Is a Progressive Future Ours to Lose?

02supertuesday-sanders-superJumboLittle Rock   Ok, puzzle me this, joker, if Bernie Sanders doesn’t go out of the box as I’ve argued he should to gain increased leverage, but instead gets lost in the arcane minutia of Democratic platform politics, what is the progressive future? There are several scenarios that are possible, even if unlikely, but at least worth strategic consideration.

We’ve learned two things that we shouldn’t forget in the 2016 primaries thanks to the Sanders’ campaign. First, to use a sports analogy, small ball can at least stay on the court against the big guys, meaning in politics that small donors can equal big fat wallets. The money primary can be won with the right candidates and program as we have seen with Obama in 2008 and now with Sanders in 2016. Secondly, to quote Nate Silver’s data crunching, FiveThirtyEight website, “The Democratic electorate turning out in 2016 has been a lot more liberal than it was in the last competitive Democratic primary, in 2008.” The tide is turning our way.

To Charles Blow of the New York Times that says that the “moderate/conservative portion of the Democratic primary electorate [could] become a minority in the next 10 years.” He worries that that could create the kind of divisiveness within the Democratic Party that the rise of Trump is creating for the Republicans. Maybe, but let’s say Clinton wins the presidency as a moderate/liberal/hawk having survived by the reckoning of many as the best of bad choices. The Sanders constituency that stays in the Democratic Party won’t be happy and an evolving progressive base will still be looking for someone or something to carry its banner, so my bet is that Clinton will face a challenge on the left in the 2020 primaries, especially since she won’t solve inequality, the betting odds are that we will be more likely to be in military conflict than not, and Sanders has created more space that someone will want to fill. She would still win the Democratic nomination in 2020, because there’s no way a sitting President doesn’t, remember Jimmy Carter, but the Republicans will learn from the Trump trouncing, and might then hold her to one term. Sadly, that would leave the progressive faction discredited, farther out of power, and estranged from its own growing base.

I think progressives get trapped in that scenario because we are competing with a significant base, but in an arena so alien to our core competency on rules that so radically privilege incumbents and elites that we can’t win, and worst can be ignored. All of which argues that we do better building an independent base either through an alternative party, a national Working Families Party style fusion strategy, or a temporary free floating ad hoc coalition strategy of running and winning with independents. There is energy for such strategies, and there are young, savvy candidates who will emerge as well.

Implementing any of these strategies means years of hard work in the vineyards, but at least there’s something real at the end of the rainbow. The short term strategies that depend on taking down the establishment with an inside coup, seem destined for failure and leave us holding an empty bag, and, worse, starting over from scratch on a job we should have started yesterday, but at the least need to get busy with today.