Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Five-Step Plan For Building A Successful Third Party

The picture above is a witness's sketch of the 1856 Republican National Convention. You wouldn't be able to guess it from looking at the image, but this was the party's first one ever.

As I've written about before, the GOP's origin story is proof that political upsets of party-sized magnitude can happen under the right conditions. The Republican Party was born out of the growing success of the abolitionist movement in the 1850's, wherein only months after their founding on March 20, 1854, they managed to largely dislodge the pro-slavery Whig Party in that year's midterm election. By 1856, they had replaced the formerly immovable Whigs altogether, all because they had an agenda that spoke to the deep and growing concerns of the American people.

And a similar situation is expected to play out soon in the 21st century. With income inequality once again at a crisis level, and the Democratic Party in a worse position than ever to address it, all the signs point to many Democrats (and some Republicans) leaving their party and working towards the rise of a third one that isn't corrupted by corporate interests, which will most likely be the Greens.

And especially with the coming economic collapse which will expose Democrats as the party of Wall Street when the Obama Administration pushes for bailouts, I believe that a large surge in support for the Greens is inevitable. But their victory won't happen on its own; we'll need to fight for it.

So in the interests of letting you know what you can do to make us achieve such reform-and most importantly, keeping you motivated-I'll present to you a somewhat idealistic, but entirely possible, projection of the next four years should we make all the right moves. The first one of those moves is...

1: Gather early support

Robert Reich, a longtime friend of the Clintons who nonetheless promotes an agenda far to the left of theirs, is one of the first people who had the vision of a third party upset post-2016. In March, during the height of competitiveness in the Democratic primaries, he authored a piece that succinctly imagined a surprisingly plausible scenario: the end of the two-party system in 2020 if Bernie Sanders did not become president in 2016.

And this wasn't just fanciful speculating. Reich now seriously plans to build an alternative to the two major parties in future elections. And I look forward to working with him on that, directly or indirectly. The one part of his strategy that I disagree with, though, is how he plans to embark on the project after the November election. "The day after Election Day," he said in a July 26 Democracy Now interview, "I am going to try to work with Bernie Sanders and anybody else who wants to work in strengthening a third party—and again, maybe it’s the Green Party—for the year 2020, and do everything else I was just talking about. But right now, as we lead up to Election Day 2016, I must urge everyone who is listening or who is watching to do whatever they can to make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next president, and not Donald Trump."

Aside from my minor disagreement with Reich on whether Hillary Clinton is worth voting for, I'd recommend a different approach: start promoting the idea of a party-sized upheaval right now. 

During the time between the end of the primary contests on June 14 and Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Clinton on July 12, when it was uncertain as to whether my candidate would become the nominee, I had been contemplating Reich's predictions quite a lot. And by the time it was all over, I was fully ready to begin working on plan B. Hours after Sanders surrendered all the hopes of his campaign, I had started cultivating new hope in his supporters by creating See You In 2020 and publishing an article that explained why this was far from over (which, I admit, I had started to write in advance).

In short, I started preparing for 2020 as far back in advance as possible. And if you haven't begun doing so yet, please start now; tell everyone you know about the political opportunities ahead. Talk on social media about building a third party. And if you have any kind of voice in the media or run a blog of your own, use it to spread the message. Time is of the essence, and Trump or no Trump, we can't afford to waste it by remaining silent on this issue.

2: Gather early support from within the establishment

Here's where the fun starts: the day after the election. Well, actually, it won't be all that fun when we experience it firsthand. A massive financial crisis is coming (see the link in the fourth paragraph), and in spite of the uncomfortable effects that most of us will be feeling from it, at least we'll be able to watch the political thriller that it results in.

If the crash hits before the end of Obama's term, which I believe is highly likely, the Democratic Party will be effectively detonated. As was the case eight years ago, Obama will pursue a bailout for the largest financial institutions after they start to go under, which will be just as unpopular as the ones from last time. But unlike in 2008, Obama and the other Democrats who support such actions will not be let off in the court of public opinion. As the middle class rapidly deflates under the policies of a Democratic president, not only the types of liberals who supported Sanders in the primaries but the ones who supported Clinton will largely be jolted out of the notion that their party represents their interests. 

Since Hillary Clinton herself will no doubt be on board with the bailouts in addition to being responsible for creating the foundations of this crisis by supporting the last ones, if the collapse happens before November 8, the election could very well be handed to Trump. But no matter what comes of this in the short term, it will leave us with a major opening for future elections.

Again, imagine it's November 9. The system of big money in politics, unregulated capitalism, and extreme economic concentration has wholly proved itself to be unsustainable, and almost everyone is aware that neither of the major parties is able to fix the problem. It's now when Robert Reich, Bernie Sanders, and the rest of those who know what must be done to fix this mess will need to get to work. 

On that day, I plan to start both privately and publicly contacting the politicians who make up a substantial part of the Democratic Party, called the Berniecrats, and advising them to leave their party. Having collectively pledged to vote for Hillary Clinton, they have somewhat of an obligation at the moment to remain registered Democrats, but after the election is over and the Wall Street bailout fiasco has played out, I'm sure that many of them will be glad to break ties with the DNC. If we all lobby them through some means (writing letters, calling their offices, authoring opinion pieces) to abandon the Democratic Party, our movement could soon have a lot of influential figures backing it.

The winter of 2016 will be a bleak one. But spring will be on its way, and the world will be turning Green.

3: Lay out the foundations for a government takeover

It's 2017, and the cracks in the two-party system are becoming ever more visible. New polling data has been released on party affiliation that shows combined Republican and Democratic membership has dropped to below 50%, and as Americans are struggling to recover from the financial Armageddon that resulted from their past support of these parties, this fact is making a lot of people re-evaluate their political strategy.

And the leaders of the Green Party (assuming that another party with similar goals doesn't arise to compete with it) are taking notice. As the 2017 local elections (or what I like to call the mid-midterms) approach, Greens across the country who are running for positions like mayor, county supervisor, and school board are enjoying a notable increase in support with a public that's both deeply alienated with the parties of those candidates' competitors and has the encouragement of many political leaders to seek out alternatives.

I believe that this surge will be inevitable. But the amount of influence it has over the structure of our government when the time comes to vote will largely depend on how hard we work for these candidates. Living in Humboldt County, California, one of the state's top three Greenest counties and the first place where Greens won a majority of seats in a city council, I'll have front-row seat to some of the races where they're most successful. Other parts of the country won't be as easy, though; judging from the map of Jill Stein's success in the 2012 election, we can expect that while the Green Party will do well in Alaska, Hawaii, the northeast, the west coast, and the northern midwest, they'll face challenges in most other regions.

But even if you live in Georgia (the Green Party's historically worst-performing state), I urge you to promote, volunteer, and most importantly vote for the Green candidates running in your area next year. And if they're expected to be absent from any places on the ballot, fill that void by running as a Green yourself. Because though a Green sweep in local elections won't have much of a direct influence on the issues that affect the country most, it will leave a great deal of communities familiar with the Greens, and feel empowered to vote for them when the stakes are higher.

4: Take it to Washington

I'm sad to say that no Green has ever won a position in the U.S. government's parliament. But when examining the historical record of the amount of votes the Greens have received in past elections, one era stands out: the year 2000.

"Green Party Grows (So Does Democrats' Dismay)", reads a headline from 1998 that we'll no doubt see a new version of in 2018. For several years between then and the turn of the millennium, it looked like the Greens were slowly on their way to overtaking the Democratic Party. After Bill and Hillary Clinton's appaling remaking of the Democrats into another version of the Republicans, many voters were ready for a change. That, and the nomination of yet another uninspiring candidate Al Gore in 2000, propelled Ralph Nader to a symbolic victory of 2.74% of the vote and gave the Greens running for Senate an unprecedented 0.90% of it. Congressional Green candidates also experienced an increase in support from previous elections, with 0.26% of the vote.

The trend of growing success for the Greens didn't last, but it made something apparent: when the public doesn't like the options in front of them, there's no reason they won't switch to something better.

That's what we'll see again-this time magnified-in the 2018 midterms. With the Greens (hopefully) having won a large number of seats in local races across the country, and the latest poll numbers for the Democratic Party showing that it just doesn't have enough support to be taken seriously, they're ready to compete on a higher level. I'd say the worst case scenario for 2018, assuming we succeeded enough in 2017, will be that the Green candidates running for the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the governorship will not win any elections, but still take an amount of the vote relative to their opponents that would have been unheard of two years before. The best case scenario (which, as far as we know, will be the case) is that Greens defy the attacks that the media and the electoral establishment throw at them and actually win several, if not many, seats in parliament.

Then begins the long slog to you-can-guess-where...

5: Take it to Washington-and then take it over.

It's the beginning of 2019, and the Greens have made historic gains in a very short period of time. They have the backing of many prominent individuals, a substantial number of Americans now choose to side with them over the Democrats (which are still shrinking), and though they still don't control the government, they're now very much a mainstream party.

Now comes their greatest challenge: winning the White House. Despite hostility from the corporate media, they enjoy a lot of support from the American people during the first months of the 2020 campaign season, with their presidential frontrunner experiencing a steady rise in the polls. And after the Greens take over more of the country's local governments than ever in November of 2019, the game is on.

With much of the left now with the Green Party, the Democratic base and leadership is almost entirely made up of corporatists, which means that the Greens have an edge. If Hillary Clinton is the next president, they'll find themselves running against one of the worst Democratic candidates imaginable, and if she isn't, the 2020 Democratic nominee will most certainly be just as politically unappealing as her. For this reason, I think the Greens will have a good chance of surpassing the Democrats in both membership and the polling numbers of their presidential nominees in 2020.

The final face-off before November, though, will likely be between the Greens and the Republicans. If Donald Trump is the next president, we'll be competing with someone who harnesses the same kind of anti-establishment, populist sentiments as we do-but twists it into a reactionary, neo-fascist direction rather than towards the politics of peace and equality that we promote. The same will be the case if Trump loses, as a new, probably even worse version of him will easily step in and take his place four years later. So ultimately, the choice that Americans will face on November 3, 2020 will come down to this: do you want  your future to be defined by the politics of fear, or by the politics of courage?

Given the demographic shift that will have taken place by then, we have good reason to believe that courage will win in that scenario. But that's far off; right now, we need to get started on creating the factors that will make it all possible. 

As for 2016, I'll continue to write articles here that promote setting those events into play, and help Greens win in the races currently within their reach. (For anyone who also lives in Humboldt County, you'll have two local Greens to vote for in November: Arcata City Council candidates Paul Pitino and someone named Valerie Rose-Campbell. Let's make this a good year for them.) The future that I envisioned is fantastical, but if we're willing to work for it, it could very well become reality.

And what if we don't succeed in 2020? If that happens, as we've learned this year, nothing should ever deter us from continuing the fight. History shows that change always comes, regardless of the direction of electoral politics. And secondly, remember that the Republicans lost in 1856. However long it takes for the Greens to do what the Republicans did, we'll one day get a Lincoln of our own.

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