Why I’m joining the Democrats — and how they must change

The party needs a 21st Century New Deal


The driving force today is class – working people versus the wealthy, connected elite – and working people feel angry and left behind. They feel they’re missing out on the American Dream, and wonder what happened to that dream. They’re fighting wars that, after a decade and a half, still leave us at risk of attack. The result: Millions voted for politicians who said they would fight for working people instead of those who promised the status quo under new management.

President Trump tapped into this anger, but is hell-bent on an agenda that will make matters worse. The anxiety about the loss of the American Dream is leading many to turn to old bigotries instead of new ideas. Indeed, many of the people pushing the Trump agenda are openly hostile to the last several decades of hard-won progress, and have vowed to turn back the clock on so many important gains.

All of this leads to three hard truths:

First, third parties are not the answer. The time to act is too short, the stakes too high, and the rules too skewed, for a third party to lead this fight. Still, we must keep fighting for economic security, protected civil liberties, and fiscal responsibility.

Second, unless we have a political organization focused on fighting for working people and advocating for fairness and equality, Americans will lose out on both fronts. Guaranteed.

Third, the Democratic Party is powerful enough for that fight – but only if it changes. Democrats are not “entitled” to win elections just because they’re closer to where the majority of voters are on critical issues. Democrats must convince voters they’re the voice of working class America – that they have concrete plans for our financial futures, and that they care about every worker and worker’s family from coast to coast.

Back in 2012, a group of voters and I, frustrated with the major parties, formed the United Independent Party, and I was its candidate for governor in 2014. The vision of the party was to create a political organization that would fight for working people and for fairness and equality. We accomplished a lot over the last several years, but given the hard truths of our times, the time has come to pick sides. I’ve decided that the Democratic Party is the way to go.

Still, I’m concerned the Democratic Party may not yet be ready for the renewal it must undergo. The fight today cannot be about restoring the status quo before Trump. Protests and aggressive resistance are hugely important and effective. This is why Democrats must be for something visionary to capture and harness the extraordinary outpouring of energy from voters we are witnessing across the country.

Here are some practical suggestions.

Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” is key, since it has become clear that he plans to do no such thing. Democrats must demand an ethical, accountable, and transparent administration, using all means at their disposal. Moreover, at all levels of government Democrats must stand up against connected, insider deals – and the politicians who push them. When government makes sweetheart deals with big corporations, foists crooked deals on taxpayers, or wastes taxpayer money on programs that don’t work, Democrats must be the ones to say, “No!” Democrats must be the party that fights to make sure that taxpayer dollars are spent on public good, not private gain.

Democrats must propose a New Deal for the 21st century, a coherent program that builds our economy for this century and the next, focused on helping families left behind by our changing economy. The plan must deliver major reforms to our financial services industry, massive infrastructure projects for schools, roads and transit, historic investments in job training and education, major commitments to science, space exploration, and technology, and a complete overhaul of our health care system. The party must propose an ambitious yet concrete plan because this is the way to restore the promise of upward mobility that is the American Dream.

The serious problems our country faces won’t be fixed by sentiment, no matter how appealing the rhetoric. Still, when voters are so understandably angry, Democratic leaders must be much more visibly indignant, must speak plainly about what needs to be done – and then must act decisively. The efforts of Democratic lawmakers to go to airports and personally involve themselves in cases of people unlawfully detained by the government are an inspiring example. We need that level of gutsy engagement when it comes to reforming our economy.

In America, everyone must be equal, everyone’s civil rights must be protected, and the government must spend our hard-earned tax dollars wisely. No one should be too big to fail, too small to save, or too connected to play by the rules. I have decided to join the Democratic Party because I see the potential of “what can be.” I want to be part of a renewal of the world’s oldest ongoing party, one that has what it takes to get Americans back on a more level playing field.

Meet the Author

We can win in 2018 and 2020, but only if we’re willing to take this hard look in the mirror. It may be hard to see right now, but if we put working families first, we can be powerful and effective enough to stand against the excesses of these troubling times. We can – in the most inspiring and change-making way – articulate a clear and credible vision of our future that is better, fairer, and stronger by far.

Evan Falchuk was the United Independent Party nominee for governor in 2014.