Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
– Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise”
Where do we go from here?
That seems to be the question on the mind of nearly every liberal and progressive since Election Day. Trump’s victory has the left in complete disarray, and despite the terrific show of force that was made during the Women’s March, there has yet to emerge any clear cut strategy for dealing with the Trump Organization that doesn’t involve politics as usual in Washington. The Democratic Party meanders somewhere between mindless navel-gazing and meaningless internecine squabbles, gradually acquiescing to the Trump Organization and the three-piece jackboots of the Republican Party as they rapidly flush large chunks of the federal government down the latrine, flooding the country with piss and shit and fear and despair. Hillary Clinton is in exile, sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are through the roof, and Capitol Hill is looking more and more like the Reichstag with every passing day.
What’s a revolutionary to do?
There’s an argument to be made that trying to reform the Democratic Party from the ground up through things like the 50-state strategy is the way to go. But persuading major coalitions like the DNC and the DCCC to reverse course away from the corporatocracy is like trying to stop a steam train with a penny on the rail; you’re only going to be flattened into something unrecognizable by the rush of so-called “progress.”
The election’s fundraising numbers bear it out; labor and small-dollar independent donations were completely dwarfed by the mega-millions the corporatocracy and and K Street were able to leverage, making the pressure to adhere to a neoliberal party line (read: a pro-business, data-driven oligarchy with socially liberal overtones) a force to be reckoned with.
And while the Democrats pay a lot of lip service to getting money out of politics, remember the words of Upton Sinclair: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” They will not present a formidable challenge to things like the Citizens United decision; they cannot, at risk of losing their seat to someone less qualified and more pliable.
As much as we’d like to think that we’re dealing with small-d democrats in the Democratic Party, we’re not. Nor have we been for quite some time. The gap between the two parties has become as narrow as it is deep; today’s Democratic Party is the new Party Of Lincoln, the “reasonable Whig-era conservatives” people like David Brooks are always endlessly, fruitlessly searching for in the GOP rank-and-file from behind the op-ed pages of the New York Times.
They don’t live there anymore, having long been forced out by design through the astroturf machinations of the Koch brothers’ Tea Party movement, the only goals of which were to primary Republican House and Senate races, and let bumblefuck conservatives off the hook for the Iraq War by allowing them to don tricorne hats and call themselves “independents.” Now the lunatics run the asylum, and have blossomed into full-blown fascists under the Trump Organization. The Democrats are already beginning to follow suit, goose-stepping their way right off a cliff.
Take Elizabeth Warren, who recently voted for Ben Carson as director of HUD, claiming that a “no” vote could have made room for someone “much worse.” From Tiger Beat On The Potomac (thanks Charlie Pierce!):
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, facing flak from usually supportive liberals for backing Ben Carson’s bid to become housing and urban development secretary, on Wednesday defended her decision despite “serious, deep, profound concerns” about his qualifications.
“Yes, I adamantly disagree with many of the outrageous things that Dr. Carson said during his presidential campaign,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote on Facebook. “Yes, he is not the nominee I wanted. But ‘the nominee I wanted’ is not the test.”
Warren said that Carson “made good, detailed promises” in responses to written questions she posed on a variety of housing policy issues, though she acknowledged that “I don’t know” if the conservative former brain surgeon can be trusted to follow through on those commitments.
Warren had sharply questioned Carson during his confirmation hearing in the Banking committee but on Tuesday chose to support advancing his nomination to a vote by the full Senate, surprising some fans on the left who have kept her on the 2020 presidential shortlist. The liberal blog Daily Kos headlined a post on Warren’s pro-Carson vote “The Resistance Crumbles.”
This is a meaningless gesture. There is no way that Ben Carson, or any of Trump’s other cabinet picks, are not going to be confirmed by the Republicans; they won’t dare cross Trump until Paul Ryan says so, nor why would they? He’s going to give them everything they want while he goes on teevee and tells millions of poor people that dismantling the agency is “for their own good.”
Elizabeth Warren is supposed to be one of the “lions” of the progressive movement, someone worth backing even as far as a 2020 presidential bid. So why in the hell is she equivocating over such a black and white issue? Every single one of Trump’s cabinet picks are either thoroughly corrupt or grossly unqualified, and should be ridden out of D.C. on a rail. But apparently, the top-down strategy from Chuck Schumer seems to be fighting a handful of cabinet picks, and letting the rest slide. Why? Who knows. They gain nothing from doing so, and have only sutured themselves to accountability for the kleptocracy when it inevitably implodes.
So, yeah…the left *could* try and stem the momentous tide of neoliberal backsliding in the Democratic Party, this is true. But what would be the point? The party has all but completely abandoned the working class, regardless of race, color, or creed; there’s nothing there worth salvaging. As if this crap with the cabinet picks isn’t enough, just look at what the DNC did to Bernie Sanders. All told, he’s not much more liberal than George McGovern was, and they treated Sanders so much dirtier than anything that happened back in ‘72. But my, how history repeats…
Speaking of history and victimization, let’s look at voter turnout in 2016 versus 2012. Sure, Hillary won the popular election by three million votes. Who cares? She was down 70,000 votes from Obama in 2012, while Trump was up over two million votes over Romney in the same year. Furthermore, third-party voting more than tripled in the same span of time. People are hungry for change, real change. Give them a new party to vote for, one that isn’t run by kooks like the Green Party is, or run by neoconfederate potheads like the Libertarian Party is, and they’ll flock to it, I guarantee you.
The Democratic Socialists of America, while not a political party (as of yet, anyway) have already more than doubled in size since election day. With the biggest income gap since the Gilded Age as our backdrop, the time is ripe to build a new movement, one that can primary both Democratic and Republican politicians from outside the system rather than trying to reform them – or it – from within.
Will it be difficult? Yes. All the same, trying to reverse the course of the Democratic Party at this point will almost certainly prove to be impossible.
The technocracy has failed us. The presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders may have been a failure by design, but it demonstrated that we are on the brink of a massive, nationwide populist uprising. If there’s ever a time to capitalize on that with a formidable third-party challenge to both major parties, it’s now.
Sure, the left ain’t got that Tea Party money, and that counts for a lot. But look at how many people are on the streets right now. Not a day has gone by where tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people have flocked to the streets at their own expense or their own peril to stand up to the full-frontal assault on civil liberties that has begun to take place. There is a revolutionary fervor in the air that hasn’t been felt in decades, and if you put your finger to the wind, you’ll feel a current that is detached from any existing Democratic establishment, floating along on wave of nostalgia as aware of its own history as it is ready to stand up and fight for it.
I understand that building a labor party isn’t going to get us a new president in four years. But I have a feeling that Trump will do a pretty good job of taking care of that himself, one way or another. Meanwhile, what are we left with? A neoliberal technocracy funded by libertarian billionaires, as divorced from labor as the Republican Party, but who claims to not give a shit about your skin color, or who you have sex with?
The rise of a new proletariat is at hand. Only by engaging the recent surge in American populism on its own terms can we prevent its subversion to the will of fascism. A populist labor party movement has incredible potential to pull in a much wider cross-section of the public than ever before. It will be slow, it will painful, and it will be beautiful. Everything that endures always is.