Progressive Democrats for a People's Party
Lessons from History and Successful Progressive Movements
The Democratic Party is likely far too entrenched to change, and destined to go down with the Titanic. But if there is any hope of reforming them, we must study the past and learn how progressive movements in our own history were able to force establishment parties to adopt progressive legislation. Historically, a successful inside-outside strategy involves pressure from within an establishment party and pressure from a major independent party. Together, those from within and those from without work as a team to either force an establishment party to represent working people or replace it with a party that does.
A people's party is an essential yet missing element of our strategy as a movement today. The Democrats have a virtual monopoly over progressives right now. Like a corporate monopoly with its customers, the Democrats feel no need to serve their constituents because they think we have nowhere else to go. Throughout U.S. history, major parties have refused to change until independent parties have threatened to replace them. For the past 150 years, the progressive cornerstones of our society, from abolition to women's suffrage, from child labor laws to the forty hour work week, from social security to the New Deal, have been achieved by third parties who championed them and forced establishment parties to either adopt them or be replaced.
Independent parties are necessary to motivate establishment parties to accept progressive reforms. Until a major party understands that its monopoly over the progressive vote has been broken, it sees no reason to change. As we examine the success of progressive movements in the past, it's quickly apparent that the big missing ingredient to our success is a formidable independent party that declares to the establishment parties, "Either lead or get out of the way."
Our movement is placing great inside pressure on the Democrats, but we need a powerful outside component to compliment and empower its efforts, to give it traction. Without it, the Democrats feel free to dismiss us. Until we embrace the lessons and winning strategies of our progressive ancestors, the enormous amount of resources spent trying to change the Democratic Party are ineffective. Progressives inside and outside of the Democratic Party must work as a team, each empowering and propelling the other.
The progressive movement is spending millions of dollars and countless hours trying to change the Democratic Party, but the inside-outside balance is out of whack. Until the balance is restored with a formidable push on the outside, our efforts on the inside will continue to hit a brick wall. With the introduction of an outside threat, the inside pressure could pick up traction.
Many distinguished progressive luminaries like Cornel West, Michelle Alexander and Noam Chomsky believe that the Democratic Party is too entrenched to change and that a progressive society can only be achieved by an independent progressive party.
This is our way of placing maximum pressure and cutting to the chase with the Democrats. It's our way of saying, "All across this country, men, women and children are suffering as a direct result of your policies and we are not waiting any longer for you to grow a conscience and recognize their pain."
If the Democratic Party is ever to serve working people, it must renounce its open control by the oligarchs. Bernie taught us that there is no such thing as a people's party that is funded by the same oligarchs who are blocking access to higher education, health care, financial reform, and more. A party cannot serve Wall Street and working people at the same time. He rejected their money, and any party that aspires to serve the people must do the same. Corporate money and the lobbyists on the DNC are so entrenched that the only thing that might be able to flush them out is a progressive party that declares: "Either they go, or we do."
When the Democratic Party sees that the progressive movement is no longer tolerating its antics, and is prepared to replace them if they do not change, then, like establishment parties in the past, they will realize that they must give in. When the Democratic Party sees that we’re no longer putting up with their corporate policies, their big money, their rigged elections, and their DNC purges, then they will change. When they see that our votes must be earned instead of taken for granted, then they will change. When serving working people is the only way to stay in power, then they will change. When the survival of their party is on the line, then they will change.
And if they still refuse to stand for working people, we will know that no amount of petitions, protests, rallies, sit ins, calls, and inside pressure campaigns would have done it anyway. We will know with clarity that the future of the progressive majority is in a people’s party, and we can stop investing tremendous resources in a party that would rather cease to exist then represent working people.
The best way to reform the Democratic Party is to show them in no uncertain terms that if they will not stand for the working people of this country, then we will build a party that does. Establishment parties do not change until their monopoly over the left is broken. Whether you want to reform the Democratic Party or replace it, the best way to do both is to launch a people’s party. It’s the missing ingredient in our progressive movement that enabled the movements of the past to achieve everything that we cherish about our society today. Our families and our future depend on our ability to create a new party that stands for everything that we do.
A people’s party.