The Political Neverlution
Here is my frustration at this point: while we squabble over Stein, Clinton or Johnson, Rome burns.
I liken Sanders followers as I did the Baptists when I was thrust into their midst fresh from Presbyterianism: I appreciated their emotionalism, but I didn’t like the direction they were going.
Right now, we progressives are engaged in a lot of infighting: everyone’s a traitor to the cause according to someone else in the movement — our “movement” is moving away from one another rather than focusing on how to achieve our goals. Meanwhile, state primaries are happening and we need to show up and vote for Berniecrats. As of this date, we’ve won 62.53% of our primary races. That’s good. But we can do better. And I’ll admit that my state primary in Missouri caught me off guard and I was not good about getting the word out (but I did vote a straight Berniecrat ticket where we had candidates and preferred women in the others). Please don’t let this happen to you. If we make headway in the primaries and then the general elections and then the mid-terms, and so on, we’ll give the political revolution a good kick in the ass. Rather than fighting about presidential candidates, these elections should be our focus. We should face the truth: for all intents and purposes, we are out of the Presidential race.
There is almost always lower turnout in the state primaries and mid-terms. We can make a real impact by turning out a higher percentage of liberals to get more of our candidates talking about our issues. Then, in the actual elections, Democrats will turn out and vote for the candidates we have supported.
But, let’s get to the meat of this article. My real objection to the infighting about Hillary vs. Stein vs. Johnson vs. (yes, even) Trump is that it is completely counter-productive. We need unity. And by unity, I don’t mean marching lockstep for Stein or Clinton or Johnson. Rather, unity is acceptance. Some people are afraid of Trump (and not without reason) and are more comfortable voting for Clinton. Presumably, the vast majority of us do not want Trump to win. Those Bernie-supporting voters voting for Clinton give the rest of us Stein or on-the-fence voters the breathing room we need to vote for Stein. With their help, we may be able to elevate Jill Stein into the debates. At the moment, libertarian Gary Johnson seems to have a real shot at being in the debates.
The big argument or discussion should be about whether we’re better off changing the existing Democratic Party or forming our own third party (or allying with the Greens). I do not have the answer, but I’d like to see more on this topic rather than Stein voters referring to Clinton voters as “traitors.” Or Clinton voters telling Stein voters a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump. Bernie endorsed Hillary: is he a traitor? Has a man who’s lived his life the way he preaches suddenly stabbed his supporters in the back? I don’t think so. I think Bernie maximized his negotiating position and got what he could out of the Democratic Party (as it stands) for our benefit. And if a few pieces of the political revolution (while ignoring several others) go through Hillary Clinton, so what? It was never about Bernie anyway (and that’s according to Bernie) Our fellow Berners who are voting for Clinton allow the rest us to vote for Stein (or Johnson) with a clear conscience.
But, which is better?: Forming our own third party (or allying with the Greens) or changing the existing Democratic Party?
Forming our own third party (let’s just assume I’m also saying “allying with the Greens” when I say “third party”) allows us to start with a clean slate. We start off and remain incorruptible. We will not have been sullied by corporate money. We will not be pawns of the powerful. That’s not a bad start.
On the other hand, I’m reminded why Bernie didn’t run as a third party or independent candidate: infrastructure. Bernie received more financial support than he expected in his wildest dreams. I’d be willing to bet that he and his advisors would have been ecstatic about raising $80 million and, instead, Bernie raised $222 million while relying on a large and enthusiastic volunteer effort. Had he run as an independent, he would likely have had as many, if not more, votes than Clinton (especially, given the impediments set up by the Democratic Party to independents in places like California). That infrastructure, unfortunately, worked against him rather than for him (getting out the vote on a Democratic ballot, in general). If that same infrastructure was used for good rather than shenanigans, it could help us quickly become a powerful force. In that respect, we don’t want to push Democrats or Clinton voters away. We need them.
We have good reasons to resent the Democratic Party as it is: showing favoritism for Clinton, Clinton spitting in the face of progressives by giving DWS an honorary chair of her 50-state program and picking Tim Kaine as her running mate, to Clinton’s wooing of disaffected Republicans (rather than progressives — sure, Clinton’s a progressive — she obviously knows which side her bread is buttered on). But, Clinton(s) won’t be around forever. We can hurt her on her agenda while helping to win our own by voting for Berniecrats. The objective is to get shit done, is it not?
Again, the concern should be less about today’s personalities (Clinton, Everyone Else) and more about our strategy. Hillary Clinton is still entrenched in old-timey politics with her corporate benefactors (she is as Michelangelo was to the Medicis). Are we able to wean the Democratic Party off the teat of large donor money? Difficult to say. But, I am disappointed that Bernie was unable to advance the cause of campaign finance reform with the Democratic Party. This, I believe, is a big concern for all of us. This issue makes the hard work of elevating a third party to major party status more palatable.
I do believe that Berniecrats with a big D (for Democrat) on their chest makes those candidates more electable. Mainstream America isn’t really into politics and all they know is “I generally like the Democrats.” or “I generally like the Republicans.” The Democrats have a brand (so do the Greens: crazy leftists). If we are successful under the umbrella of the Democratic Party, we will practically move people to the left without them knowing they’ve been moved. (Honestly, that last sentence looks a little Machiavellian when I think about it.) If our people win, people will vote for them because they are Democrats. In the meantime, our Berniecrat successes will suffer the humiliating onslaught of fundraising calls they must make in the early years of their terms for the obsolete Clintonian Democratic Party.
Ideally, we would absolve our Berniecrats of fundraising for the Democrats by funding them ourselves through state Berniecrat organizations (Berniecrats of Missouri, for instance). If we could fund these organizations as we did Bernie Sanders, through small monthly donations), we could fund our own Democratic candidates so that they don’t have to take dirty Democratic money. We could be the NPR of political organizations (without the corporate sponsor-ships). If all of us commit and start raising money now we could fundraise year-round and have real resources to back up our candidates.
Having written this, I suppose I lean more towards changing the political establishment rather than challenging it head-on. The benefits for our political revolution are there. Within the rubric of a large organization where we take over and make the rules, we can even go against our interests as Big-D Democrats and open things up for third parties. I think that an overture of fairness from the big parties would be a breath of fresh air from our current politics. Yes, alternative voices are welcome to the debate. Yes, this is about country, not political affiliation. Maybe we really do believe in democracy.
Look, if we’d gotten Bernie Sanders elected, it would have been a peaceful coup. I think we’re all tremendously disappointed that this country will not wake up to the righteous, humanistic voice of Bernie Sanders every day, imploring us to do what’s right. But, with our help, his voice will pop up all over this country with different people, and those voices will make a difference: Bernie’s voice will be louder, more insistent, more omnipresent.
All I know is that having a pissing contest about who the true Bernie-supporters are or are not will leave us unsatisfied with our common goals.