In the current 2020 Democratic presidential primary, the party is once again demonstrating that it cannot tolerate leadership or policies which represent or advocate for American workers.
The Democratic Party has always won majorities with the premise that it represents any American voters who aren’t on board with the Republican platform, a group which at first seems like it could account for more than half of the country. But, foremost, the Democratic Party represents a club of wealthy people who want their values and material interests reflected in public policy. It’s an organization reliant upon donations from millionaires, billionaires, super PACs and corporations to fund elections. It also uses an undemocratic system of appointed superdelegates in the process of choosing presidential candidates. But most importantly, as we saw within the February Iowa Caucus and the 2016 primary, party leadership can make alliances and conduct espionage and it is they who ultimately determine primary outcomes, not rank and file voters.
The Democratic Party is an organization which is fundamentally, structurally constrained to represent powerful and wealthy people within society at the expense of the perspective and needs of working Americans. There is no better time than the present for American workers to create their own political party, without allegiance to corporations, wealthy donors or any other element of the status quo.
“Wait!” establishment Democrats everywhere cry. “I know you may not be happy with Joe Biden, but given the unfortunate reality of our two-party system, it’s either the Democrats or the Republicans. Vote-blue-no-matter-who!”
We should be critical of this logic for many reasons.
First, this argument assumes that Democrats are substantially better for working Americans than Republicans, even though both parties constantly employ neoliberal, racist and imperialist platforms and candidates including Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the election of either of which will be a resounding loss for working people globally.
Secondly, assuming that Democrats in power are marginally better for working people than Republicans, we have little reason to believe that the Democratic Party isn’t already conceding election after election to their opposition through the nomination of incompetent moderates with sexual assault records who completely fail to galvanize voters.
Beyond critiques of Biden as an individual, the party is now once again showing it is strategically somnambulant. It’s rejected the candidate who consistently polled both as the most popular American politician and the most favorable challenger to Trump in a general election.
The Democrats have the perfect case study of running a centrist, return-to-normal candidate against Trump: The 2016 election in which they tried this exact strategy and gave the republicans four years in the white house. Either the Democratic Party is hopelessly resistant to any evolution or the Democratic establishment cares far less about defeating Republicans then they claim.
A worker’s political party, operated democratically through public funding without large donations, could run candidates in local, state and federal elections without fear of ideological compromise. It could organize extra-electoral mutual aid and direct action to respond to workers’ ailments, lethal pandemics included. With enough popular support, it could transcend the naturally conservative American two-party political system to successfully demand justice for workers.
We can readily see some of the benefits a mobilized workers party would provide to our current political situation. Bernie Sanders was widely considered to be the only candidate in the presidential race seriously advocating on behalf of workers before suspending his campaign. Judging by his recent unique legislation to combat COVID-19 including national health insurance, universal income and national work safety protections , this is surely the case. Sanders has been an immensely important decision maker in this time.
The problem with the Sanders campaign, far from the candidate’s leadership choices is that, to a degree, it was still a hierarchical, top-down program in which power was centralized. Perhaps Sanders was absolutely correct, by some standard, to withdraw from the race when he did and to endorse Biden. But what do the American workers he represented think about these choices? It’s an interesting discussion, but our conclusions are ultimately irrelevant to the current political reality given Sanders has already acted unilaterally on these matters.
Sanders functioned, before his withdrawal, as the only real advocate for workers, and by organizing his campaign as it was and withdrawing himself from consideration at this moment, he has effectively suspended workers’ advocacy within the presidential race. But one individual cannot effectively lead millions of people alone in thought or action. We need to move from a politics whereby workers are at the whim of politicians such as Sanders to one where workers themselves make decisions, take actions and elect candidates within organizations based upon grassroots popular engagement.
The massive amount of popular energy which went into the Sanders campaign can now potentially dissipate or be appropriated by the democratic establishment for the candidacy of Biden. If the Sanders campaign was supported by an independent worker’s party, this support could be maintained or diverted towards a better cause than Biden following Sanders’s withdrawal. Workers themselves could be making this crucial political decision. In any case, we know that some time within the future, be it four, eight or even 12 years from now, another progressive candidate will emerge as a strong contender within the Democratic party, lobbying for massive working class support. It is important that by this time we have popular workers’ institutions capable of endorsing or rejecting this candidate.
Plenty of working Americans understand that class warfare is routine in this country. Annually there are massive tax cuts passed for the wealthy, gargantuan unconditional corporate bailouts, and the government consistently neglects or blocks programs which would ensure the basic needs and survival of working people. All of this legislation is passed with the support of emocratic politicians and legislatures they control. We are delusional working within one party claiming to represent corporations, billionaires, landlords, bosses, shareholders and workers simultaneously. It’s just impossible given our opposite material interests.
Right now, as the last candidate advocating for working class Americans is removed from the democratic presidential primary a second time, workers should cut our losses and immediately begin the organization of a truly democratic political party organized by, of and for working people in the United States of America.
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