In the 6 months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, optimism about the trajectory of the country has plummeted. With the cloud of the “RussiaGate” scandal looming over the current administration, increased military intervention in the Middle East, a massive proposed increase to an already bloated defense budget, and the GOP’s regressive health care plan that will result in deep cuts to Medicaid and services previously required under ACA, including maternity care, mental health and emergency services, Congressional approval is at a near record low.
Low approval for this Congress among Democrats and Leftists, many still feeling the sting of 2016 losses, is unsurprising. However, a recent Gallup poll indicates that optimism among registered Republicans has also plummeted. While a majority of Republican voters were optimistic after the GOP captured the White House and Congress in November, Congressional approval among Republicans has fallen 22 points since February. Gallup wrote, “With Republican optimism waning, Congressional approval among the public as a whole has dwindled back down to the pre-inauguration level” (20%).
Congressional approval among Democratic voters has been hovering between 10% and 12% since February. As a person who spends a great deal of her time rehashing the failures (both moral and political) of the Democratic Party throughout the 2016 campaign season on social media and in writing, a few things have become very clear. Democrats are oblivious to what it takes to win elections, and Democrats still do not give a sh*t about the progressive base of the Party.
Needless to say, what is also very clear is that progressives and leftists are angry, they are disillusioned with the party, many are hopeless, most are rudderless, and all are uncertain about the best path forward. Unfortunately, it is often the latter of these issues that spur the most contentious debate among leftists. Not that this is unexpected, we are a diverse group, with a range of political ideologies, and let’s be honest, we’re not exactly go-along to get-along types. If we were, we’d be Democrats.
But, it is this issue that also leads to a great deal of inaction and prompts some of us to “throw the baby out with the bath water.” The idea of trying to create an established set of guiding principles within an anti-establishment movement is not only absurd, it is impossible and unnecessary. Dogma has no place in the movement, and if we’re going to sit back until we can all agree on a direction, we’re most assuredly going nowhere.
This is not a new development on the left, this is the story of the left. We have a long history of infighting, stubborn inflexibility and tearing each other apart. Again, this is not surprising, it is to be expected when a diverse group of people with extremely high standards and ethics for government come together to fight for social, political and economic justice. Once more, if we were more flexible in our ideals and more accepting of injustice, we’d be content with the Democratic Party.
But, in real world terms, it makes absolutely no difference whether we agree with one another about how to get there, as long as we get there. And while there will always be disagreements over the path forward, where it matters we are aligned, and this provides us everything we need to act.
(1) We are in complete agreement on policy and (2) we are in agreement on our disillusionment with a party that has co-opted our message for decades, only to turn their backs on us once in office. Of course, the Democratic Party has also been co-opting our movement for decades, and as much as they would like to believe (or pretend) that they are the opposition party, they are not.
The anti-establishment left is the ONLY viable, practical and coherent opposition to both establishment parties.
Unfortunately, leftists of all stripes seem somewhat mired in the logistics of moving forward in a unified way, rather than just taking every possible opportunity to be proactive. Frankly, whether you’re Dem-Exit, Dem-Enter or Dem-Never-Was is moot, if you want to change the system, you have to be out there demanding it every chance you get.
A good example of leftist opposition occurred last Friday night when the DNC held a “Resistance Summer” rally in Los Angeles. This is, of course, a perfect example of the Democratic Party co-opting our message and our methods in an attempt to subvert actual progressive change. The DNC’s plan for the event was to rally their base with a group of speakers and then run a phone bank in opposition to Trumpcare. However, as reported by the Los Angeles Times
Less than five minutes into DNC Deputy Chair Keith Ellison’s introductory remarks, a group of people stood up and chanted vehemently, “Single payer now!” They unfurled a banner across an entire pew, and heckled the speakers so freely that an older woman made the sign of the cross, as if warding off their revolutionary spirits, and said, “Shame on you.”
Ellison’s remarks about party unification were nearly inaudible because two attendees were standing and screaming at each other. California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman simply stopped speaking. Halfway through the rally, two-dozen single-payer healthcare demonstrators — a fifth of the attendees — walked out, using a bullhorn to stage their own press conference on the sidewalk nearby.”
This is opposition, and this is what we need to be doing whenever and wherever possible. The time for polite behavior and civil debate is over. Progressives do not owe the Democratic Party the benefit of the doubt, they do not owe them respect or conciliatory gestures. Because in the end, progressives have no obligation to a party that has neglected their demands and its voters for 40 years.
Honestly speaking, the time for full-throated, unrelenting opposition to the party could not be better. We have an overtly corrupt administration running the country, a near record low Congressional approval rating across the board, and a party that is offering nothing beyond “resistance” and “hey, we’re better than the other guys”.
At this moment, we find ourselves in the extremely fortunate position of having overwhelming support for our policies among a Americans, an increasing anti-capitalist sentiment among the Right, and overwhelming approval for the Senator (our man) who brought all of these issues and policies to the collective American consciousness.
Moreover, progressive policies are gaining traction among elected Democrats as well. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) have both come out in favor of Single-Payer health care, after a three year fight Socialist Alternative and 15 Now are on the verge of making $15 minimum wage a reality in Minneapolis, and as reported by Andre Roberge, Seattle made history this week when it passed a “tax the rich” income tax by a vote of 9-0.
The Seattle tax increase will be used to lower the property tax burden and to address deficits in education, mental and public health services funding, to provide affordable housing and address the city’s homelessness epidemic, and to create green jobs and meet carbon reduction goals.
“This is a battle for tax justice and building a tax system that is fair to every income bracket. This is the first step in a long battle toward shifting away from Washington State’s regressive tax system. As with other successful progressive measures passed in Seattle, this measure has strong support, evidenced by the turnout at each step of the process, pushing Seattle leadership in line.
Everyone that spoke in support of the income tax measure also spoke on their readiness to continue the fight in the predicted ensuing legal battle. Yet, as Kshama Sawant highlighted, “When we fight, we win.”
For those who need an extra shot in the arm, on Wednesday, Common Dreams reported that the country’s most popular politician is not ruling out a Presidential run in 2020. Senator Sanders remarked on radio show Make It Plain with Mark Thompson that he couldn’t make a definitive statement, but he’s “not taking it off the table.” Certainly, it’s too soon to say whether or not Bernie Sanders will make another go of it in 2020. But, a planned visit to Iowa, a State known to be a crucial starting point in presidential politics, has many speculating.
Without a doubt this is a spark of hope to a great many Sanders’ supporters who have been, let’s be honest, hoping since the second he stopped that running that he would start running again. It is also a spark of hope for those who have been actively championing and organizing around a Sanders 2020 run.
Most notable among those is Draft Bernie for a People’s Party, whose stated mission is to “channel the enthusiasm generated by the Sanders campaign into building a new political party” that will offer “new progressive electoral choices and strive to enact the people-first platform.” Currently, Draft Bernie’s petition has just over 43,000 signatures. Perhaps, now that Sanders is hinting that a 2020 run is something he may be pursuing, many who have been disinclined to sign on to this cause will have a change of heart.
We all have something to offer moving forward. Those who have the ability to disrupt “Resistance Summer” and its non-reformist message should absolutely do so. Similarly, our State Reps. will be out on the campaign trail this year, providing many of us the opportunity to be heard. In fact, nothing tickles me more than the thought of disrupting staged events, where our representatives kiss babies and pretend to fill sandbags or dig holes, with shouts of “SINGLE-PAYER NOW”.
For those like me who live on the periphery of our communities and don’t have access to demonstrations, or those who are not comfortable with such actions, groups like Draft Bernie, Democratic Socialists of America, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and Brand New Congress are always looking for volunteers and organizers, and many offer opportunities to get involved from home.
Write, do a podcast, inform, scream through a bullhorn, disrupt, donate, agitate, organize, go to meetings, volunteer… do whatever you can. Right now, the momentum and the mood of the country is in our favor, and all we have to do is act. What we can’t do is get mired in logistics and infighting, or become paralyzed by apathy. This is precisely what Democratic politicians hope for, it is what allows them to hold office year after year without ever serving the interests of their constituents.
It doesn’t matter whether your goal is to oust them all, make them shift, or start a new Party, all of our elected officials need to feel the pressure. With or without Senator Sanders, the most significant action any of us can take, no matter how we take it, is to make it impossible for our Representatives to ignore us. As the good Senator from Vermont said earlier this week, “there’s a whole lotta fights that we have to fight”….so let’s start fighting them.