Jon Stewart should be the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
No, this is not a joke. It’s a proposal to grapple with the reality of where Democrats are since the Nov. 8 election, which cost Democrats the White House, more congressional seats and governorships, and legislative seats across the country. It’s a recognition that, even with an incredibly popular president and even more popular first lady campaigning for the Democratic standard bearer, historic though she may have been, the strategy went down in flames.
Yes, there were third-party candidates. Yes, there were bad campaign decisions by Team Clinton. But, more than anything, the Democratic Party, embedded with supervoters within the nomination process, didn’t grasp the anger and disgust of too many Americans who have been left behind.
These people are tired of being ignored and lied to and sick of watching Washington elites serve themselves while ignoring the needs of others. These people know their kids will not have a better life than they did – the very heart of the American dream – because their chances of getting through college are evaporating along with their own job prospects.
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Bernie Sanders’ successful campaign should have been a signal to Democratic Party leaders that something extraordinary was happening. Instead of exercising leadership by adapting to the tone and tenor of the country, they doubled down on a bad bet. They should have listened to Hillary Clinton’s rhetorical question, “Why am I not beating (Donald Trump) by 50 percent?” Instead, they failed to grasp the enormity of the question and dig out an answer.
Now we are in the demonization phase. Of the winners. Of each other. But most especially, the loathed Trump supporters and voters. And that’s where our next series of mistakes will begin.
We can’t double down on the past. We need to ask ourselves hard questions. We need to talk to Donald Trump voters. And we need to listen to them. I don’t mean the alt-right. I mean blue-collar voters who could have been Democratic voters if we had given them something to vote for.
The next chairman of the DNC should be able to understand all this and more. And Jon Stewart, in his impressive post-election comments, does exactly that. We collectively need to grasp new lessons in this post-Trump/Clinton time. Here are a few:
Celebrity matters. We have learned this from Trump the hard way.
Outsider status matters. No one from Congress should be the DNC chair because of competing agendas that will necessarily occur. And whoever does this job needs to be fully committed politically.
Wealth matters. Someone of independent means will not be subject to the kinds of cross-examination that will follow expenditures – again, Trump lessons apply here.
Thoughtfulness matters. Stewart refuses to discard his friends who were Trump voters. He described them as average people who are just fed up. Such an approach is incredibly important to the future of the Democratic Party. We must understand and include, not demonize and exclude.
Humor matters. If Democrats are to find our way out of the wilderness, we must rediscover our sense of humor, which has all but disappeared post-election. I need someone to make me laugh.
I have no idea if Stewart has any interest in taking on such a task. I know only that he inspires thoughtfulness with a caliber of humor, political and otherwise, that is unsurpassed in America. And he has a civic-minded sense of purpose, as demonstrated in so many ways over the course of his public career.
Donna Gentile O’Donnell is a Democratic strategist. She wrote this for The Philadelphia Inquirer. Readers may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.