Fighting to Save Political Parties Out of Sorts with the Base

Edinburgh  Eating curry last night with leaders and organizers of ACORN in Scotland, once the usual questions about Trump were quickly exhausted, one veteran activist asked what Senator Bernie Sanders, last year’s surprisingly successful Presidential candidate, was up to and whether he was gaining ground and credibility in the current chaos. It was a good question, and my answer was that the best I knew his people where focused more on positioning in the Democratic Party than the larger issues. I told the ridiculous story of some moderate Democrats trying to convince Sanders to call off the dogs and make sure that town hall protestors only attacked Republicans, as if Sanders was pulling any strings at all in the activist moment. I found that notion among conservative Democrats as bizarre as the Republican conservative claim that poor old George Soros is paying demonstrators these days to voice their outrage.

Turns out I was either lucky or timely in my observation. Almost as soon as I logged on to the news I stumbled into a story reporting that Sanders’ operatives had been scoring some significant wins in Democratic inner party elections.

In California, supporters of the 2016 presidential contender, Barry Sanders, packed the obscure party meetings that chose delegates to the state Democratic convention, with Sanders backers grabbing more than half the slots available. They swept to power in Washington State at the Democratic state central committee, ousting a party chairman and installing one of their own in his place. Sanders acolytes have seized control of state parties in Hawaii and Nebraska and won posts throughout the party structure from coast to coast.

Presumably the agenda is to move the party in a more solidly progressive direction.

Observers in several papers noted that as miserable as the 2018 midterm elections look for the Democratic Party’s shot at control of the Senate, there’s an arguable path to pick up 24 seats in the House by targeting districts either won by Hillary Clinton by stout margins or where the demographics are heavily weighted with educated white and general Hispanic voters. Polls indicate that Trump’s slide steep has accelerated in both camps. There are fewer districts that Sanders won last year though, so that crossover is uncertain.

Others might argue that you have to be careful what you wish for though without a deeper strategy to engage the base. The Labour Party’s predicament in the United Kingdom is a case study here. Having moved in a more progressive direction as the left took control of internal elections without a program effectively responding to the working class base, right leaning pro-Brexit forces are cleaning their clock. By-elections in hard core Labour districts that they have held for more than 30 years are being watched closely to see if the party can even survive.

Sanders in some ways is well-positioned internally since Clinton is not part of the picture and a more moderate Democratic Party leader has not emerged.

Is it a winning strategy? That’s another question for sure. No lucky guesses will count on that one.

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Sanders Wants Leverage on the Democratic Party for What?

Revolution-FistNew Orleans   There are five more primaries this week, and Senator Bernie Sanders is favored to lose almost all of them, extending Hillary Clinton’s lead and her inevitable nomination by the Democratic Party. Sanders is will-bringing it hard every day and trying for every vote, as he should. The simple political calculus is usually that more votes, equals more delegates, equals more leverage. In Sanders case, at this point we have to ask more pointedly what he hopes to accomplish with increased leverage.

Reports from within his campaign indicate he is focusing increasingly on having impact on the Democratic Party platform. Despite the compelling evidence that the Chair of the Party is already stacking all of the major committees with Clintonistas, including one report that of over forty appointments less than a handful went to Sanderites, the Senator is still saying that he expects to get a fair shake at the convention, blah, blah, blah.

Really? Is this what it’s all worth?

Reports from the Clinton camp over the weekend were unusually frank about how she and the campaign were viewing potential choices to fill out her ticket with a vice-presidential nominee. They characterized her as unconcerned about needing to make any concession to the left or the rabid Sanders supporters, because, as we have continually predicted, in the general election, they have nowhere else to go and will have to vote for her given the Republican field or no one at all. It’s hard not to get the sense that Sanders is already negotiating with himself and that Clinton has left the room and moved on, while continuing to make the motions and show up when scheduled.

A founder and former grand poobah of Politico took to the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal of all places to argue that what we needed was a third-party. He laid out what he felt were the preconditions for a successful candidate in what I would argue is a want-ad for the political class. Meanwhile Sanders is angling for a better platform for the Democratic Party. He seems to be reminding us that he is a “coincidental” Democrat, likely never having lived through a Democratic convention from start to finish and certainly not familiar with the fact that a Democratic nominee is held to absolutely no accountability to any stack of paper produced by the delegates.

I’m not saying Sanders should go rogue and go third party. It’s too late for that, and the wrong strategy for him now, but why not use his leverage so that it means something. Ignore the platform and focus on candidates and races where elections of progressive candidates could make a difference. Take the “revolution” he’s calling for and bring it home. Help the Working Family Party get more votes on its party line in November. Turn time and fundraising to Congressional races where candidates are willing to embrace the arguments for change that Sanders has articulated. Go local on some legislative and gubernatorial races with the same fire. Jump out of the box and join with Rev. Barber in North Carolina and anyone who can be found in Mississippi to stand against hate laws. Pull out the stops to join with Planned Parenthood where they are attacked. Carry a sign with Black Lives Matter. Walk the line with unions.

Platform, splatform. Don’t play the game. Be true to your voters and supporters and change the game right now, while you have the chance, and your voice can still be heard clearly and have weight. There’s no next year. Seize the time and make it matter.

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