The left needs to organize the unorganized. The working people, the unemployed, the young, and the restless. The right wing has their core group of supporters who organize around fear of the other. The liberals have those who believe in the myth of American equality because they have no class analysis. The Left needs to organize the rest and they need to do so without the Democratic Party. It should be quite clear to almost every left-leaning American by now that the Democrats are nothing more than another wing of the party that works for Wall Street and the Pentagon. To continue to work for and elect their candidates is self-defeating. As the first year of the Obama presidency has clearly shown, not only do the Democrats support the right wing agenda, that support makes it easier for the right wing to put their candidates into power. Why? Because after promising progressive reforms and then failing to deliver, voters tend to either not vote or vote for the right wing candidates out of anger and frustration.
This occurs because the current system provides no alternative. There is no progressive third party or grassroots movement to support such a party. There is not even a grassroots movement that vocalizes the desires of millions for a fair and just society where people’s needs come before Wall Street’s profits and the Pentagon’s wars that help protect and expand those profits. So, the Democrats step in as they have always done and pretend that they are the party that will address these desires. There was a time when such an argument was plausible. From FDR to LBJ, the Democrats were the party that passed many reforms making life better for America’s working people. They even passed bills outlawing racial segregation. Of course, this occurred because of immense pressure from the Left–pressure a hundred times greater than the pressure from America’s right that the Democrats claim has caused them to compromise on virtually every progressive piece of legislation during the current period. Yes, there was a time when that claim could have been made.
Today’s Democratic Party however, is not that party. It is the party of Wall Street as much as its opponents are. It is the party of war as much as the GOP is the party of war. Sure, there are a few congresspeople under the Democratic mantle that oppose the greed and bloodlust of Wall Street and the Pentagon, but they are such a small minority they are irrelevant. Indeed, if they truly wanted to be effective, they would leave the Democrats as soon as possible. Nowadays, when leftists and progressives align themselves with the Democratic Party and its positions, they also align themselves with the reactionaries that run the Republican Party. When leftists and progressives align themselves with the Democrats, they align themselves with those who have sent billions of US dollars into the coffers of the war industry and hundreds of thousands of US men and women into combat for the princes of oil and finance. When leftists and progressives align themselves with the Democrats, they tell the people of the world that they support the transfer of America’s wealth to the bankers and insurance industry through bailouts and so-called health care reform. When leftists and progressives align themselves with the Democrats, they tell the American people that they are willing to give lip service to the concerns of America’s workers and poor, but when it comes right down to it, those workers and poor will have to figure out on their own how they will get jobs that no longer exist. Jobs that are not being created because the Democrats and the GOP bailed out the banks instead.
The Democratic Party has never been the party of the people. It served the slaveowners of the US South until the Civil War ended that foul practice. Then it served the slaveowners’ successors: the cotton and sorghum producers that kept their workers in serflike conditions and never saw a lynching they didn’t like. In terms of America’s growing industrialization, the Democrats were right there with the GOP pushing through legislation favorable to capital and (at best) ignoring the conditions of American labor. As mentioned before, the Democrats’ best years in terms of serving the working and poor people of the United States came during the years between 1936 and 1968, when they passed legislation like Social Security and Medicare and pushed through laws outlawing racial apartheid in the United States. Also, as noted before, this occurred only because of extreme pressure from mass movements of progressive and leftist opponents of the anti-worker and racist policies of the government in Washington. Even then, however, the role the party played was designed more to diminish the strength of those movements. Nonetheless, the reforms occurred because of the movements, not in spite of them. In terms of economics, today’s Democrats resemble the Democrats of old more than they do the Democrats of the New Deal and the Great Society. They are in the pay of today’s equivalent of the slaveowners–the global capitalists that roam the world searching for labor pools easy to exploit because of their desperation and national governments willing to brutalize workers into submission just like the slavedrivers and field bosses of old. Not only are they in their pay, but they push through legislation like NAFTA designed to make that search for exploitable labor and new markets easier and more profitable than it already is. On the domestic front, it was the Democrats under Bill Clinton that dismantled the system of public assistance for women with children and it is under Barack Obama that a new commission designed to bypass the Congress on the question of possibly dismantling Social Security was recently set up.
As if one needed more convincing, after the recent defeat of the Democratic candidate in the Massachusetts special election, an op-ed appeared in the Wall Street Journal. The piece was written by a mainstream Democratic party member who blamed the left wing of the party for the defeat. It was time, said the writer, to move back to the right in order to win the next round of elections. In other words, try and steal the traditional GOP voters away from the GOP instead of going after the traditionally unorganized mentioned at the beginning of this piece. In case I haven’t made it clear already, the writer in the Journal is what the Democrats really are. The party is not interested in genuinely addressing the concerns of the poor, the newly unemployed and the rest of America’s disenfranchised. That is why most of these voters (many who voted in 2008 for Obama) stayed home in Massachusetts this last time. They understand that the Democrats are for someone other than them and they won’t be lied to again. Unless the Left gets it act together, they are willing to let the chips fall where they may–even if that means a resurgence of the GOP.
I can’t be emphatic enough, there is no reasonable reason to waste a dollar or a moment of your time campaigning for the Democratic Party. Barack Obama’s campaign based on false hope and promises and the subsequent reneging on almost every promise of change should be enough to convince any left-leaning or progressive person in the United States who voted for Obama in 2008 that the time has come to end this relationship for good and forever. Like the cheating and lying spouse that keeps asking for one more chance after you find them in bed with your enemy once again, there comes a time to end the relationship. Not only have the occasional moments of bliss and the crumbs that say I care become fewer and fewer, they are no longer enough. The denial so many left-leaning Americans have lived with in their relationship with the Democrats is causing more harm then it is worth. Walk away, close the door behind you and begin the work required to build a real force for progressive change in the United States.
RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org