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On July 5, start asking the Democrats, “What policies will help working families?”
The patriotic season is upon us. With it comes the arrival of the 2020 presidential race—far too early, in my estimation. Which in turn tends to generate conservative political ripples all the way down to the local level in the service of “winning” the Oval Office… strong enough to derail popular upsurges on the left, to my point. And while I don’t expect anyone to actually think about politics on July 4, here are some thoughts for July 5 and after.
It is generally agreed among pundits of all stripes that the American left—meaning factions ranging from the left wing of the Democratic Party over to various stripes of socialists, anarchists, communists, and greens—has grown swiftly since President Trump’s election in November 2016. Plus the salutary effects of Sen. Bernie Sanders strong campaign in growing the broad left in the run-up to the same election cannot be understated.
The results of this political shift have been wide and varied, but include the launch of several major organizations and a constellation of minor ones—some more grassroots and some more “astroturf” (fake grassroots, backed by powerful interests)—including Justice Democrats, Sunrise Movement, and Sanders’ Our Revolution (which actually started just prior to the 2016 election). All of which aim to push the Democrats to the left on an array of core political, economic, and environmental issues.
There has also been growth among existing left-wing organizations—notably, the Democratic Socialists of America. A decades-old pressure group whose membership increased from a few thousand middecade to over 60,000 today. And whose goals are varied, as it is a big tent in its current incarnation. But its network, as it is not a political party, includes many active left-wing Democrats who want to join the newer formations in sparking a major change in national political direction.
In the midterm 2018 elections, this shift to portside at the grassroots level led to the election of quite a few outspoken left-wing Democrats to offices at nearly every level of government. Making figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez into household names overnight.
There are many other examples of this leftward push as well, in electoral and extra-parliamentary politics alike, but suffice to say it is a real and important phenomenon. Which cannot be ignored.
Here in Boston, we’re definitely seeing the effects of nearly three years of intense organizing by an array of left-leaning organizations and campaigns—many spearheaded by people under 30—reaching increasingly deeply into the consciousness of America’s working people.
In the past week alone, two promising public actions took place that I read as evidence of a sea change in local and national politics.
Last Wednesday, hundreds of Wayfair workers walked off of work and rallied in Copley Square to protest the company’s $200,000 contract to furnish a detention center for migrant youth in Carillo Springs, Texas. Whatever the outcome of the protest, it was unprecedented, recognized as such, and received national and international news coverage.
Because a large group of workers at a major corporation demanding a say in its business practices is a big step along the road to workers demanding permanent democratic control over their workplace. And that, my friends, is a basic definition of socialism. Not governments “giving stuff away” as many right-wing Democratic and ultra right-wing Republican critics would have it. But democracy on the job. Workers “controlling the means of production.”
The protest is also indicative of the great revulsion that many Americans—particularly young ones—feel toward any federal administration running baby concentration camps in their name. An outstandingly humane and appropriate reaction that I think cannot be stated often or loudly enough.
The other interesting protest is still going on as I write: The #BostonTParty. Called by a local politician, Boston City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu, who was first elected before the 2018 midterm wave, but is representative of the growing group of politicians who are responding to the left-wing zeitgeist by moving noticeably to the left themselves. In word, if perhaps not always in deed. Yet.
Together with over 50 fellow Mass pols—including beneficiaries of the 2018 left turn like Rep. Ayanna Pressley and more established left politicians like state Rep. Mike Connolly—and an array of left-leaning political organizations, Wu is using the occasion of the institution of yet another wildly unpopular MBTA fare hike (courtesy of Gov. Charlie Baker and his allies) just after a couple of shocking recent subway derailments to call for major public investment to fix one of America’s largest public transportation systems.
But these mass transit advocates are not simply holding a rally and leaving it at that. According to a press release from Wu’s office, “#UnfairHikes Action volunteers will cover every rapid transit station and many commuter rail stations across the system during the morning rush hour commute on the day that fare increases take effect. The goal of the effort is to engage riders to build momentum for solutions to fix the region’s deteriorating public transit system.”
So, again, this is something different. It’s looking like the beginnings of a virtuous circle in which grassroots action by emboldened left-wing activists is affecting the trajectory of a growing number of politicians. Which in turn can result in larger and more militant actions for good public programs—some initiated by the politicians themselves (for a variety of reasons, including, in this case, a possible Wu run at the Boston mayor’s seat)—and keep the politicians on course to continue to support policies that benefit working families.
All to the good, from my perspective.
Yet that presidential race is in motion. And as surely as the sun sets in the west, national Democratic Party leadership can be expected to do what they always do when a left-wing insurgency rises within its own ranks… crush it.
If that means isolating and sidelining generally decent candidates like Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (whose largely self-inflicted PR problems precede her, sadly), they’ll do it.
If that means kicking innovative and forward-thinking policy solutions like Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal to the curb, they’ll do it.
And if that means throwing the 2020 election to Trump to stop the left from seizing power away from their corporate-backed faction, they’ll absolutely do it. They’ve done all of the above, and more, over the past 40 years. So why not now?
Democratic strategists—and their useful idiots in the chattering class who are busily prosecuting a campaign of fear to stampede left voters into backing lousy corporate candidates like they did with Hillary Clinton in 2016—wouldn’t know a good strategy if it hit them in the face. As evidenced by recent articles in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and many other major news outlets besides. That all ask the wrong question at the national and local political levels: “Are the Democrats too left to get elected?”
The correct question to ask, and one which corporate media minions are always loathe to mention, is, “What policies will help working families?” Tens of millions people who are struggling more and more with every passing year. Tens of millions of people who don’t have good jobs—or any jobs. Tens of millions of people who don’t have healthcare. Tens of millions of people who have insane amounts of college debt. Tens of millions of people who are downwardly mobile. Who are increasingly desperate. Who are terribly stressed out and unsure how to make ends meet. Who don’t know what will become of their children. Who are turning to drugs and suicide, so miserable have they become.
What policies will help them? A them that includes more and more of us—including a vast number of formerly middle-class people—with each passing year.
Any party that cannot ask and answer this most critical of all questions can be damned sure that it will not be winning many elections going forward. The cart must come before the horse, as always.
So, that is my question for the Democratic Party, and their quislings in the mainstream press, this holiday season. And that is what I recommend that you all think about on July 5 and after. Following, I hope, a much-deserved day off. And a nice party with some fireworks.
Apparent Horizon—winner of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2018 Best Political Column award—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2019 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.