Residents of a small town in West Virginia are approached by land agents for a gas pipeline company. The residents are told that unless they sign over their property rights to the pipeline company, the company will use eminent domain to take it.
The residents begin to organize to defeat the pipeline. Mainstream environmental groups hear about the fight and latch on. Just before one of the first meetings between the local organizers and the mainstream groups, a young lawyer for one of the groups says — “We were told by one of our funders that we can’t work on fossil fuel issues. Instead we should concentrate on storm water runoff issues.”
Parents lose their children to a certain auto defect. The parents organize, get press attention, and gain the attention of legislators. Mainstream auto safety groups latch on, see the parents as a threat to their inside the beltway turf, and try to push the parents to the side.
Activists hold a three day conference in Washington, D.C. on how to bypass the two mainstream parties to secure a people’s agenda. Inside the building, those who organized the meeting talk about single payer, militarism, and unequal distribution of wealth. During the break, organizers of the conference go across the street to a restaurant.
Outside, smoking cigarettes, attendees who spent their last dime to get to the conference discuss why the rhetoric they are hearing inside the building isn’t working and how they believe that most of the people inside the building will fold back into the Democratic Party come election time.
These three incidents are real. I witnessed each first hand over the past few months. In each case, the grassroots rabble run up against inside the beltway careerists. This type of clash is happening all over the world. But it’s more pronounced in North America because what University of British Columbia Professor Peter Dauvergne calls “the corporatization of activism” is more advanced in North America. The result — the nonprofit industrial complex.
It’s not just the likes of Sierra Club taking $25 million from Chesapeake Energy and backing natural gas expansion or Sierra Club aligning itself with Clorox to greenwash the company. Or nominally anti-corruption groups like Transparency International in the United States and Canada getting taken over by corporate lobbyists and law firms.
It’s more the public interest careerists who want to be players. And to be a player means to cut deals. And to cut deals means to cut out the grassroots activists, who are less likely to want to cut deals.
Even the best of the inside the beltway public interest groups, who refuse to take money from corporations, who refuse to cut deals with corporations, still are subservient to the corporate dealmakers within the corporate Democratic Party.
Let’s take a look at the Washington, D.C. People’s Convergence conference as a case in point. It was held earlier this month at American University Law School in Washington, D.C. It was organized by those who said they believed that the Democratic Party was incapable of becoming a people’s party and who wanted to create a new party to challenge the Republicans and the Democrats.
There were about 250 people at the conference. A good number of them were with a group called Draft Bernie for a People’s Party. Another good number of them were from third party or independent movements.
And while almost everyone there was drawn by the initial founding document calling the Democratic Party incapable of being a people’s party, you did get a sense that the majority of the people in the room would follow Bernie Sanders back into the Democratic Party come 2020 if and when Bernie runs again.
Trump is just “too ugly.” And Bernie is just “too adorable.” And the liberal Democrats would just go nuts if you pulled an N word* and went third party to the wall — no safe states strategy — allowed. (* Nader)
Even the nominal devotees of third parties at the conference would go nuts all if you actually believed what you were saying and tried to organize something outside the two parties that wouldn’t cave to the two parties.
Let’s take the case of two of the leading lights at the conference — Medea Benjamin and Jill Stein.
Jill Stein was the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2012 and 2016.
From what I could tell, Stein was at the conference to send a message to the delegates that a new third party wasn’t necessary — because there already was a third party that fit the bill — the Green Party.
One problem — Stein has sided with the David Cobb if push comes to shove, let’s cave to the Democratic Party wing of the Green Party.
According to Maryland Green Party member Kevin Zeese — he’s planning a run for Governor of Maryland in 2018 — back in the N word days (2004), Stein sided with Cobb in his safe states strategy approach — encouraging Green Party voters to only vote third party in states where the Green Party was not going to make a difference — states like New York, California, Alabama or Texas, where the Democrats or Republicans dominate.
But in states that are contested — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida — encourage voters to vote for the least worst militarist Democrat — Gore, Kerry, Obama, Clinton.
And then there was the 2016 recount debacle, where according to Zeese, Stein raised millions of dollars with the help of Democratic Party affiliated groups like MoveOn and Democracy for America to recount the vote with the hope of flipping the election back to Clinton.
According to Zeese, before the recount began, Stein was explicit about this, telling colleagues excitedly — “We are going to flip the election to Clinton.”
How Green is that?
Peace advocate Medea Benjamin ran for Senate in California as a Green in 2000.
But as a member of the advisory board of Progressive Democrats for America, and an admitted David Cobb safe states strategy person, she worked for the militarist Kerry/Edwards campaign and against the peace candidates — Nader/Camejo.
That would be Camejo, as in the late Peter Camejo.
Camejo was the California peace candidate who penned an article in 2008 titled Capitulation recounting Medea Benjamin’s role in 2004.
“Where was Medea Benjamin during the Democrats hate campaign against democracy in 2004?” Camejo asked. “You were campaigning for a pro-war candidate and supporting the vicious anti-Nader/Camejo campaign.”
“Medea Benjamin in her effort to support John Kerry helped successfully to manipulate within the Green Party support for David Cobb, the anti-Nader pro-voting Democrat candidate who favored US occupation of Iraq in two public debates with me.”
“She worked to get the Green Party convention to prevent Nader/Camejo from being endorsed after Nader/Camejo representatives won a number of Green Party primaries and state conventions, including California.”
“During the 2004 campaign, there was a letter on David Cobb’s web site titled ‘Vote Kerry and Cobb.’ And it was signed by Medea Benjamin, among others.”
Zeese, by the way, is part of something called Green Party Power, a group which includes Stein’s vice president running mate in 2016 Ajamu Baraka and single payer doctor Margaret Flowers. The idea behind Green Party Power appears to be to build up an independent force within the Green Party to challenge the Cobb/Stein wing.
“We began this project in the fall of 2016 by publishing two statements that emphasized the independence of the Green Party, especially from the Democratic Party,” Zeese says. “More than 500 Greens signed the two statements — the first — Greens Speak Out on Recount and Our Commitment to an Independent Party and the second — Building Green Power for 2018 and Beyond.”
Whether the likes of Baraka, Zeese and Flowers can wrest control of the Green Party from the likes of Cobb and Stein is to be determined.
Which brings us to single payer.
Watching the neoliberal Senator from California Carmela Harris — as Bernie called Kamala Harris (she of OneWest Fame) — and the neoliberal Senator from New Jersey Cory Booker (he of Big Pharma fame) stand beside Bernie the other day promoting single payer made us wonder — what the hell is going on?
Bernie had no Senate co-sponsors for his single payer bill until a couple of weeks ago. Now he has sixteen, including Harris and Booker. They figured — we might as well sign on with Bernie so that we can ride the single payer wave to retake the Senate in 2018 and then the White House in 2020.
They figured — in 2020, Bernie can sheepdog** the fractured left and their single payer supporters back into the Democratic Party, and then when we are in control, we can push the public option or some other variant of Obamacare and keep the health insurance insurance industry in the game. (** See Black Agenda Report’s Bruce Dixon in Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders: Sheepdogging for Hillary and the Democrats in 2016).
To quote the Intercept’s Lee Fang from a recent tweet — “I think the single payer momentum is great but Democrats have long used the issue to rile up base — see California in 2006 — and no action when it matters” — referring to the California Democrats passing single payer twice knowing that Governor Schwarzenegger would veto it.
And then Fang again — “Obama indeed lied and campaigned on single payer” — referring to Barack Obama as a state Senator in Illinois saying that he favored single payer, but that it wouldn’t happen until the Democrats took over the Congress and the White House. And then when they did take over the Congress and the White House, Obama kicked single payer to the curb and got behind the insurance industry written alternative to single payer now known as Obamacare.
What matters of course, as always, is the people at the grassroots, those outside the influence of the nonprofit industrial complex, who have lit the prairie fire that will not be extinguished by Democrats, or Green Democrats, or public interest Democrats, or the Democratic public option, or Democratic incrementalism, or Democratic affiliated sheepdogs.
It will not be extinguished until single payer becomes law. That means overcoming the the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare industry, the Democratic Party, Green Democrats, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and the nonprofit industrial complex.
Onward to single payer.