June 22, 2016
By Glen Ford
Things fall apart – messily. At a statewide gathering of Democrats in Long Beach, California, members of the party’s Progressive Caucus hiss at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton’s name and cheer when a speaker (me) predicts that a new, social democratic party will emerge from the tumult of 2016.
But Bernie Sanders, the umbilical cord that unites them, still binds these leftish dissidents to the Democratic Party. They wonder if he will “capitulate” to Clinton’s corporate juggernaut – refusing to comprehend that, for the Vermont senator, an exit from the duopoly was never an option. “The major political task that we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders instructed his followers, last week, sounding very much defeated, himself.
In Chicago, a “People’s Summit” composed largely of “Berniecrats” and organized by the National Nurses United union, vowed to bring tens of thousands of protesters to “crash” next month’s Democratic National Convention, in Philadelphia. Many of the 3,000 summit-goers swear up and down they will never vote for Clinton. However, the main organizers hail from leftish organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America that have always folded into the Democratic Party on Election Day. Kai Newkirk, director of Democracy Spring, schooled activists in “non-violent discipline” to prepare them to run gauntlets of police at the convention site and surrounding streets.
But, to the extent that these energies are expended on pressuring the Democratic National Committee to make platform promises that Hillary Clinton cannot possibly keep, they will end up punching air. They need a new party.Sanders’ remarkable campaign allowed this “progressive” constituency – mainly the white ranks, and youth of all ethnicities – to see themselves as a potentially independent social force, as numerically significant as the white nationalists that gave Donald Trump his victory on the other side of the duopoly. “Progressive” Democrats claim, cockily, that Hillary “can’t win without us” – and they are right. But, if they allow her to win, then they are not really “progressives” at all – just carping complainers whose bluffs can always be called by serious corporatists.
Jill Stein, the presumptive candidate for the Green Party, was refused permission to address the Summit, thereby shutting the door to an actual voting choice for anti-corporatists. Sanders has never deigned to respond to Stein’s offer to share the ticket with him, in November. At least half of Americans that vote for the Democratic Party in national elections are social democrats whose politics are incompatible with the Democratic Leadership Council corporatists who have turned the party into, as Paul Street puts it, “objectively, the truer and more fully explicit ruling class party in the country.”
Street’s assessment sounds like another way of saying that the 2016 Democratic ticket, under Hillary Clinton, will be the “more effective evil” on the duopoly menu – certainly, in the sense that Clinton will, barring an indictment, win the election by a 1964-type landslide with the help of millions of erstwhile Republican voters and hundreds of millions of corporate campaign dollars in flight from Trump. Clinton is counting on them to make her leftish antagonists even less influential in party calculations.
The Sandernistas – now minus their commandante – can either slither into Hillary’s big corporate tent, or get down to the hard work of building an opposition, social democratic party that reflects the politics of around 40 percent of the U.S. public. This includes the vast majority of Blacks, although older African Americans, especially in the South, will be the last major component of the Democratic “base” to leave the party.
However, these leftist Democrats (yes, they are Democrats if they vote that way, no matter what they call themselves) have a fundamental problem: they want to be on the “winning” side, even if their presence is actual proof of abject defeat. Like most Americans, they have internalized the win-lose logic of the two-party system, and cannot imagine starting a third party from scratch, or building a small, existing party into a major contender.
Yet, they submit to suffer unending defeat within the corporate bowels of the Democratic Party, cycle after cycle – and, somehow, imagine themselves to be heroic, in the effort. Any excuse to remain in the Party – like non-binding platform adjustments – suffices to delay the moment of truth. They preach the gospel of merging mass social action and electoral politics, but their failure to break with the Democrats puts their mass networks at the ultimate service of what has become the uber-corporate party.
This election cycle, many will try to rationalize and ennoble their debasement in Philadelphia by joining an “anti-fascist” crusade against Trump – attempting to juxtapose a fool’s gold casino caricature of a fascist with the actually existing, real thing: Hillary Clinton, the personification of imperial mega-murder and domestic mass Black incarceration; the queen of international chaos and would-be warden of the world’s biggest gulag. Clearly, most “progressives” don’t know what fascism looks like in the 21st century.
Here’s a clue: it listens to every communications device in the world, locks up more people, most of them non-white, than any other nation, and cackles “We came, we saw, he died” over the bodies of assassinated world leaders. ” When Donald Trump goes down to resounding defeat – primarily because he has done the world a favor by fracturing the Republican Party, thus throwing the corporate-dominated U.S. duopoly system into crisis – those “progressives” that have joined Hillary’s faux “anti-fascist” contingent will count themselves on the side of the winners, and will return to their roles as socially useless appendages of the Democratic Party.
Most Sanders supporters will follow their leader back to the reservation. But, I am certain that a significant fraction of the 12 million will get down to the business of alternative party-building, recognizing that the rich rule through the mechanism of the duopoly electoral system.
In the real world, there will be a number of new party start-ups and rivalries that will be sorted out in the usual, messy manner, but the general social democratic project will appeal to those constituencies that are to the left of the corporate Democrats personified by the Clintons (and Obama, who is their political twin).
These 40 percent or so of voters – aspiring social democrats, by American standards – make up the largest political grouping in the U.S. electoral spectrum. This bloc will loom even larger in relative size if Trump’s white nationalists are able to maintain their own electoral vehicle in the wake of defeat in 2016, either as Republicans or outside the GOP. The Trump group probably represents about 30 percent of white America.
As of May 31, Bernie Sanders raised $132 million in small, individual contributions, which made up 60 percent of his total fundraising. With one-twentieth of Sanders’ small donors ($6.6 million) and the active participation of the same proportion of his 12 million voters (600,000), a new, social democratic party would be off to a good start, and could be made self-sustaining for steady growth.
The new social democrats, if they are wise, would dedicate much of their capital to organizing in Black America, the most left-leaning and, historically, politically volatile constituency in the nation, whose youth are in a state of divorce from the machinations of a Black Misleadership Class that is almost entirely Democrat.
Independent Black politics will also bloom in sync with the weakening of the duopoly, specifically, the fracturing of the Democratic Party, which is hegemonic in Black America and a full partner with the Republicans in the maintenance of the Mass Black Incarceration State. The struggle is not against political candidates of the moment, or one or the other of the corporate parties. It is against the corporate duopoly, itself – the two faces of the capitalist ruling class.