Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It

Progressive Party (United States, 1912) - Wikipedia

There is no room for progressives in the Democratic Party.

No matter how many votes he or she gets, no progressive will be permitted to be the presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

Progressives who try to work inside of, contribute to and support the Democratic Party have no real chance of moving its candidates or policies to the left.

Remaining inside the Democratic Party achieves nothing; to the contrary, it is insidiously counterproductive. Working for “change from the inside” strengthens centrist politicians who oppose progressivism with every fiber of their being.

If American electoral democracy has a future, and progressives want to be part of that future, there is only one way forward: create and build a new party in which progressivism isn’t merely tolerated or partly accommodated as some fringe or necessary nuisance but is its core mission.

We need a New Progressive Party.

The reason is simple: progressivism and corporate centrism are not parts of an ideological spectrum. Centrism isn’t watered-down progressivism; centrism directly opposes progressivism. Centrists want wars and don’t care about the poor; progressives want no wars and care deeply about the poor. There is no room for compromise between the two.

A New Progressive Party will go nowhere if, like the Green Party, it is poorly funded and disorganized and unable to field a slate of candidates across the board, from city council to state representative to congress. It must begin robustly, it must grow quickly, and it must be the only viable outlet for real progressives. Go big or go home.

This could be done. Now is the perfect time.

Keep reading. I’ll explain how.

Anyone who believes progressives have a place inside the Democratic Party should reflect on the experience of Bernie Sanders. (Those with an interest in recent history can delve into the dispiriting experiences of others who have tried to move the party left from the inside like Ted Kennedy, Jesse Jackson and Howard Dean, only to be ignored, snubbed and cheated.)

In both 2016 and 2020 Democratic-aligned media companies marginalized, misrepresented and deprived Sanders of coverage proportionate to his level of support in the polls. In 2016 the Democratic National Committee literally sold itself to Hillary Clinton’s center-right campaign apparatus, which conspired with the DNC to short Sanders on vote counts and deprive him of access to party data. In 2020 the DNC appears to have derailed Sanders’ frontrunner status by arranging for candidates Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar and others to drop out and endorse the Joe Biden one day before the key Super Tuesday primaries.

This is not one of those “better luck next time” scenarios. Sanders is too old to run again. AOC and her fellow progressive Squad are too young to mount a serious challenge to the DNC moderate hierarchy any time soon. Progressivism inside the Democratic Party is unlikely to again surge to Bernie levels for at least a decade.

Progressivism in general remains vibrant. Bernie Sanders has 31% of the 2020 primary popular vote. Elizabeth Warren, who has withdrawn, has 10%. Even if we assume that other former candidates like Pete Buttigieg didn’t get a single progressive vote — which isn’t likely — at least 41% of Democratic primary voters currently support progressivism. That makes about 20% of the electorate overall. Roughly 20% of non-voters, or about 9% of the total electorate, are progressive.

A New Progressive Party should therefore be able to count on roughly one of five voters out of the gate, with short-term potential of 30%. Not bad in a three-party system.

Now consider two factors that point to growth. As even corporate media concedes, progressive ideas like socialized medicine and a guaranteed living wage have suddenly exploded in popularity due to the coronavirus crisis and resulting economic freefall. Given the grim projections for the economy during the foreseeable future, 20-to-30% looks more like a floor than a ceiling.

There is greater potential of building a party from the grassroots than from the top down. Even while the presidency remains elusive, local politics are quirkier and thus offer opportunity for growth. Sanders began as mayor of Burlington; AOC won a surprise challenge to a long-time incumbent Democratic congressman in Queens. A Progressive farm team could and would spring up quickly in left-leaning college towns like Madison and Charlottesville.

But how? The D-R duopoly has rigged the system in its favor. Ballot access is tough. They control the presidential debates and coverage by the news media.

As I wrote above, funding is crucial. The fact that Bernie Sanders raised over $100 million so far in 2020 from small donors proves that progressives can raise cash for a cause they care about. So how do you start this new party?

The first step is to convene a founding meeting in a big venue like McCormick Place Convention Center. (Chicago is easy to get to from everywhere in the U.S.) Launch a Kickstarter to cover the cost of renting the hall; unless there are enough pledges to cover the total, no one has to pay up and the attempt is over. It serves as the first test of whether enough progressives are ready to break away from the Democratic Party.

The agenda of the first convention of the New Progressive Party will be dedicated to debating and agreeing to a platform, electing party officials and setting a strategy for the next election.

The newly-elected officials of the party then fan across the nation and start building local organizations in their own communities to recruit, fund and campaign for candidates to local and state office. Like the Democrats and Republicans, every four years there will be a national primary and convention to present a candidate for the presidency.

Some will argue that the creation of a party just for progressives will split the left. That assumes that the Democratic Party represents the left. The truth is exactly the opposite: the Democratic Party is where the American left goes to die. If the left wants to live, it must fight and struggle for the things that it cares about on its own, in its own home.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of the biography “Bernie.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

6 thoughts on “Why We Need a New Progressive Party and How We Can Create It

  1. The GOP once tried an election slogan, ‘Generation of Peace,’ noting that WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam were all started by Democrat presidents backed by Democrat Congresses. But then Goldwater said Johnson was too soft on Communism and he’d be much tougher and greatly expand the war to ‘Keep America Safe’.
    Today, the two main parties compete to see who can give more money to the military and balance the budget by cutting everything else, while most voters say, ‘The other party will be the ruin of America, vote for my party.’
    (Some of us are so myopic we have a hard time seeing any real difference between the two main parties, but the fact remains, prying loose those who figure both parties are acting very much against their interests means taking on all the MSM and the well-funded main parties and their zillionaire supporters. I think it can be done, but it sure ain’t a walk in the park, and anyway, the parks are closed for CoViD.)

  2. Ted,

    This is one of the most profound columns you have ever written, and I think you have some very good ideas. I am waiting, right now, for the entire circus of the election to finish before considering what comes next. Despite all the long odds, Sanders still has some pathways to victory.

    1. Biden could die/have a stroke/finally overload the scandal board. Between his son the grifter, all those women accusing him of rape, and the dementia, Biden’s plate’s pretty full. One more thing might be enough to send the whole mess tumbling.

    2. The coronavirus is unique in politics. We have never had a disruption this massive so perfectly coincide with what one candidate has been saying all the time. Ten million people lost their jobs (thus their employer health insurance) in just two weeks. And that’s just the ante. The next week’s figures will probably make that look like a church picnic. And don’t get me started on secondary effects on the housing market, the 401(k)s, etc., etc. This is cytokine cascade on the economy. Expect a lot of necrotic tissue to start being coughed up. EVERYONE over 45 is saying the same thing: I may never work again.

    3. Wisconsin votes tomorrow. I genuinely cannot imagine a situation where all those people decide that Biden, good old fumbling Joe the lady molester who can’t run a teleconferencing app designed for a 12-year-old’s level of computer skill, is the best choice.

    If you want to discuss this in more detail, I’m pretty sure you have my email address. I wouldn’t want the discussion to get to pages and pages on the site.

    I’m going to go make some more coffee now and just shake my head in disbelief at people. (You may hear a tsk-tsk-tsk or two.)

  3. I think this is a good idea. I am not crazy about the “progressive” label. It has some baggage (eugenics as an example.) And it implies some utopian endpoint to which we all agree on. It’s kind of like labeling an ideology “good” or “perfect.” Ideally we will have to actually “regress” in some ways in order to deal with resource scarcity and mitigate climate change. I think a better name would explicitly indicate that the party represents the many rather than the few. “Democratic Party” is actually a great name. Too bad it’s the name of a shitty anti-democratic party. “People’s Party” would have some guilt by association with authoritarian communist regimes. DSA has a good name. Labor Party might be good. Working Families Party is a good name. I would recommend something along those lines that indicate that it is a democratic workers party.

  4. I think an inside outside strategy might be worth considering. Have an overall strategy but with tactics that fit varying situations. Some states make it almost impossible for third parties to get ballot access. Some candidates could coordinate with the third party but run in the Dem Party, planning to caucus with any candidates who manage to win as third party. Just a thought.

  5. As usual the “what” and “why” are easier to agree upon than the “how.”

    The Green Party is progressive as per criteria in the article: 1) no war 2) care about the poor … and on all the other important issues.

    If it were bolstered by contributions in $$$’s, time and energy of justifiably angered progressive who have been reamed, again, by the depraved DNC Dems, then the Green Party could grow into
    its infrastructure, much quicker than a new party could get itself organized.

    I’d suggest AOC is merely a media darling and not a progressive. She belongs in the DNC/Dem Party. IF Howard Dean was progressive, he hasn’t been for years.

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