Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Democrats Have Nothing To Lose And Everything To Gain By Leaving Their Party

For reasons not necessary to name, a great deal of the American population has been forced to reassess its priorities in the past several weeks. It is now the responsibility of everyone who opposed Donald Trump during his run to continue fighting him and his agenda, because the alternative to inaction is increased economic exploitation, the destruction of civil liberties, and what will quite possibly be the end of hope for preserving a habitable climate.

And naturally, as people seek out ways to defy the coming tyrannical presence, they're looking to leaders and organizations that can help their cause. And there are many such groups that intend to fight Trump, such as the ACLU and the Sierra Club. But among them is one which I believe is just as important to resist as it is to resist Trump himself: the Democratic Party.

We should resist the party because though it of course positions itself as an anti-Trump force, it is in fact one of Trump's biggest assets. Due to the Democratic leadership's sabotage of the Bernie Sanders campaign, all the party could offer to counter Trump was an unacceptably militaristic, corporatist, and in many ways corrupt figure who stood little chance in the general election. And this was just the tale end of a deeper, decades-long series of missteps that Democrats have made which contributed to Trump's victory, namely their responsibility for the economic factors behind his rise. Indeed, Robert Reich has charged the Democratic Party with being one of Trump's three biggest enablers.

Helping Trump is the latest in a four-decades-running succession of disservices the Democratic Party has dealt to the people who have kept it in power. Since the Carter Administration, the party has very much embraced the neoliberal economic approach, having enabled Republican presidents to pass tax cuts for the wealthy, deregulated the financial sector, pushed so-called free trade deals, participated in the corrupt campaign finance system, and much more. The leftist writer Michael Sparks was right to declare last June: "Dear Democratic Party, I'm leaving you and I'm taking the kids."

But I could go on about the Democratic Party's past failures for a long time. A better thing to focus on when attempting to persuade Democrats to leave their party is what I believe the future holds for it-and for the future of our chances of replacing it with something better.

What's important to first establish is just how bad a position the Democratic Party is in. The party's crushing electoral losses on November 8 did not just have to do with the routine phenomenon of a party experiencing defeats after eight years of holding the presidency; what the Democrats are experiencing is a once-in-a-century political event that threatens to ruin its future as a major party.

I believe Democrats are in such a crisis not just because they haven't been this diminished electorally since 1928, but because they are, as Bernie Sanders, once said, ideologically bankrupt. And in turn, they're also well on their way to going bankrupt in terms of support. As we've seen time and time again, in the instances of elections from 1994 to 2010 to 2016, Democrats tend to lose when they pivot towards big business interests, because that is not a good way to rally their base. The majority of Democrats, like the majority of Americans, are opposed to the amount of power that corporations hold over society, and after forty years of working to uphold the current economic order, the Democratic Party has dug itself into a political ditch.

Anyone who acknowledges the largely anti-neoliberal nature of the American electorate should have no problem understanding why the Democratic Party isn't doing well. And if current indications are correct, its problems will not end here.

As I elaborated on in a previous article, the approach of trying to reform the Democratic Party is not as easy as its advocates prefer to admit. What has become especially apparent this year with the blatant efforts from Democratic leaders to undermine Bernie Sanders' campaign is that the neoliberal wing of the party has many devices in place to protect its organization from reform. And even as a great deal of progressive activists aim to change it, though I don't doubt they'll make some progress, given the change-resistance nature of the Democratic Party, there's little chance that it will be sufficiently reformed in time for the extremely important 2020 election.

And that obstacle to reforming the party may well prove to be the final nail in its coffin. After forty years of increased economic exploitation, the public's patience for neoliberalism has grown very thin, and unless major changes soon occur within the Democratic Party, it will doubtless become diminished to near irrelevance. Even Robert Reich, who is currently working to reform the party, has written that if Democrats don't manage to remake themselves into something capable of systemic change, they will "be supplanted by another organization."

What I think Reich is wrong about, though, is what kind of organization should replace the Democratic Party in the event that it collapses. While he wants an alternative political organization that operates outside of the electoral process (as do I), he's said that he doesn't advocate for a third party because he's worried that doing so would help elect more Republicans through the spoiler effect.

I'd say his fear is mistaken. The Democratic Party, as he's made the case for, will likely become irrelevant if it continues on its current path, which means that if a third party arises, it will only be at odds with the Democrats for a brief period of time. After that, the Democratic Party will have become the smaller entity and thus their roles will be reversed.

And if current trends continue, such a political event is already on its way. While the Democratic Party has suffered historic losses in 2016, the Green Party, which will likely be the form that this third party takes, has achieved significant gains. Though the party's presidential nominee Jill Stein only received 1% of the vote, she was the most successful Green candidate of all time in that she was able to gather enough signatures to achieve the highest ever levels of Green ballot access. The party also gained future ballot access for state-level Green candidates in Pennsylvania and Missouri, as well as grew their number of officeholders  from 86 before the election to 139 afterwards.

Especially after what happened this year, a great deal of self-identified Democrats, like most Americans, feel that neither major party represents their interests. But thanks to Donald Trump, Democratic leaders have an opportunity to use fear tactics to retain the loyalty of their base. If you are a Democrat who's disillusioned with your party but feels hesitant to leave it, I hope I've been able to convince you that no risk comes with seeking an alternative option.

The hull of the ship which is the Democratic Party has been damaged quite possibly beyond repair, and the time has come to abandon it.

1 comment:

  1. Public Citizen and FAIR are also organizations worth supporting that operate outside of the electoral sphere, in addition to the ACLU and the Sierra Club.