Now that the 2012 elections are over and the threat to reinstitute “dejure” white supremacy (however real or perceived) has been vanquished, the question is can progressive forces now get serious about creating an alternative political party that reflects our views, principles, and programmatic solutions?
Many might be asking why do we need an alternative or Third Political Party? And some might be asking, haven’t we heard this all before?
Within the two Party system that has largely dominated the United States Republic since its founding, the Democratic Party has occupied the proverbial “left pole” of American mainstream politics since the Great Depression and the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) in the 1930’s. Since the Depression, the Democrats were able to build a coalition of white urban ethnics, trade unions, and an assortment of oppressed peoples’ (Blacks, Xicanos, Puerto Ricans, etc.). This Coalition also included white Southern Dixiecrats until the 1960’s, who jettisoned this uneasy alliance after President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that effectively ended legalized white supremacy.
Since the 1960’s, the Democratic Party coalition included a decreasing number of whites (as the ethnics assimilated more and more into the standard Anglo-Saxon narrative of settler whiteness), trade unions and oppressed peoples. Bill Clinton and the (now defunct) Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) shifted this alliance in the late 1980’s and 1990’s by adopting neo-liberalism wholesale and appropriating large parts of President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s platform to recapture larger numbers of white voters. This strategy proved to be highly effective, and resulted in the election of Bill Clinton in 1992, ending the 12 year domination of the Republican Party.
Neo-liberalism is a hyper-aggressive variant of capitalism that depends on government creating a regulatory regime that favors and promotes finance capital and speculative markets and lives on the cannibalization (i.e. privatization) of public goods and services (what scholar David Harvey calls “accumulation by dispossession”) and the commodification of everything. Despite the financial and economic crash of 2008, neo-liberalism fundamentally remains the social gospel of both political parties.
Throughout this 80 year history, the big tent of the Democratic Party sometimes allowed space for progressive and radical ideas and social bases, but only to the extent that both would uphold the capitalist system and the pursuit of imperialist hegemony by the United States government and American monopoly corporations. Anything beyond this, or that challenged this, was then, as now, beyond the fold of mainstream acceptability within the confines of the dominant two-party framework.
The only substantive difference between the two dominant parties (the Demopublicans or Republicrats as many call them) is that the Democratic Party promises to distribute more of the spoils of the United States Empire to “people of color” more than the Republican Party (as presently constituted). Both parties are fully committed however to gaining these spoils through the same principle means of systemic oppression and exploitation on a national and global scale.
The reality is that for those of who are striving to be anti-racists, anti-sexists, anti-capitalists, and anti-imperialists there is no major political party in the United States that reflects our politics. Sure there are several critical progressive Third Parties that exist in the United States, such as the Green and the Peace and Freedom parties. But, since the 1950’s, none of these Third Parties has consistently garnered enough votes to be major player on the national level within the US electoral system (many might cite Ross Perot’s run in 1992, but he was further to the right than either Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush). This does not mean that neither the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party could not become this party, but right now, no such party exists.
If we want a party that strives to reflect these principles and politics we have to build it. And now is perhaps one of the best times in the history of the United States Empire to do so. As many commentators and academics have noted, the demographics of the United States are changing rapidly and profoundly. It is projected that within the next 20 to 25 years, that whites will become the “majority-minority” in the United States (as presently constituted). Many assume this demographic shift will automatically result in the dominance of the Democratic Party, as Blacks and Latino’s in particular have historically been more “progressive” in the realm of electoral politics than have the descendants of white settlers. While this will likely be a safe bet for a few years, it is not an entirely sure bet for the long term. Black and Latino communities can both exhibit some rather conservative social views that can be a potential opening for right wing forces, and I would argue that within both communities there has been a noted right-wing political shift over the past 30 years, that is most concentrated amongst the professional or petit bourgeois class elements within these communities that the right can readily tap into.
If we truly want these communities to go in a progressive direction over the next years and decades, we are going to have to compete against reactionary forces for their attention and engagement. Given the nature of the Republicans defeat, you can best believe that they are going to be competing hard to sway a considerable portion of the Latino base to their politics and principles and will likely stop at nothing to do so – even extending more of an invitation to various portions of the Latino community to join the club of “whiteness” (which is a game that has been in motion in many sections of the country already for decades). And they will continue to try and fracture the Black Democratic block, and are primed to use issues such as immigration and its links (presumed or real) to the economic dislocation of large sections of the Black working class as a “divide and conquer” wedge issue.
As the Demopubicans compete for these bases, so must we. It is the job of the progressive and radical forces to organize and win over the majority of the oppressed peoples in this empire, combined with and a substantial number of whites, to our views and politics to transform the entity called the United States. If we make a serious push between now and 2014, we can make some serious inroads on many local, regional, and statewide elections throughout the empire that could break the Democratic Party stranglehold on progressive politics and open up some real democratic space.
The choice of creating a broad and powerful Third Party will not be easy, and will not be without its challenges (particularly on the financial front, given that we won’t be financed by Wall Street and the various monopoly franchises of the empire). But, we either seize the opportunity in front of us or continue to accept a politics of “lesser evils” that often turn out to merely be the legitimation of “more effective evils”.