#DemEnter- It’s Time for Progressives to Take Over the Democratic Party.
By Ryan Skolnick
Politics isn’t a game.
Politics is my future. Politics is OUR future.
We are facing a mountain of problems and we are running out of time to solve them. We are facing an economy designed to maintain massive income and wealth inequality, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We are facing a climate crisis that prior generations, who won’t be around long enough to see the cataclysmic results, didn’t take seriously. We are facing a world that we are perpetually at war with. We are facing a criminal justice system that does not value the lives of our black and brown loved ones, best friends and neighbors. We are facing a government that doesn’t honor the treaties it signed with the natives of this land, trampling their sacred land without any second thoughts. We are facing a detached populace that can in good consciousness dismiss an LGBTQIA+ person, or an undocumented person’s rights as not worth protecting. Finally, we are facing a President that will cause the escalation of ALL of these things.
We are in crisis mode, and with the Republicans controlling all three branches of government, an uncompromising progressive resistance is more vital now than ever.
We are in a very critical time for progressive politics in this country. The centrist Democratic elite, who spent the entirety of the election marginalizing us as racists, sexists, ignorant children, and overall irritants, just received as clear a rebuke as can be from the voters of this country. Several solidly Democratic states broke ranks and voted for a professional con artist. Turnout was maddeningly low, even in the face of an unabashed bigot who doesn’t care about consent or the struggles others face. Needless to say, their stranglehold on party power is as vulnerable at the moment as it will ever be.
The election is over now. We can spend our time gloating about being right, and about how Bernie would have defeated Trump (something I am absolutely sure he would have done) and it would feel great. But I agree with Bernie Sanders when he asked us, what good does it do to talk about it now? We have a crisis in this country, and we need to take action, immediately.
That is why I am calling for my progressives who have left the Democratic Party to return, at least for now.
For people who know me, this is a radical departure from what my position has always been. I’ve been a strong proponent of people choosing their own destinies, DemExit or otherwise, throughout the election. I saw little benefit to be gained from working within the Democratic Party, when it was so thoroughly controlled by elitist liberals who didn’t know a god damned thing about the struggles people were going through in this country. Now, with the leadership in shambles, it’s time for progressives to seize the reigns of power and take the party back from the corporate elite.
This process is already underway. Keith Ellison, a true, lifelong progressive, is receiving support from all across the Democratic spectrum for the position of the next DNC chair, including support from the two most powerful Democratic Senators: Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer. Ellison’s progressive credentials, aside from being one of the few elected officials to endorse Bernie Sanders during the primary, include co-sponsoring the Credit Cardholder’s Bill of Rights, getting arrested in 2009 for protesting Sudan’s expulsion of aid groups, and co-chairing the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I mean seriously. He was the guy who said, “I don’t believe that Democrats getting our billionaires to go fight with the Republican billionaires is the solution. The solution is to have a mass grassroots movement to create the public will and public consensus that we need a fair and balanced economy, so everyone can make it here.” The man is a fighter, and an excellent choice for DNC chair.
Ellison is currently in a three-way battle for the chairmanship. His opponents are Howard Dean, who is now thoroughly bought and paid for by the health care lobby, and Jamie Harrison, who is a lobbyist at the Podesta group (need I say more?) Even corporate Democrats like Schumer can detect the way the political winds are blowing, which is why Ellison is receiving so much support. We must keep that progressive wave going.
Assuming Ellison becomes chair of the DNC, we are going to need to take action at that grassroots level. We are going to need progressive voices at the state conventions, shaping platforms. We are going to need new progressive candidates to primary the corrupt incumbents. We are going to need progressives influencing local policy at city and county meetings. It doesn’t accomplish anything to get Ellison as our chair if he doesn’t have any grassroots progressives to connect to!
It’s not just Ellison as well. Progressives within the Democratic party are launching a series of challenges aimed at purging the old guard, and they need all the grassroots support they can get. We know that the establishment Democrats won’t give up power without a fight. They are organized and they are well-funded. Our activism is the only thing that can force them out of power. That is why I am calling for a DemEnter, a wave of progressives re-entering and reshaping the party while we have the chance.
Now, I know what many of you are thinking. “The two party system is corrupt and undemocratic and we should focus on developing a viable third party!”
I understand that point. Having a two party system is an embarrassment. If I could snap my fingers and have my way, we would have a parliamentary system of government with a multitude of parties that would form coalition governments. But as I said before, we have a ton of severe crises in this country, and many struggling people who need help, NOW. Lord knows they aren’t going to get it from the Republicans.
The rules are rigged entirely against third parties, and we all know that. Even if let’s say the Green party, the only other progressive voice out there, did reach 5 percent in the general election, and the funding that goes with it, it still wouldn’t be enough. Ballot access is determined state by state, not on a national basis, so even if Jill Stein did reach 5 percent, the Green party would only make the ballots of states that she met the requirements for. As far as funding goes, as a minor party, the Green party would secure 8 to 10 million in federal funds, which would not be even remotely enough in this day of absurdly priced campaigns, to make a difference. There are roughly 20,000 metropolitan areas in the United States. 10 million in funding would give the Green party 500 dollars to spend in each one. You simply can’t build a political party that way. It would take a ton of election cycles at 5 percent each time to get close to building a functional party infrastructure.
So, we have two choices. We can work to tear down those rules that discriminate against third parties, which could result in a better government down the road but would take an inexcusable amount of time, or we could seize control of a party with all the power and access, and use those mechanisms to help people, right now. That’s what I want to do. I want to affirm the value of black lives. I want to protect the native people’s right to their land. I want to protect undocumented people who just want to make their way in America. I want to defend the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination. I want to protect a woman’s right to choose. And I want you all to join me.
I understand the progressives who are seething with rage at the DNC and Hillary supporters right now. We were dismissed as fringe conspiracy theorists for accusing the DNC of being biased against Bernie Sanders. Wikileaks proved us correct. We were marginalized and dismissed as “Bernie bros” even though our grassroots leaders were all women mostly women of color, because it’s a lot easier to ignore a message if you can dismiss the messengers as agents of bigotry. We had to confront a million dollars worth of paid online trolls who existed solely to attack and discredit us. What we had to put up with throughout the primaries, culminating at the DNC convention, was simply unacceptable.
This is why it’s so important we take as many elected positions as possible within the Democratic party. It’s so easy for these people to dismiss and ignore us if we shout in anger from the outside as third party members. But as Democrats in positions of influence, they will be forced to actually take us seriously. Once we compose a large enough section of the party, they will need our support to get anything done. That will require them to actually listen to us. This is how we will force the elites to listen and implement progressive policies.
I ask my fellow progressives who left the Democrats to join me in getting involved in Democratic party politics. Run for state delegate positions. Work on campaigns and forge connections. Run for office yourself. Bring that necessary infusion of progressive values that we need to insure that this wave isn’t just a flash in the pan. I want this outpouring of progressive outrage to be entrenched in one of the two major parties for the long haul, and to do this we must put in the work.
Politics isn’t a game, it’s about making a difference in the world. Bernie Sanders told us to never lose our sense of outrage, and to never fall into a pit of despair, because the struggle for a just government continues every day. He called us to action by empowering our voices, and he united us in the hope that we could build a government that works for all of us, not just those at the top. It’s time to answer his call to action, and not just sit online and complain about the corruption in our government or the rigging of our economy. It’s time to put a stop to the madness, by putting in the work it takes to make our vision of a progressive America a reality.