Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Feeling vindicated

What I've been saying -- and doing -- for a couple of years now seems to be what others are also now saying and doing.  The idea of an independent progressive movement seems to have found purchase.

This piece at Down With Tyranny! -- which has the details of the New York governor's race -- links to this piece at Jacobin and this piece at The Guardian.  Two excerpts from those follow.

-- "Building outside the Democratic Party":

Everything about this election points to widespread dissatisfaction with a rightward-moving Democratic Party. Democratic voters stayed home. The turnout was a record low in New York State, with Cuomo receiving nearly a million fewer votes than he did in 2010. The Working Families Party (WFP) deployed all their resources to maintain their ballot line, but their campaign literature didn’t mention their candidate for governor: Cuomo. Only the Green Party significantly increased their vote.

Our gubernatorial candidate, Howie Hawkins, got 5 percent and 175,000 votes — nearly triple the number that voted for him in 2010 and quadruple the percentage. Instead of just voting against the Republicans or for a lesser evil, countless people expressed glee at the prospect of voting for someone running on a progressive platform.

Could only happen in in New York, you say?  Happened in California also, where 23 Greens won election across that big blue state, bringing their numbers to 64.

Could only happen in New York and California, you say?  A Texas Green candidate earned 10% in a statewide race for the first time in as long as anyone can remember.  A Texas Green in a contested statewide race with a strong Democratic candidate got 2% of the vote, at least twice as much as the historical average.

-- "America just took a wrong turn. It's time to take a hard left":

(T)here were real victories this week for progressive alternatives on clean energy, economic security and social justice. The extremist blood bath may have painted the country more red, but there were more than a few important – and extremely promising – tea leaves of green. It was even enough to suggest a new, independent, hard-left turn in American politics is still very much possible.

Fracking bans just passed in cities from California to Ohio and even in Denton, Texas – the town at the heart of America’s oil-and-gas boom. In Richmond, California, progressives beat back a multi-million dollar campaign funded by Chevron to defeat Green and allied candidates. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington DC joined Washington State and Colorado in legalizing marijuana, adding to the growing momentum to call off the failed “war on drugs” that has given the US the highest incarceration rate in the world.

Still not buying it?  Would you open your mind a little about it if you read it in the Waco Tribune?

McLennan Community College professor Ashley Cruseturner astutely observed in a recent Tribune-Herald article that one-party rule allows the party faithful to dictate outcomes: “You have this situation where 5 percent of Texas is picking a statewide candidate for the whole state. Whoever is the most motivated in the spring, who can get this tiny group moving, that’s a lot of power.”

It is a lot of power, and concentrated power is not a good thing in a democracy. The results are predictable; we all find it hard not to reward our friends if it is within our power to do so.

(Notice that the author didn't mention the Green Party there.)  What else is being said about this strange phenomenon of the Democratic Party being abandoned by those who voted and those who did not?

-- "Why the Democrats lost... if they really did":

American voters — the ones that bothered to turn out for the elections — made a few things pretty clear. They’re tired of the party infighting. They’re tired of Democrat and Republican extremes. They’re tired of being held hostage by politicians who aren’t actually representing their wants and needs. The odd combination of Democratic policies and Republican politicians that were approved in this last election shows that Americans aren’t defined by two parties and the ideals encompassed by those parties. They are not black or white, but shades of grey, and need to be represented as such. Was it the Democrats who lost? Or the American people speaking in the limited voice allowed them by a two party system? It seems as though the populace of the United States is tired of party rhetoric, and is seeking a middle ground. It may be that the time is ripe to introduce a third party, one that is interested in representing the people, not collecting political gains like so many trophies.

-- And here's your argument for working within the Democratic Party to affect progressive change, from Bonddad.  "The importance of state-level third parties":

As spelled out above, corporatists are thoroughly in charge of the democratic establishment, to the point, it is widely reported, that they would prefer GOP election wins over progressive democratic candidates. See, for example, here.

So, how to make corporatist democrats extinct?  By showing them that they can never win.  And how do you show them that they will never win?  By borrowing a page from the career of Joe Lieberman.

It isn't enough for progressives to primary corporatists. State level third parties, like New York's Green Party, give progressives the ability to stay in elections right through the general election, even if they lose a democratic primary to corporatists.

Yes, this strategy will mean some general election losses over a few cycles.  But when corporatist democrats learn that they cannot win, they will start to disappear.  Progressives will win either as Democrats, or under another party banner.

By the way, this happened before. One hundred years ago, there were active Populist and Progressive Parties in the states (remember Robert LaFollette?). Ultimately they became part of the winning New Deal coalition.

Progressives shouldn't abandon the Democratic Party.  But they should target the corporatists as mercilessly as Tea Party republicans targeted their less-extremist wing, and state level Third Parties are an indispensable part of that attack.

-- And there's still room in my brain for this, which disagrees that reforming the Democratic Party is the best way to go.

If progressives can learn one thing from the 2014 election cycle, it is that they no longer have a place in the Democratic Party.

With Republicans on the offensive, Democratic incumbents and hopefuls spent the entire election running away from anything perceived to be associated with President Obama. In effect, this created numerous Democratic campaigns that ran to the right of a president that was already on a long-standing drift to the right of his own. This is in contrast to the normal state of affairs, which is where Democrats campaign on ideas that appeal to the progressive base and then do not deliver when elected.

This set of events left progressives and even many liberals without the party that they would normally identify with and vote for. The result was a sweeping defeat for Democrats in the congressional and gubernatorial elections, losing their Senate majority in the process.

Warning: a full reading of these links will be extraordinarily provocative for those on the left still trying to make some sense of last week's wipeout.  (Was it just a week ago that some Democrats were feeling hopeful about the end of the day's results?  I confess I had given up some time before early voting concluded; just didn't want to be Debbie Downer to my hard-working friends and neighbors.)

It's definitely going to challenge your thinking about the kind of Democrat you should support in 2016, in 2018, etc.

And that needs to happen.  Either the Democratic Party nationally -- and the Texas Democratic Party as well -- can get its shit together, or it's further on down the road to perdition.   I still like the idea of tempting them with my vote and support in exchange for nominating the right left kind of candidates.  But if they can't manage that then I can easily go Green.

Sure hope I see more discussions on this topic in the future.

Update: In case anybody might wonder, I wouldn't follow David Alameel to the nearest liquor store, much less any revolution he thinks he's going to lead.  You do have to like how he throws Gilberto Hinojosa, et. al. under the bus, though.  That signals some fun times ahead for the TDP.

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