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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/17/09

How a Leftist Third Party Could Gain Ascendancy

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Message Karen Sandness
The Republicans and their enablers in the Democratic Party have spent the past 28 years driving the country towards the edge of a cliff at 60 miles an hour. At this point, it seems that Obama will merely slow down to 50 miles an hour, when what we really need is a sharp left turn to avoid the cliff entirely.

For years, Leftists have been saying that America desperately needs a viable Leftist party, and increasing numbers are realizing that the Democrats are out of touch with thoughtful American opinion. If you doubt this, look at the readers' responses in the online edition of such an Establishment newspaper as The New York Times. Sorting the responses in the order "Readers' Recommendations," you find overwhelming support for universal health care, demilitarization, mass transit, progressive taxation, keeping jobs in America, and now, condemnation of Israel's actions in Gaza.

It therefore seems reasonable to envision a scenario in which a third, Leftist party could take over from the Democrats in a Whigs-->Republicans sort of way. But, given the stubborn rightward tilt of our mass media, it would take several election cycles, as outlined in a piece that I wrote for another forum early in 2007.

1. 2007-2008: Despite their majority in both Houses of Congress, the Democrats fail to stop the Iraq War or block any other Republican initiatives and continue to let the health care system collapse and jobs be sent overseas. (NOTE: I was right, wasn't I?)

2. 2008: One of the corporate-approved Democrats is elected.

3. 2009: Business as usual continues. The country continues to go down the tubes, despite total Dem control of the government, because the Democrats are either compromised or afraid of appearing "far left."

Meanwhile, under the radar:

4. 2009: A Leftist party (the Greens, the Socialists, others--it doesn't matter which one gets going on this first. Let's just call them the Lefties) undertakes a massive soul-searching and decides that its public image is too hippie-granola for the average voter. It recruits volunteers to go into the inner cities, rural areas, depressed industrial towns, and other places that the politicians ignore. The volunteers leave the political and economic theory on the college campus and concentrate on listening to ordinary people. Meanwhile, they raise their profile by volunteering (in a group, as publicly identified Lefties) for every public service opportunity that comes along--disaster relief, fundraisers for those without health insurance, material support for labor actions, adopt a highway, you name it. They create personal ties within all the neglected communities, allying themselves with local labor unions, liberal religious groups, ad hoc neighborhood or community groups protesting injustice, ethnic organizations, support groups for disabled and traumatized veterans, and any other like-minded citizens who happen to be around.

5. 2010: Midterm elections. The Greens, Socialists and other leftist parties convene to find a set of five common principles that they can all agree on and to pledge to ignore all the things they disagree on. The principles are all practical responses to real problems, and each is stated in one sentence or phrase for campaigning purposes.

(For example, the five principles might be national health care that combines the best of the single-payer and national health service models, reducing the military establishment to actual defensive needs, putting America to work through the construction of mass transit, intercity rail, and affordable housing; an end to off-shore production of goods and services for the U.S. market by U.S. companies, and tax hikes for the rich paired with tax cuts for the poor.)

The parties cross-endorse one another's candidates for Congress, candidates who agree to run on the agreed-upon five principles nationwide, plus offering Leftist approaches to any unique local issues. If, for instance, police brutality or toxic waste is an issue in a given district, then the local party takes positions on them, but in addition to, not instead of, the five principles. The candidates use guerilla campaigning methods, along with the contacts and networks created over the past three years, to win a few Congressional seats.

6. 2011: In Congress, the Lefties introduce bills based on their five principles. They are all scrappy fighters and lay both Republicans and Democrats low in debates. They don't pass any legislation (the Democrats keep calling it "impractical"), but these Lefty Congresscritters stay in touch with their constituents, learn to handle the media, and gain reputations for honesty and courage.

7. 2012: The Democratic president from 2008 barely squeaks into a second term. The Republicans are now too crazy for most Americans, and the Lefties get the second largest total, as well as gaining more Congressional seats. This scares the Democrats, and they start playing as nicely as their corporate sponsors will allow.

Fast forward to 2020: First Lefty president.

What keeps the minority parties minorities, aside from maneuvering against them by the political establishment and shameful neglect and hostility from the corporate media, is their own, yes, elitism. Their worst failing is political correctness in its original sense, going the "more Marxist than thou" route or refusing to work with Group X because it holds Position Y1, when everyone knows that the truth is Y2.

The other mistake that I see is top-down presidential politics. You can't expect the American people to vote for Ralph Nader, who pops up every four years to run for president and doesn't do much to build a mass movement in between times, or Cynthia McKinney, whom most Americans have heard of only as "that crazy woman," if there is no broadly based local party supporting them.

The Kucinich campaign that I saw here in Minnesota in 2004 had the right idea, in that it involved not only the usual leftist suspects but also a diverse range of others, and employed guerilla marketing to the fullest possible extent. Perhaps that is why it got 17% of the vote in the caucuses statewide, despite the corporate media acting as if the only choices were Kerry and Edwards.

In short, leftists need to reach out to and listen to the disenfranchised and disillusioned, learn to play nicely with other leftist parties, formulate a short, simple, easily understood platform, and bypass conventional campaigning as they work from the local level up.
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Karen Sandness is now living back in her native Minnesota after spending about half her life on the East Coast, the West Coast, and overseas. A former academic, she is now self-employed as a translator. In her spare time, she reads, takes walks, (more...)
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How a Leftist Third Party Could Gain Ascendancy

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