The fate of the Democratic Party
I’ve debated with myself about whether the prudent course for progressives is to take over the Democratic party, to join a third party, or to make a new one. I think the flood of people who have already left the Democratic party since the election have made at least that choice without my help. Whatever the way forward is, it’s not with the Democrats — the leaders of the party have made sure of that. Their obstinance, empty posturing and smug, out-of-touch bad attitudes have alienated too many people. There just isn’t any momentum behind the Democratic Party, and they’re too determined to co-opt and marginalize the grassroots to work with it, and everyone knows it. I think perhaps no one in this country, no matter how talented or intelligent or dedicated, has the ability to force the Democratic party to start winning elections or accept good advice.
I’ve been interested in the Green Party in the past, because the condition of the planet we live on should be a primary concern of any responsible political party and they do have some national recognition, but I have concerns about their direction, whether they’re really committed to building a nationwide party, and I’ve also been concerned about Jill Stein’s charisma. For a national party representative and presidential candidate, I think she’s not very good at managing the tone of her message, and tries too hard to be too accessible, putting a slightly brittle smile on messages that often times don’t seem very upbeat — stark warnings about health or environmental crises necessitate a tonal shift, and it doesn’t draw people in to miss a beat like that. She also has been bogged down by public confusion about her positions on issues like vaccinations, and despite spending years at it, she has not been effective at defusing that. Regardless of the accuracy or relevance of my views on Dr. Stein’s charisma, clearly the Greens are not catching on as similar parties in other countries have, and no other third party besides the right-wing Libertarian Party has been doing as well. The Socialist Party doesn’t seem to exist in much of the country.
The Democratic Socialists of America have had a huge boost in membership recently, but they are a political organization and movement, not a party. They have their reasons for coordinating energies in this way, and there’s nothing wrong with that, though in the long term I think we still require a political party to coherently engage with the power structures of this country. I think it’s a good start, but I don’t think it will be enough to run a coalition of down-ballot independents and out-of-favor Democrats. The problem is there is no real living tradition of civic engagement in this country, and Americans have been conditioned to mistrust everything. The longer it takes to find a charismatic leader and to create an accessible and progressive political party the worse things are going to get.
Bernie Sanders is still working within the Democratic Party, but while that may seem prudent to him, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stem the tide of grotesque right-wing power grabs. Bernie is the most popular politician in the country, but by tying himself to the Democrats he’s trying to resurrect a political corpse. The party leadership keeps defeating his surrogates and initiatives, if only out of spite, but they still want to co-opt his popularity. They preach “unity” to force out the progressive elements they don’t like, but try to twist their arms to back their neoliberal candidates and maintain their dominance over the sphere of political interests anywhere to the left of Augusto Pinochet. I don’t think it will work. In any case he can’t keep running for office forever.
By stomping out progressive initiatives, and by extension, grassroots enthusiasm, the Democrats are dooming this country to incompetence and corruption, either by their rule or Republicans’. Even if they take the presidency next term with some limp fish corporate suck-up like Cory Booker, it’s hard to see how they would have enough legislators to accomplish anything, or what they would even want to accomplish. Two parties are just not enough in a nation of 330,000,000 people, especially when they are both wholly owned and managed by the interests of a consortium of multinational corporations, but they have rigged the rules for a century to allow for only those two parties.
Based on this fundamental incompatibility of circumstance and need I don’t see how anything is going to improve in the foreseeable future. So if the world blows up or melts down and we all die of some preventable crisis, sure, blame the Republicans — but I think that’s almost pointless. Blaming Republicans for destroying lives is like blaming an act of nature. The whole point of being a Republican is to hurt people, by bombing them, executing them or denying them enough food to eat. Their purpose is to channel immature angst and paranoia, to champion the accessibility of maximally simplistic and superficial slogans to cover for greed and aristocratic swagger. Without them, where would that energy go? I just accept that the Republican party is a repository for awfulness, and I think even a lot of Republican voters would agree with me as far as that goes.
But the Democrats are supposed to be different. They’re supposed to be above the pettiness and corruption and pointless, misguided, destructive rage of the Republican party, but they’re not. They really don’t fundamentally disagree with them on economics and aren’t very far from them socially, so they can’t actually defeat them on their own territory, and they’re too rich, dumb and smug to know it. Hillary’s whole reason for existing as a political figure is to try to buy up moderate Republican votes because the status quo thinks that the ideal political party is just a slightly more polite version of the Republican Party, so that’s what they try to mould the Democrats into. But it doesn’t work, because that’s not what the country needs.
My advice is to strap in and try to keep a level head about current events. The DSA seems like a good organization to gather progressive energy, but I don’t think anyone knows where to go from there.