’t waste time mourning. We need to organize. As President Obama once said, the future rewards those who press on.