False Promises: Why Voting Dem Won’t Help the Left

While many social progressives and leftists are heartened to see the outpouring of support for Bernie, we won’t throw our weight behind a candidate like we did when Obama first ran for president in 2008. Why? Because elected officials need to do more than just talk the talk to earn the trust of the people. Politicians need to be transparent, honest, and ready to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, even if it means losing their political careers.

If we have learned anything from the last eight years, it is that electing a Democrat only pacifies progress. This is because liberals are ok with war, deportations, and mass incarceration — as long as a Democrat is doing it.

For example, when Bush was droning, deporting people and letting Wall Street wreak havoc unchecked, liberals were quick to stand in solidarity with groups further to the left that were also trying to impeach him. We can see the same happening with Trump: liberals are joining forces with and standing up for the targets of Trump’s bluster, while completely ignoring that those very same people are being equally mistreated under the Obama administration. They protest Trump’s time on SNL but are happy to let Obama parade around Buzzfeed and late night talk shows, regardless of him being a war criminal, responsible for the deaths across the Middles East, Palestine and Latin America.

Republicans openly espouse oppressive ideals but Democrats in power don’t use that power to dismantle systems of oppression — they merely water them down, appeasing their liberal base just enough to get reelected. When local municipalities have tried to free themselves from exploitative, non-mandatory immigration laws that date back to the Clinton era, Obama’s administration has stepped in and made them mandatory, siding with corporate private prisons, lobbyists and corrupt law enforcement instead of defending their victims.

There can be no justice without accountability, and under Democratic administrations, liberals too often watch their leaders literally get away with murder. Electoral politics can bring about progress only if the left actively pushes its leaders, once in office, to carry out their campaign promises — and hold them accountable if they don’t. On Tuesday, organizing groups led by queer black women in Illinois successfully ran a campaign to unseat Anita Alvarez, a Democratic State’s Attorney notorious for her hesitation to charge 68 police officers involved in fatal shootings, including Laquan McDonald’s killer. And last year a district of Los Angeles densely inhabited by Mexican immigrants handed a veteran former member of the County Board of Supervisors, Gloria Molina, the first campaign loss of her career as a response to her support for local law enforcement doing the dirty deportation work of federal immigration authorities. Those efforts serve as powerful lessons: that progress occurs in our democracy only when we push — hard — on officials in office, not just from inside the ballot box.