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Can a New Political Party Save America From Itself?

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When it comes to criticizing the Democratic Party, nothing speaks like experience within the belly of the beast. Ralph Nader is living proof. After years of effectively pressuring congressional Democrats to protect consumers and the environment against corporate greed, he watched firsthand as the party bowed to the demands of Big Business during the Jimmy Carter administration.

And then there's Nick Brana, the leading activist behind the Movement for a People's Party (MPP). Like Nader, Brana isn't content merely to expose the corruption of the dismal dollar Democrats -- a party that late political scientist Sheldon Wolin rightly called "the inauthentic opposition." He's looking to replace them with something much better: Let's call it an "authentic opposition."

Don't let his tender age of 29 fool you. Brana has served his time inside the belly of the beast that is the Democratic donkey, first as a volunteer for Barack Obama and later as a member of John Kerry's political action committee. These experiences gave him a front-row seat to the "quid pro quo" between concentrated wealth and elected officials.

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Brana later served as the deputy director for voter protection of close Clinton ally and top Democratic Party fundraiser Terry McAuliffe's successful 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign. It was, in his words, "a test run for the [2016] Hillary Clinton campaign." There, Brana got to know future Clinton campaign chief Robby Mook and other high-ranking Clinton staffers.

"I was naive," Brana recalls. He thought activists could bring about progressive change for working people, the poor and the common good through the Democratic Party.

Now he thinks of the Democrats and the Republicans as "two subsidiaries of a single corporation." While the Republicans make no serious pretense of being anything but an oligarchic organization, Brana says, the Democrats play a more "insidious" and disingenuous part. Their "counter-revolutionary" role is to masquerade as the people's voice and function as a great "black hole for progressive energies and passions." In his estimation, the Democratic Party is a nefarious shock absorber for the ruling class.

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While commuting to and from his job for McAuliffe, Brana began listening to left-wing podcasts featuring iconic author and dissident Noam Chomsky, whose description of the U.S. as "a one-party state with two right-wing parties" (Brana's words) resonated with his own experience.

After McAuliffe won, Brana decided not to follow him to the Virginia state capital. Alienated by the corporatism of the party's neoliberal masters during the Obama years, and inspired by Chomsky, he took a break from politics before ultimately joining the campaign of progressive presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in 2015. There he served as national political outreach coordinator.

And yet his leftward progression remained far from complete. Sanders gave Brana the thankless job of lobbying the Democratic Party's explicitly anti-insurgent "superdelegates" to the national convention. The task "showed me definitively that the party was not materially different from the GOP," Brana told me two weeks ago. Ultimately, it proved to be "an eye-opening experience." The Democratic superdelegates were "offended that we wanted to talk to them about policy," Brana recalled.

The fact that Sanders performed far better than Goldman Sachs- and Council on Foreign Relations-approved Clinton in one-on-one match-up polls with Donald Trump at the end of the primary season held no interest whatsoever to the elite functionaries Brana tried to coax into Sanders' camp.

This experience dispelled Brana once and for all of the notion that he could make the world a better place through the Democratic Party. The party, he determined, was not a political entity at all but a privately owned business under the command of "a committee of corporations." Thinking that the organization's "oligarchic" nature could be undone by "some magic bullet" candidate, Brana told me, "is like believing that a single drop of clean water could purify a bucket of toxic sludge."

"You don't take the Democratic Party over," Brana says. "It takes over you."

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Sanders offered an alternative. The Vermont senator tantalized through a grassroots small-donor campaign that received literally no big-business support while skewering plutocracy and America's savage economic inequality. This was an extraordinary development in a primary awash in corporate money.

Were it not for the fixing of the primaries and the Democratic National Convention by the Clintonite "committee of the corporations" that owned the Democratic National Committee, Sanders might well be sitting in the White House right now. Trump would be back in his Manhattan tower, his political life relegated to the Twittersphere.

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Paul Street (www.paulstreet.org and paulstreet99@yahoo.com) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (2004), Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (2007), Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics (more...)
 

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