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Progressives Need To Start A New Party – OpEd

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Jeff Greenwald has just written that President Obama, by playing a leading role in pushing for cuts in Social Security benefits as part of the whole kabuki-theater drama over the debt ceiling, and the alleged crisis of America’s national debt, has cut out the “soul” of the Democratic Party.

Let’s start by saying that if the Democratic Party ever had a soul, it was sold long ago to the Evil Ones who run corporate America, and especially the horned legions on Wall Street. But the point Greenwald makes is a good one: Obama and his backers in the Democratic Party in Congress — the power brokers like Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, and the sell-outs like Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Mark Warner (D-VA), who are the Democratic half of the so-called Gang of Six currently putting forward a proposal to raise working class taxes while cutting taxes for the rich, and to slash $3 trillion from programs that are critically important for the poor and the sick — have abandoned any commitment they and the party might once have had to working class America and to the poor and have gone over completely to a strategy of trying to compete with Republicans in currying the favor of the rich and the powerful.

There is at this point only one thing to do, and it’s not to encourage some liberal figure to run a quixotic primary campaign against Obama for the 2012 Democratic Presidential campaign.

It is to move forward with a strategy to develop a fully-competitive progressive Third Party to run races in every Congressional district and for every Senate seat up for grabs in 2012, and to run a candidate for President.

There is only one way this could be done, I believe, and that would be for the Labor movement, or at least those unions that realize that it’s over, in terms of getting any substantive support from the Democratic Party anymore, to make a bold offer to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus to bolt the Democratic Party, en masse, and together, with the help of existing progressive organizations and citizens, to form a new American Progressive Party.

The advantages of this approach are enormous and self-evident. Such a party would begin with the edge of having incumbents already in Congress, who would be running for re-election, who had a track record in their districts, access to money, and with plenty of name recognition. There would be little downside in terms of lost power in Congress since the Democrats have been pathetic in that regard already: the Republican minority has stymied any action on almost any front in the Senate, while in the House, Republicans already run the show, and Democrats are basically passive spectators to the lunacy on display.

A dramatic break-away of the Progressive Caucus, or even by a sizable percentage of that 76-member group (Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont is already outside of the Democratic Party fold), and the formation of a new political party, would be a huge political story. So would any announcements by major trade unions that they were switching their allegiance and financial support to such a new party.

It would generate an enormous wave of enthusiasm among an electorate that is clearly fed up with the current political duopoly. Disaffected young people, frustrated, angry and depressed workers, abandoned minorities, educated elites, activists of all stripes, and movement organizations around issues like peace, the environment, women’s rights, etc., would be re-energized. Even the corporate media, in the control of the very corporate entities that have been usurping control of the American government, would have to report on such a political earthquake.

I don’t know if such a thing is possible. It could be that even within the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the lure of easy corporate cash, and the comforts of incumbency won through going along with the leadership, are too attractive, and the risks of rebellion too great, for its members to follow what, clearly, was once their hearts. It could be that the leaders of America’s trade unions are too lazy and coddled in their dues-financed offices to do the right thing by their members.

But I do know this — if there were a any way to quickly create a genuine threat to the wretched “two-party” system that has been leading this country down the road to ruin, to imperial misadventure after misadventure, to bankruptcy and to eventual Third World status and perhaps even to fascism, this would be it. If there were a way to shake Americans out of their torpor, pull them off of their sofas and away from their screens and bring them out onto the street and to get them passionately involved in politics again, this would be it.

Certainly there are myriad ways such a movement could founder. Dealing with the politics of Israeli/US relations would be one big hurdle, since many in the Progressive Caucus are beholden to AIPAC. The best idea would be to keep the new party focussed on domestic issues–especially labor rights, women’s rights, support for the poor and elderly, job creation, and tax equity, and on education and energy/environment issues. The one global issue that should be a core position of any real progressive party would be ending the wars, closing foreign bases and slashing military spending.

I’m not sure how such a movement could be started. Perhaps Sen. Sanders, who long ago showed the way to run and win House and Senate elections as an independent and a self-described socialist, could start the ball rolling by contacting some of his caucus comrades and any labor activists and leaders he’s close to, and proposing the idea. Maybe Elizabeth Warren, who was betrayed and trashed by Obama after developing the idea for a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and who is said to be eyeing a run for the Senate seat held by Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, would decide running on such a party’s ticket would be a satisfying form of payback, and could tip more principled members of the caucus, like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN) or Shiela Jackson Lee (D-TX), to come over.

However it happens, the time to move is now, so that the hard but essential work of getting the new party on every state’s ballot can begin.

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff

Dave Lindorff is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. He is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective. Lindorff is a contributor to "Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion" (AK Press) and the author the author of “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press). He can be reached at [email protected]

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