October 29, 2016
For decades, the dominant approach to electoral politics on the left has followed a now-familiar formula. The formula goes something like this: the Democratic Party and its presidential candidate leave much to be desired. They fall far short of our aspirations for a free and just society. Despite these shortcomings, however, the Republican Party and its candidate are far worse and will inflict much harm on the institutions and constituencies we care about. We have no illusions about the Democrats, but leftists and progressives should vote for them because the political terrain will be much more favorable to us with them in office. Once the threat from the right is defeated at the polls, we will mobilize to hold the Democrats accountable whenever they move to implement neoliberal and militaristic policies.
However, we 75 signatories of this statement seek an alternative.
Dump the Racist Trump; Continue the Political Revolution Down-Ballot; Build Multiracial Coalitions and Socialist Organization for Long-term Change
Statement of the DSA National Political Committee
Democratic Socialists of America believes that the Left must balance two crucial tasks in the November 2016 elections. On the one hand, the progressive movement must roundly defeat Donald Trump’s racist, nativist, Islamophobic and misogynist presidential campaign, as well as isolate and delegitimize the far-right hate groups that his campaign has strengthened. On the other hand, the Left must sustain and expand the independent electoral and social movement capacity built by the insurgent Sanders campaign, while broadening it out in an explicitly antiracist and multiracial direction. Thus, through November, DSA will prioritize two goals:
- Building an independent “Dump Trump” movement, primarily in swing states where we have the capacity to make an impact, and
- Developing local multiracial coalitions and campaigns that can build independent socialist organizing capacity and challenge neoliberal, pro-corporate Democrats in November
By Joseph M. Schwartz
Most discussion of the Black Lives Matter intervention at Netroots Nation among Bernie Sanders’s supporters has focused on whether it was justified or not, or on the disingenuous posturing of the Clinton campaign. But that avoids the major challenge facing the Sanders campaign: how to broaden its appeal beyond an existing base, disproportionately located among white progressives.
Sanders has rightfully framed his presidential campaign as a crusade of the 99 percent against the 1 percent; but to expand his coalition, and build a real movement for change, he and his campaign staff must gain the trust of progressive activists of color by bringing them into the heart of the campaign. Bernie will not get a hearing in communities of color based on issues alone; he must develop partnerships with black and Latino activists in communities to which the longtime resident of Vermont (a state where 95 percent of the population is white) has few organic ties.
By Duane Campbell
There has been a significant discussion of whether the Sanders campaign is sufficiently active in recruiting people of color. Typically, writers make assertions about Black voters, and then go on to say “and Latino voters.” Matt Bruenig at Demos reviews some of this in his June 3 blog post. Latinos make up about 8 % of the total national vote and are concentrated in several swing states.
As socialists we need to be more critical and better informed than liberals on discussions of race. Certainly if the vote is between Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, or Donald Trump, the choices issues of black and Latino voters will be similar. But, in the Democratic primaries between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, we need some more light shed upon how the two candidates differ.
By Joseph M. Schwartz
The Latin American left has had some success during the past decade limiting the ravages of neoliberal capitalism. In contrast, European social democracy and its distant cousin, United States liberalism, have mostly adopted a “third way” that has cut back on labor rights, deregulated finance, and curtailed public provision. The austerity politics of both the right and the moderate left have forced ordinary people to bear the costs of the global economic crisis rather than the irresponsible corporate elites who caused it. But grassroots resistance to austerity has spread, beginning with the Spanish indignados and the Occupy movement in the United States. Podemos in Spain and Syriza in Greece are electoral expressions of this new left. And now in the United States, the most anti-socialist of capitalist societies, an explicit democratic socialist, Senator Bernie Sanders (a political independent from the small rural state of Vermont) has emerged as the major challenger to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.
|Bernie Sanders At Kickoff Event in Vermont/VPR|
By Tom Gallagher
Most people we might think of as being on the American left don’t generally embrace the idea of “American exceptionalism.” There is one apparent exception to this unexceptional point of view, however, at least in some corners of the American left. That is the notion that in the U.S. – unlike any other country with a reasonably democratic system – electoral politics are somehow only an optional part of a serious political movement. The latest expression of this “only in America” point of view comes in response to Senator Bernie Sanders’s declaration of his intention to run in next year’s Democratic Party presidential primaries.
The objections to his candidacy come in at least two variants – “not now” and “never.” The “never” perspective is articulated by David Swanson in his CounterPunch article, “Invest in Activism, Not Bernie Sanders.” It’s not that Swanson doesn’t like Sanders. On the contrary, although he allows that he has some disagreements with him – which he characterizes as “imperfections” on Sanders’s part – Swanson considers “the contrast with Clinton ... like day to night.” Nevertheless, he pleads, “please do not give him or Hillary or the wonderful Jill Stein or any other candidate a dime or a moment of your life. Instead, join the movement,” referring to people seeking justice on the streets of Baltimore, trying to abolish nuclear weapons in the halls of the United Nations, and doing any number of other valuable things.
By Duane Campbell
In 2014 DSA should turn to electoral campaigns as one element of our political strategy. As we know, the U.S. political system is overrun by money. Economic power at the top is used to produce political results in Congress and in elections. The rich get richer while the middle stagnates and the poor get screwed.
Our response must be encouraging more voting, not less. The lack of interest in electoral participation expressed in many places is not progress for the left, rather it reveals a lack of interest in defending democracy. Not voting is giving up on what democracy we have. Yes, our democracy is truncated, exploited, and distorted by economic power, but we need to grow and expand democracy, not abandon it.
We can make a difference in the electoral arena. We recognize that many working people have a general distrust of political parties – and often the parties deserve this distrust. Working people do not have – in most cases – representatives in our government nor a party which fundamentally represents our interests. While the parties divide on some issues, both mainstream parties are dominated by corporate interests.
Both parties have failed working people, and our democracy is weaker for this. In response, millions, about half of all the eligible voters, do not even vote. They do not believe that their participation matters. This is a frightening defeat for democracy.