To "D" Or Not To "D"
Important Questions For Progressives Going Forward
A rapidly growing number of progressives, democratic socialists, and independents are fighting to change the face of the Democratic Party. To transform the party of Wall St. and endless war into the party of social, environmental, and economic justice. Others, mostly progressives disenfranchised with Sanders' ousting in 2016, have migrated to third party politics, arguing that the DNC has simply become too corrupt, and that it is time for a People's Party.
That is not to say that there has not been sorted progressive fronts aligning behind a set of principles; Most notably, the alliance formed through a network of endorsements of "Brand New Congress", "Our Revolution", "Justice Democrats", etc focusing on key policy matters such as universal healthcare, a living wage, and worker's rights. In fact, if you were to question either on matters of policy and platform, they are consistently in agreement. Anyone that claims to be a "progressive" (And I will attempt to not digress into labelism here...), with little or no exceptions, advocates for a living wage, universal healthcare, renewable and sustainable energy, etc, etc... The strategic divisions between progressives with shared values may prove, however, to be an obstacle with regard to electoral/political victories, particularly in elections where there is both an independent and a Democrat, or both a Democrat and a Green Party candidate. It may also prove to be a divider in progressive electoral politics at the national level, as candidates are disregarded by swaths of their own base because they adopted the wrong label.
"That is the the misconception. Progressives are not trying to change the party per se. We are trying to take it over."
- Maria Estrada
- Maria Estrada
In order to accurately report on the political reality on the national level, in it incumbent upon me to recognize that with regard to political affiliation, things are quite different in different congressional districts and races. In some areas, particularly largely "blue" districts where a "Republican" is unlikely to win, it is safer to cast your vote, for example, for a Green Party candidate, as it places you within a fairly safe general election. For other areas, such as precincts in FL, third party politics are relatively non-existent, and the other electoral option is a moral outrage. Geoff Campbell, a progressive author in Florida, describes the political situation there for progressives:
"My state has a closed primary and very terrible Republicans. Our Government doesn’t believe in climate change ... as the waters are rising on Miami Beach. There is no third party power in FL. If you don’t push the [Democratic] Party they will keep doing as they want. If you go to the meetings and engage with real people, not the establishment... You win the conversation."
Just as I was considering involving the recent victory of Alexandria Orcasio Cortez for contemplation on this topic, Campbell, or "MiamiGator" as he is known on Twitter, added "I think Ocasio Cortez just gave us a big reason to push from inside. She proved we can win if we run a principled grassroots campaign. She proved we can take down the establishment from inside."
Some progressives were immediately turned off from the Democratic Party to the point of no return, such as H.A. Goodman, a YouTube commentator who views the Trump administration less hawkish than the DNC, and is supporting Trump in hopes that it will dismantle the DNC in 2020. I asked Goodman, with regard to his support for nonintervention, if he supported Trump's $100 Billion military budget increase. He said he does not;
"I don't support that and wish Dems or someone would advocate slashing the military budget by ending our perpetual counterinsurgency wars abroad. However like they said about Clinton, Trump is flawed. I don't want children separated from parents for example, but that's better than Obama giving them to human traffickers (He then included this link). I also like the fact North Korea is moving towards peace with South Korea, something we never thought possible. Not advocating everyone vote Trump at all, these are just some of my reasons. Also Trump single handedly destroys the DNC with a win in 2020, which will help any third party from the left."
While his defecting from the Democratic Party is certainly understood, the strategy of supporting an advocate of unbridled capitalism in the name of non-interventionism seems counter-intuitive, at least to myself, and it is an objective fact that convincing progressive voters to support Trump is quite frankly not going to happen. Furthermore, hope for third party politics seems slim, and yet in the first stages of ballot access, much less broad support. Cindy A. Matthews, progressive author/owner of a Sanders-esue progressive blog, was less concerned with party politics at all, and expressed concern mostly for building progressive coalitions. Her take;
"Any individuals who want to be included in a progressive coalition should be included, so I think this will vary from locality to locality, state-to-state (I wouldn't expect the national Democratic Party to cooperate very much (if at all), but possibly a local [branch of the Democratic Party] could. But a progressive coalition will probably be made up of mostly individuals who identify as independents and third party members. It won't be easy, because as you say, the tribalism runs deep. A charismatic leader --such as Bernie Sanders-- would go a long way in helping a coalition form and help smooth out the difference through sheer force of personality, but I don't think progressives should hold their breaths [that] that will happen. The DNC has cornered Sanders pretty much, so more than likely a charismatic leader will need to arise among progressives. That's not to say progressive should wait for a Messiah, but just the opposite. They should be building the coalition groundwork and strengthening it even without a central figure head or committee."
The most electorally viable progressive approach seems therefore to be an all-of-the-above approach, as strong candidates in various districts adopt various labels for various electoral reasons. Progressives in "red states" have not given up hope either, with former candidate Robb Ryerse, who ran for Arizona's first congressional district as a Republican. Such is the case likewise with Samuel Ronan, who formerly ran for DNC Chair, currently running as a Republican to represent Ohio's 1st congressional district. These are "red districts", where running as a Democrat would be a poison pill. This has fortunately not assuaged their resolve, as these candidates adopted the proper label, and proceeded to run a progressive campaign.
The establishment of a viable "third party", such as "Movement For A People's Party" is an exceptional long-term goal that will require time and work to realize. Even in California, considered by some to be the most progressive state, is far from realizing legitimacy for alternative political parties, as noted by Stephen Jaffe, recent primary challenger to Nancy Pelosi. This is what he had to say;
"The creation of a legitimate and viable 3rd party will take a generation. But I think it is worth doing. The Republicans are right-wing extremists and [the Democrats] are presently corrupted. That said, trying to start a 3rd party and trying to reform the [Democratic Party] are not mutually exclusive. Both should be done at the same time."