During the DNC chair election, I read a tweet (and I apologize for not being able to cite the author) saying that the smartest thing the Dem establishment could do would be to elect Ellison and thereby neutralize the Progressives. Instead, they chose to alienate and enrage them…probably not a smart move. I have to wonder what their strategy is. Do they think that the Progressive attempts at creating third parties will splinter or self-destruct? Do they think we will be unable to organize any substantial challenges to them by 2018, and be forced, once again, into voting for “lesser evil” establishment candidates rather than for what we actually want? Are they just so concerned with protecting their own financial interests that they can’t see beyond that?
My money is on the latter, but that doesn’t matter. We should shift our focus from the Democratic Party and our relationship to it and toward strategies for placing Progressives in many elected positions. It’s already been over three months since the 2016 election, and we have less than 14 months to strategize, recruit, and get candidates on the ballot for 2018. We need a plan, and we need it now.
The Justice Democrats plan to primary corporate Dems is great, and they can focus on that, but that is not going to help us win back state legislatures or flip House seats in rural states. So while the Justice Democrats focus on Dems, the rest of us can focus elsewhere. I know this is not a popular stance, and that many Progressives want to focus on moving the Dems left, but we don’t have much time and, with 40% of voters now registered as Independent, focusing just on the left is unnecessarily limiting.
There is a great deal of talk of starting third parties, and there are many great ideas there. But we are really under the gun timing-wise; it takes months to get a party up and running. Additionally, it would be next to impossible for someone from one of these parties to win a seat in a state legislature in a conservative state. It would be wonderful if they could, but we don’t have the time to educate and team build enough between now and 2018 to make that happen.
I love the Draft Bernie/People’s Party idea because I think it could appeal to a broader political spectrum than the Socialist or Green parties, and maybe even win some seats in conservative states. At the same time, though, I don’t want Bernie to part ways with the Democrats. And yes, I am thoroughly disgusted with the DNC. But, I want Bernie to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s all over the media, bringing the Progressive message into the mainstream. Do you think that would be the case if he told the Democrats to go to hell? As much as he might want to do that, the best thing that he can do for Progressives is to keep playing the game and get the message out.
So, I’ve said what I don’t think will work; here’s what I think will work. Our Revolution, Mayday.US (Zephyr Teachout’s Money Out of Politics PAC), and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security & Medicare (NCPSSM) already have the necessary institutional structures in place, so we don’t need to spend time creating new institutions. And, Our Revolution has the coveted Bernie email list, which will allow them to poll Bernie’s supporters to determine what issues are resonating most in different areas of the country, activate volunteers, and recruit candidates. Our Revolution can reach out to NCPSSM about polling their (likely quite numerous) members and securing their endorsements for candidates. And the three organizations can work together to create messaging that is simply “We need to get money out of politics because Big Pharma and other corporate interests pay off your representatives to weaken Medicare and SS – a corrupt system that puts profits over people.” That is a message that resonates with many conservatives as well as liberals and attracts a broad swath of Independent voters.
We also need to determine where our time/energy/money will be best spent. There are a number of factors that must be considered, and this is somewhere that being able to reactivate the Bernie network would be extremely helpful. Research needs to be compiled quickly regarding the number of seats required to flip each state house that is currently GOP-controlled, and then locals need to dig into local newspapers and other sources to determine which state GOP legislators in GOP-controlled states are considered weak. Only when we have this kind of data can we decide where we can most effectively target, and start looking for candidates and mobilize volunteers.
Lastly, I think it would be best if these candidates ran as Independents, rather than as third-party-affiliated candidates. It offers them greater flexibility to emphasize what they need to emphasize and downplay what they need to downplay, to get elected. Also, people are already so sick of political labels, can you imagine how bad it will be in another year? Independent candidates will likely be able to benefit from claiming that they are rejecting political labels. The candidates can coalesce into a new party after the election, or become Democrats and take over that party, depending on how the elections play out.
So, this is how I would like to pursue a Progressive change in 2018. If there are other strategies out there, please share those ideas.