US Democrats Enter the Trump Era
SNA (Tokyo) — Leaders of Democrats Abroad hold a press conference in Tokyo to discuss responses to the inauguration of President Donald Trump.
Tom Schmid: My name is Tom Schmid and I’m the international treasurer of the Democratic Party Committee Abroad, which is otherwise known as Democrats Abroad, and I am also the national chair of Democrats Abroad Japan. I will explain more about our organization later, but I’d like to give you some information about Democrats Abroad so you understand something about our scope and our reach. We have 41 country committees that have been established around the globe. We have members in 190 different countries and we have approximately 140,000 membership profiles in our database. When we communicate, we do so primarily electronically, but we also organize in-country and at the local level. That gives you an idea of who we are as Democrats Abroad. Now I’d like to take a moment to address, as they say, “the elephant in the room,” Donald Trump. As you all know, President-elect Donald Trump will take the oath of office tomorrow, becoming the 45th president of the United States. As he is sworn into office, recent polling indicates that he has the lowest approval rating of any new president in recent memory at around 40% favorability. Although he did win the election, he lost the popular vote by roughly three million votes. His public statements as president elect have caused American citizens at home and abroad great concern about the direction in which he will steer our country. It’s not only Americans who are concerned. Concerns have been expressed by America’s allies as well as its rivals. Quite recently, it seems the controversy surrounding Donald Trump’s business interests, presidential campaign, and behavior will remain long after inauguration day. This stands in contrast to President Obama, who had an approval rating of 68% when he took office. Despite eight years in the White House, which takes a toll on any president, his current approval rating is still at 57%. President Obama achieves success despite having to deal with, shall we say, an uncooperative congress and in the face of false personal attacks claiming that he is Kenyan, a Muslim, and a socialist. On the eve of President-elect Trump’s nomination and President Obama’s last day in office, the majority of Americans are very concerned about what this transition of power will mean for the United States, for the world, and for our lives. This is why Democrats Abroad Japan is organizing the inauguration day march and vigil. As Democrats who want to thank President Obama for his global and domestic leadership and for his service, we want it publicly known that we support the agenda that he tirelessly worked to achieve. We want our country to continue moving in that direction.
Alex Gonzalez: A Trump presidency threatens our inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The rights of LGBT citizens; the right for women to choose; and quality for people of rich cultural backgrounds such as the African-American and Latino communities are all facing a time of scrutiny second to nothing we have experienced in modern history. No longer will our country be the haven for those in peril and escaping the horrors of war and oppressive governments. We face an incompetent administration with unqualified nominees for the cabinet that very well may be confirmed to lead our country into what may almost be certain disaster. The corporate elites will have deeper pockets that they will continue to line—not a penny of which will go to hard-working American citizens. All of this as our president-elect continues to go on tirades that will bring us to the brink of a national security crisis. We can and must prevent these issues from becoming reality. Our party is transitioning to fight for people and to activate a movement that will sweep all across America. That is why it is up to us as citizens to hold the incoming congress and administration accountable and to hold their feet to the fire when they threaten to devalue the lives of our friends, families, and neighbors. The Democratic Party led a valiant effort to tackle these issues with the most progressive platform we have ever presented. Unfortunately, we were not successful in doing so. However the party seeks new opportunities in the form of progressive change. This transition will invite progressive ideals, dedicated public servants, and community organizers and volunteers to stand ready to bring much-needed change to the party. We hope these values will appeal to all of working and middle class America and invite them to a seat at our table. That change comes in the form of talking to your friends and family about candidates who share their concerns and will run campaigns based on the issues. It is about grassroots organization that rallies around principles that bear the needs of the American people in mind. Party reform is about signing up with your local party chapter back home and becoming an ambassador for your community. Educate those expatriates who live in your state or area about the issues that effect you and extend that education to the rest of the expatriate community. That is how we maintain the energy of our movement and how we will unite this country under principled beliefs. We ask everyone to take the time to understand everyone’s perspective—including those who voted against the establishment. Their strife needs careful understanding and consideration above all so that we may reinforce our commitment to working with them as well. It is a long road ahead to 2020; however, there is much to do between now and then. The race for the Democratic Party chair is on. We ask that you petition to your party representatives to vote in the best interests of the party. We ask that you concentrate on local and state elections that are often overlooked and hide in the shadows of the off-year election seasons. We ask that you contact your state, local, and federal representatives to implore them to make decisions that will benefit the community and not elite-class Americans. Remind your friends and family back home about the issues we face as citizens abroad and educate them about solutions they can participate in. Trump has indicated a regressive attitudes towards issues that will straighten working and middle class America and the Democratic Party can offer the solution to resist many of the dangers we will be facing and to channel it into productive agenda for all people. This is a call to arms—although it is without violence. We will need all hands on deck to prepare for many battles ahead. We will not fight each other, but we will fight for our issues and we will be compassionate to our fellow citizens and neighbors. Join us at Democrats Abroad and give us your hand in reforming the party.
Tom Schmid: In the last election, my number one issue was campaign finance reform and getting the money out of politics. As I thought about that and what we needed to do, It seemed to me that the supreme court was the key. With some older Supreme Court justices, my feeling was we have got to win this election because we need to stack the US Supreme Court with Democratic justices that are going to rule the right way for the American people and interpret the Constitution the way it’s supposed to be interpreted and allow congress to pass laws to limit campaign contributions—I’m saying this as international treasurer of Democrats Abroad. That didn’t happen and now what that means—getting back to your point about the long-term implications—I’m really terrified that Donald Trump may be able to appoint several Supreme Court justices that will really have America over a barrel for generations to come. Just like the Republicans are saying with Obamacare, all of these things that he does can be overturned by legislation or repealing executive orders when we get a Democrat back in the White House. What goes on in the Supreme Court and the way that’s interpreted as precedent is really going to make us struggle, I think, for generations to come and it’s going to make my personal number one issue of getting the money out of politics very difficult to achieve. That being the case, my belief is the way things work now, the United States has a system of legalized corruption. That’s the campaign finance system that we have. I don’t like it, but we’re not going to make the change we need until we get the money out of politics. It’s going to be business as usual, so, institutionally, I’m very concerned that it’s going to be the same old same old for years to come.
Alex Gonzalez: I have a more optimistic outlook, I think. It’s important to remember that 27% of the eligible voters in America voted for Donald Trump. Of course, looking at the popular vote numbers, it gives a very opposite perspective. We have to remember about those deep red state voters. Citizens who we need to engage with. This election was an election of unprecedented events. Unprecedented precedents, unprecedented candidates, and unprecedented movements. Those movements are continuing to thrive. They’re continuing to get out the message and hopefully they’ll be entering those communities that felt so strongly in favor of Donald Trump and will hopefully introduce a new perspective that will allow them to vote for a candidate that is more in line with their ideals. I am very confident that, over the next few years, we will have time to work on that. For me, in particular, the biggest issue I am concerned about is the environment. I want to turn over to my children a world that is going to thrive and, for me, Donald Trump’s blatant disregard for environmental issues is shocking—it’s upsetting—but I’m going to continue to fight for it. That is why everybody needs to pitch in their two cents and fight for the issues they feel passionate about.
Tom Schmid: I wouldn’t be sitting here, I wouldn’t be participating in Democratic Party politics if I didn’t believe in the long run in the American people. I think that there have been years of problems that have been caused by congress and, often times, the other side of the aisle, but what I’m really excited about—thank God it’s finally time for me to talk about something that I’m excited about—is where I see the Democratic Party going in the future. It’s all about the youth. Some of these things like same-sex marriage and dealing with people who are transgendered, for example. The younger generation doesn’t understand what the problem is. Doesn’t understand why people are so concerned about these issues. As they grow up, I think they are very progressive-minded in a way that we haven’t seen. I think that that bodes very well. The question has been, ‘What’s the Democratic Party going to do about it?’ Is the Democratic Party going to remain where it was or shift to be prepared to embrace this demographic that is already here and will be coming up in greater numbers in the future. I am very pleased to say that, in my view, with the upcoming DNC chair election, I see a lot of great hope for positive change in the Democratic Party, which will embrace this demographic and these views. I think that’s where the majority of Americans truly lie. Remember Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote.
Alex Gonzalez: Where the Republicans had so much success was with the Tea Party. We saw that they built a very fundamental, grassroots campaign within communities—smaller communities—that spoke to people, quite frankly. What we’re seeing now is a similar movement happening with the progressive wing that is hopefully going to reshape the way people in those communities think. It’s important to remember this is politics, but we have to go beyond politics. Legislation that is going to be proposed and the decisions that are made in the White house—those effect people’s lives. Those make a difference between whether someone’s going to be able to put bread on the table and take their child to get the medical care they need. Whenever you talk to people on the progressive side tea party side, it doesn’t matter, these issues come up time and time again. They’re a common theme. We have to go a little bit beyond the party and extend our hand to those people as well. Engage with them and let them know that we are willing to fight for those issues that they are concerned about. We must lend and put a loud speaker up to their voices and amplify this issue. It will build an effective strategy in the time coming up to the midterms and the next presidential cycle.
Tom Schmid: One more comment on that. The saying is that evil triumphs when good people do nothing. Remember voter turnout was down. America is filled with good people just like every country in the world. People I think are inherently good. There are bad people that are very skilled and a minority of bad people can cause a lot of trouble for everybody else. That’s why we need to get back to the basics. Reassess what happened in the last presidential campaign and figure out how to reach out to more people and get them interested and excited about voting and participating in democracy because that’s when it’s really robust and that’s when democracy works its best—when participation is maximized. What we want the world to know is that the Democratic Party is alive and well. We’re ready to continue the political struggle in America to achieve social equality for all members of society, to protect the environment, to make sure all Americans have health care, and to make sure America maintains its alliances and strategic partnerships with democracies throughout the world.
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