This is the final discussion thread for Bernie Sanders’s new book, It’s Okay to Be Angry About Capitalism. It isn’t necessary to have read the book to participate. All are welcome!
Overall I enjoyed the book, though I wish Bernie (and the coauthor) would be more assertive, i.e. he should’ve said “abolish the Senate” instead of “rethink the Senate”.
For this discussion, I want to focus on this quote that comes in the final chapter:
Today, we have a strongly entrenched and well-funded two-party system. Could that change in the foreseeable future? Maybe. But not tomorrow. That means that, if we are going to bring about the kind of change this country desperately needs, we need to completely transform the Democratic Party — from the bottom up.
This is a good synopsis of Bernie’s political approach: Through a career in the House, Senate, and two Presidential campaigns, he has tried to reform the Democratic Party into a vehicle for progressive change. My question for you is not whether this was the correct approach for left-of-center Americans in the past, but whether or not we should continue to try to change the National Democratic Party with the hopes it can change the country.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to try to replicate the 2016 and 2020 Bernie Presidential campaigns to take control of the Democratic Party? Or would our efforts be better served elsewhere, such as the labor movement, mutual aid work, and other non-traditional activities?
I’ll share my thoughts in the comments, but I want to hear yours! Please comment and let us know what you think.
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Looking back, I think Bernie's approach to try to work within the Democratic Party was the right idea for the time, even if just for the fact his two Presidential bids revitalized the Left and got many young people interested in Progressive and Socialist politics.
However, I think we have gone as far as that approach will take us. I always advocate for there to be someone on the Presidential primary stage saying "healthcare is a human right," but that doesn't mean it's where we should put our focus. (Plus, the DNC is shutting down all attempts at debate.)
If we want to change America, we need to change the views of Americans, not attempt to capture the Democratic Party. The party structures are too entrenched, and the army of careerists, advisors, and consultants are going to do everything in their power to preserve its neoliberal ideology, as that's what is keeping them employed.
I strongly recommend the Left dedicate the majority of its attention to the labor movement. Not only will unionizing workers better their livelihood and decrease wealth inequality, but it opens the door to broader discussions about Capitalism and economic democracy.
And if there's one thing we know about the DNC, it cares only about self-preservation. If the American working class is invigorated and pro-labor, maybe the party will follow. But I see trying to change it as a gargantuan battle we've already lost. Twice.
It's absolutely impossible to change the Democratic Party. We've seen that. How well did "pushing Biden left" work? He went right. AOC admitted he went right and then endorsed him. It would be hilarious if the future of civilization wasn't at stake. Breaking with the Democratic Party is the only thing that makes sense.
I’ve come to the conclusion, having just seen Bernie’s endorsement of Biden, that our efforts have better payoffs if they’re invested in building outside the Washington arena–the DNC shutting down debates involving Marianne Williamson and AOC’s turn on the railroad strike are examples that turned me off. I’d love to see more attention from leftists overall into building grassroots coalitions *tangential* to the Washington arena; my opinion is that the labor movement, mutual aid work, and broad-appeal efforts such as Represent.us and FairVote that would end the two-party system and corruption in the medium term are worth more of our time: they strengthen local leftist resiliency while helping reach out (farther than singular candidates) to the socially conservative economic progressives (not corporate “centrists” or Libertarians) that make up much of the American voter base outside the major parties. We can’t just wait for the under-45s to outsize the Boomers.
From my perspective, trying to "change" the Democratic party would be like trying to get a job at an Apple store and then make it your life goal to change the name of Apple to Pear. It's one thing to know you will have a hard road to travel to change the minds of this country, another entirely to try to do so by forcing a takeover of essentially a hostile organization.
I agree with your take, that right now the best thing leftists can do is push for a labor movement. In my own personal life, educating people on the power of unions has been my #1 priority because my generation, millennials, has no idea what they are. There is way too much boomer era propaganda that makes people think unions are bad that needs to be debunked/countered right now for us to make much progress on a larger scale.
===== The only difference between Republicans and Democrats are the corporations they serve. Forget political parties; follow a political strategy.
One does not support or join and become a member of any political party by registering with the state in order to vote for progressives running on the Democratic Party (DP) ballot-line in local, state, or /and national offices. Berniecrats are a surrogate “3d-Party” working within the Democratic Party (DP). We are not Democrats and not responsible for their actions nor do we answer for them.
Our mission is driving out the influence of money from all artificial entities* and large SuperPAC donors that influence the legislators at all levels of our government. Our tactic is to use the DP ballot-line to replace neo-liberal Democrats one-at-a-time. Our mission is identical to https://www.movetoamend.org/ in support of HJR 54 - https://www.congress.gov/bill/118th-congress/house-joint-resolution/54/cosponsors While we support all of Bernie Sander’s issues, we realize that none will be fully realized until we address money-in-politics. https://berniesanders.com/issues/money-out-of-politics/
Our tactic of using the DP ballot-line is also used by the Working Families Party (WFP), and supported by the Social Democrats USA (SDUSA), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), and Progressive Democrats of America (PDA).
It’s all about the Primary Election where candidates are chosen to run in the General Election that is more important. Independent and 3d-Party candidates do not have primaries in many states and in others are too few in number to affect the outcome of an election. Vote as you wish in a General Election.
Vote where it will be the most effective in electing candidates that take no SuperPAC money and will enact progressive legislation. The Democratic Party (DP) is weakest in red states and in red counties in blue states. Focus on these areas were the DP is the easiest to take over and change our world. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. In fact, it's the only thing that ever has.”
How to Take Over Your Local Democratic Party Step by Step. https://pplswar.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/how-to-take-over-your-local-democratic-party-step-by-step/
===== STRATEGY FOR THE LEFT.
Megan Day, staff writer at Jacobin magazine and member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), talks about the future of the left and the importance of continuing to push progressive ideals in congress. Megan advocates for the Berniecrat strategy of the tactical use of the Democratic Party (DP) ballot-line as the best strategy at this time. https://youtu.be/P6Wf9fxGM2Q?t=315
Let us not argue about what political-economic system we each envision in some far distant, future, perfect world before we solve a problem staring us in the face today. Let us work in-common-cause on today's problems and argue about the far distant future, tomorrow.
*Artificial entities include domestic corporations, non-profits, and unions; and foreign corporations and governments.