Ben Boyce


Another world is ours for the making

Posted on July 5, 2017 by Ben Boyce

The core mission of this column (Progressive Majority Coalition) is to transform liberals into progressives. My motto is: “Liberalism is a political tendency, progressivism is a political agenda.”

Evolve or die is the prime directive of nature.

This turbulent era, in which the foundations of our imperfect democratic tradition are under relentless ideological attack by a quasi-authoritarian rogue Republican regime, should be the grand opportunity for a revived American Left.

Unfortunately, the dominant discourse among U.S. liberals and progressives reveals a troubling lack of historical consciousness and strategic savvy. It is demoralizing to see the heated partisans of these two important left factions squandering this promising moment with an endless, bitter, on-going feud over the checkered 2016 Democratic primary. We must sort that out internally by 2020, but we have far more immediate concerns.

This intra-mural dispute on the left is not the main historical event at hand, given the clear and present danger of a reckless alt-right administration that is attempting to reverse the accumulated social progress achieved since the early 20th century.

Too many of the rightfully offended Bernie Sanders cadre and the deeply disappointed HRC loyalists have been driven to anger and mistrust as their default settings. We cannot hope to win if we carry on like that.

Consequently, in this charged atmosphere there are a lot of really bad ideas circulating in liberal and progressive circles: starting a third party for 2020, or running another neo-liberal centrist at the top of the ticket, or withdrawing altogether from electoral politics.

These are strategically naïve postures, rooted in a deep frustration with a paralyzed political process, culturally induced learned helplessness, and an entrenched Third Way Democratic establishment that cannot recognize that they are now the past, not the future of the party.

The third party option has a visceral emotional appeal, but its advocates do not understand a foundational fact about the American political system. The Constitutional bedrock of the Electoral College pre-determines a two-party system. The U.S. is not a European parliamentary democracy. The Founders baked that feature into the constitutional cake.

If a third party does arise to take power (which has not happened for over a century and a half, since the dissolution of the Whig Party in the 1850s), the historic pattern is that it replaces an existing party. The constitutional framework just does not support third parties.

I call on my progressive allies to get smart fast about the dire stakes at hand and to practice strategic patience, grounded in a mature understanding of the structural limitations of real world power dynamics.

We need to play politics for real. The time is past for symbolic fantasy league politics, because the policy outcomes really do matter for millions of our fellow citizens.

We can sort out our internal differences in the primaries. This is not a drill now. It’s not funny anymore. A competent, progressive Democratic Party has become a matter of national security.

A strong, internationally networked democratic socialist movement, based on a class alliance between educated liberal professionals, progressive youth, and disaffected working class independents can happen here.

This new social awakening movement is arising right now in Britain. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbin, an authentic democratic socialist, may well be the next UK Prime Minister within months. This would be an historic progressive victory.

We will need to negotiate a power-sharing coalition agreement within the Democratic Party so we can flip the House and the Senate in 2018, and put the brakes on the Trump Train. I hope that wisdom prevails.

The stakes are too high for playing games. We cannot permit this chaotic junta to be given a full four years of unitary government to wreak havoc on every social justice law, environmental regulation, and labor protection won over the last century.

The Trump Organization is rapidly undermining the good will of decades of skillful diplomatic work by arrogantly spurning our international obligations and partnerships. Those cooperative arrangements kept relative peace in the West and built up the key post-WWII global institutions like the UN, NATO, the IMF and World Bank, the START nuclear arms treaty, and the critical Iran deal.

The Bannon/Koch/Republican donor class’ deep project to demolish the ‘administrative state must be checked in the 2018 election cycle. We have been given an assignment by history. Let’s do it.

Local notes

  • The Santa Rosa rent control measure, which had been supported by a broad coalition of union members, housing advocates, and social justice groups like the North Bay Organizing Project, was narrowly defeated by an infusion of nearly $1 million dollars, largely from out-of-state national realtors associations. Money still can buy an electoral result in America.
  • Democratic Socialists of America held their first North Bay chapter meeting in Santa Rosa last week. I attended, and was amazed at the standing room only crowd in Mary’s Pizza Shack banquet room. It makes an old lefty like me happy to see such a great turnout of young people for a socialist meeting.
  • Former Sonoma mayor and long-time councilmember Ken Brown launched a campaign to finally have a cannabis dispensary in this city. About time!

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