By the YDS Coordinating Committee
The 2014 U.S. midterm elections have sent many in the liberal left, and others on the progressive/social democratic left, into a frenzy. The Democrats lost their remaining majority in the Senate, and dropped several seats in the House as well. To make things worse, many Democratic incumbent governors were deposed by the Republican challengers. In this environment, what lessons can we take away that will help inform us in organizing as we move ahead?
Recently, Jacobin magazine put out a wonderful article that helps to point the way forward for YDS members dissatisfied with the failed liberal politics of the Democratic Party, but who also believe that democracy must be the centerpiece of any socialist movement. That piece was titled, “Building Outside the Democratic Party” by Brian Jones, the Green Party candidate for lieutenant governor in New York.
Jones boldly states: “In the end, the strategy of pushing the Democrats to the left by voting for them was exposed as a farce. Cuomo has made it perfectly clear that not only does he feel zero pressure from the WFP, he is out to destroy them. He created the Women’s Equality Party for that very purpose.” Jones speaks of how the Working Families Party (WFP), a party that in many ways embodies the argument of Michael Harrington, a famous American socialist and founding member of DSA, to be the “left wing of the possible.” The goal of the WFP was to push progressive politics in the New York Democratic Party left, by encouraging progressive, labor minded voters to vote through the WFP line and have its voice heard. However, in a vicious show of realpolitik, the WFP chose to endorse Andrew Cuomo, a neoliberal who is no friend of the working class.
This same story of Democrats working against the working class has reverberated all across the nation: in Kentucky, Alison Grimes was crushed by Mitch McConnell; in Illinois, Pat Quinn was crushed by Bruce Rauner; in Iowa, Joni Ernst crushed Bruce Braley; the examples go on and on. In the aftermath, many in the Democratic Party offered up their own analysis of the crushing defeat. Some said it was because the Democratic candidates ran away from President Obama, others said it was as a result of an apathetic voter base. The real reason is simple: to paraphrase the great philosopher Kanye West, “The Democratic Party doesn’t care about the proletariat!”
For years, progressive groups have wasted time and effort struggling to push conservative Democratic leadership to the left. Despite these efforts, nothing has come of it. The Democratic party has become increasingly centrist, neoliberal, and corporatist. The only persuasive argument that the party has is a weak cry that “We aren’t as bad as the other guys!”
Socialists are better than this, and more principled. If you take a close look at each of the Democratic candidates that suffered crushing losses, you’ll find shaky politics, corporate funding, and a lack of interest in pushing policies that will actually help the working class. Is it any wonder that the Democratic voter base is disillusioned?
The time has come to end this goal of pushing the Democratic Party left. In order to achieve success in third party politics, there’s a need for dedicated organizers and fundraisers to come together in cities around the nation. Across the nation, from Chokwe Lumumba, to Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones, to Jorge Mújica Murias, to Kshama Sawant, principled socialists are rising up and fighting back. And they’re winning. Let's join them.
Don’t spend another election night disappointed by the failures of the Democratic Party. Organize around socialists in your cities, and fight back against neoliberalism.