Kamala Harris might be the perfect lens to reveal who the Democrats really are. A good run-down on her track record highlights her assertion that “It is not progressive to be soft on crime.” As a San Francisco social worker, I sat on the school district committee that met with families of chronically truant students. Once, when we asked a student why he didn’t go to school, he said there was too much police tape and shootings at his school bus stop. Harris, as CA Attorney General, was putting parents/caregivers in jail if their child was chronically truant. Also as Attorney General, she denied a DNA test to Kevin Cooper, a very likely innocent man who came within hours of execution in 2004. Such positions certainly furthered her political career as a tough-on-crime, prosecution-friendly politician, as well as garner political and financial support from police and prison guards.
My recent article Seize the Time or Face Fascism elicited revealing comments, such as “How do we seize the time? It must be incremental.” Only the privileged, not the dispossessed, could still advocate for incremental change. Until we accept that the Democrats will never deliver, we will not look at alternatives, and are likely to face fascism in the near future.
So what are some alternatives? After the DNC cheated Bernie Sanders twice, many of his supporters launched the Movement for a People’s Party: “Polls show that a large majority of Americans want a major new party, support progressive policies, and want money out of politics. That means that it is both possible and necessary for us to build a corporate-free, progressive populist party.” It is astonishing that Bernie, on his working class contributions, raised more money than Hillary Clinton in 2016 and all other candidates in 2020.
The US has elected over 150 Green Party candidates. Green Party Gayle McLaughlin was twice elected mayor of Richmond, California, defeating two Democrats in 2006, reelected in 2010, and elected to City Council in 2014 after completing her second term as mayor. With a population of over 100,000 people, it was the largest US city with a Green mayor.
Socialist rabble-rouser Eugene Debs received nearly one million votes for president in 1920 — 3.5 percent of the popular vote — as simply “Convict No. 9653.” The Socialist Party was once a powerful third party in the US, capturing the hearts and minds of millions of working-class people who supported a serious challenge to the status quo.
The US is the only country with an absolute two-party system and an electoral college that can change the results of a popular vote, creating a winner-take-all that prevents any meaningful challenge to the duopoly. Some countries, such as the UK, have two major parties that dominate elections, but there are viable third parties, which win seats in the legislature. Germany, with voter turnout about 80%, has a coalition government, where minority parties can unify and outvote the majority party.
American voter turnout in presidential elections is usually barely in the mid-50 percent. The US doesn’t only have low voter turnout because so many people are uninspired by either party. There are also significant hurdles to voting in the US, such as more complicated registration, or voting being on a workday instead of on a weekend, as well as the increasing prevalence of giving out provisional ballots, which are almost never counted. Various studies have shown that the casting of provisional ballots correlates with high shares of racial minorities and non-English speakers in a particular area. It’s no wonder so many people would rather watch Netflix than vote.
The pervasive belief in “anybody but Trump” shows that Trump Derangement Syndrome is real, and should be a diagnosis in the DSM. Such people believe all progressives and leftists must not only vote for Biden, but get out the vote for Biden. They aren’t open to considering the effect of that position on long-term politics and the ideological struggle. Case closed.
Among the many fallacies to that argument is that if people live in a consistently blue “safe state,” such as CA, NY and MA, there is no reason to vote for a demented war-hawk candidate, especially with Republican stalwarts like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Colin Powell urging votes for Biden.
But even more concerning is the Democrats out-flanking Trump from the right in foreign policy. While we face both a public health and unemployment crisis, as well as a sustained protest movement against police abuses, a massive $740.5 billion military spending package was recently approved by the Democratic-controlled House Armed Services Committee. The Democrats voted to impede the Trump administration from withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, and blocked the White House’s plan to remove 10,000 troops stationed in Germany.
Military families were a large part of Trump’s base in 2016 as he was seen as less war-like than Clinton. The Democrats’ belligerence, calling Trump “presidential” when he dropped the “Mother of All Bombs” on Afghanistan in 2017, will continue to drive military families to Trump.
Biden certainly needs a boost to beat Trump. As in 2016, you’d think it would be easy to beat the Orange Menace, but the Democrats are challenging him with somebody even worse than Clinton, a man in steep cognitive decline. Harris allows the DNC to use a Black woman prosecutor to legitimize the mass incarceration plague in this country. They are locking up Black men in shameful numbers, and, until the uprisings, giving cop-killers get out of jail free cards, which is why we have continuous uprisings.
We already see the beginning of the psychological effects of the virus. Domestic violence, child abuse, suicide and alcoholism have all increased. A friend, who is a counselor in the Bay Area, works with at-risk families. Caregivers/parents more frequently ask if they can have their child institutionalized. The children are not in need of being institutionalized, so locked-in families must cope with the trauma of the pandemic on their own. Bankruptcies, evictions and foreclosures have barely begun. The only thing worse than being kept inside, is not having a roof to sleep under. The unraveling has barely begun.
My concern is that we are not equal to the task before us. As a feminist for over half a century, I found that sexism is alive and well in a national political organization I started working with. In response to a woman saying she doesn’t think women are treated with equal respect, an elder activist white man said, “Well, it wasn’t intentional.” Still unclear on the concept. The same group has trouble writing an agenda, let alone developing a position on the upcoming election. The serious, disciplined study of the Black Panthers and their 10-point program is a distant memory. Political disinformation is as prevalent as information when discourse is limited to Twitter. And of course, given social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, organizing is much more difficult, with the inadequate substitute of seeing faces and hearing electronically modulated voices on Zoom.
I have lived with urgency ever since growing up in the ’60s. As a red diaper baby raised on the Bolshevik, Chinese and Cuban revolutions, I was always concerned with inequality, peace and justice. All of the previous crises were urgent, but this one feels exponentially more ominous. More and more people are resigned that we are in the sixth extinction. Instead, I try to hold on to Antonio Gramsci’s advice to practice pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.
We need to take ourselves seriously. Fascism will not be the FBI coming to our door. It will not look like fascism under Hitler, Mussolini or Franco. But it is coming. Are we ready?