Can the left overtake the Democratic Party from liberals?

Can the left overtake the Democratic Party from liberals? September 18, 2016

Image: YouTube screen capture
Image: YouTube screen capture

This post is me thinking out loud about American politics, but first, I want to start with an update about my own politics.

Since publicly leaving the Green Party and the Jill Stein for President campaign, many people have asked what I am doing now.

I have officially joined the Socialist Party USA. I have been a longtime socialist, for more than a decade, if not longer without even realizing it. I supported Stein and the Green’s because the adopted an anti-capitalist platform and I hoped by building them up, this could make room for socialist Greens to make waves. It didn’t work out that way, and I decided that my best fit would be to stick to the platforms and parties I trust and that led me to SPUSA.

While they are running a presidential campaign, and I do strongly support it, they won’t appear on many ballots and will have some write-in access around the country, they are openly not running to win. They are running to spread the word about socialism and to help empower people to stop being told what to do by the ruling class and being empowered to speak up and do something about the social and economic ills they face.

If the Soltysik/Walker ticket is write-in approved in California, they will likely get my vote. I have written before that I have the luxury of not living in a swing state and can vote third-party with ease, while knowing some in the country don’t feel they can take that chance in allowing a Republican, especially like Donald Trump to win.

I have repeated that for those in swing states, they must do what they feel is right for them. I will not tell someone how to vote. If an avowed socialist believes that Trump is too dangerous and votes for Hillary Clinton, I will not think less of that person for doing what they believe is the right thing to do. That said if they decide not to vote for Clinton, and Trump wins, I won’t hold that person accountable because the Democratic Party already has the numbers needed to win, they just need to show up. If they lose, it’s on them.

This election has brought two words in American politics that haven’t been used in this way in many years. Socialism and revolution.

I want to start by talking about revolution.

In the context of the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders campaign was revolutionary. He challenged the status quo and fought for a vision of the party that was outside the norm, pissed off the establishment and changed the way many voters thought about politics.

In the context of overall American politics, Sanders was far from revolutionary. He was simply more liberal than people were used to. He is not a leftist, however, as he said time and time again, he believed in capitalism and simply thought it needed to be reformed. In this sense, his campaign was that a reformist.

Which brings us to socialism. Bernie Sanders is not a socialist, he is an old school Democrat, an old school liberal. He understands the importance of welfare programs, worker’s rights, universal health care, etc. Yet he openly said he did not support workers owning the means of production. He is not a Marxist, or any other branch of socialism.

I would have, however, championed his victory as a huge step forward for the party and for the country. He could have, if successful as a president, helped usher in a new wave of left-leaning liberals, and help led to actual leftists finding places to be elected. He could have, in a sense, revolutionized the politics in America.’’

Yet, as Jill Stein rightfully pointed out early in the election season, it’s not possible to be revolutionary in a counter-revolutionary party. The Democratic Party stomped out Sanders. He was never really given a fair shake, by the DNC, the party elite, or the media. Long before Sanders announced his run, the media already elected Clinton.

Yet, here I am, wondering what we can do with this. Can we, on the left, stuck in a perpetual two-party system, that won’t go anywhere barring an actual revolution, in the very Bolshevik sense of the word, bring socialism and leftism to American politics?

This is where I am thinking the most out loud, without answers and without actually being convinced of the very argument I am putting forward.

While reading a book about Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, a vocal socialist, and true leftist, I was inspired by what he did in his own party. A party formed by socialists to be later taken over by conservatives such as Tony Blair and now under threat by the likes of Owen Smith.

Corbyn, like Sanders, rallied a young voter base, swept into the party and made waves immediately, and was never thought of as a potential winner. Unlike Sanders, however, Corbyn won. He is now, only a year later being challenged, but could still come out the winner again, as Smith is seen by many as being unelectable.

Can we have a Corbyn in the Democratic Party? Sure, we lost in Sanders, and will have to wait 4-8 years to try again at the presidential level, but can we not run actual socialists and leftists in down-ticket Democratic Party races? Removing liberal from their seats, replacing them with those on the left? Can we not change the party from the ground up? That way in the next decade we can run a leftist at the top of the ticket and actually get party support and endorsements?

I wonder if this could be the only way, sans revolution, to bring the left into meaningful political positions.

Can we make Corbyn our model? Can we take the Democratic Party and make it the Democratic Socialist Party? Can the left overtake the liberals?

I am eager to hear thoughts.

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