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We Need a New Political Party

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We Need a New Political Party

Jerry Kann

March 21, 2013

The time has come to create a new major political party.

Anew major political party. An independent party big enough to compete with the two existing major parties, the Democrats and Republicans--and hopefully big enough, someday, to sweep them both out of power.

The two majorparties are not permanent fixtures of the landscape. They're not immortal. They're not in power as the result of some law of nature or an act of God. They're fallible and corruptible. And they've outlived their usefulness.

Both major parties are corrupt beyond redemption. They've been taking bribes from the Big Business bosses for so long that now they really only represent rich people and the big banks and corporations. Many Americans have been faithfully voting Democrat or Republican for years, or for decades, and they will be shocked at the suggestion that those two parties need to be broomed out of office. But in fact, their time has come. They've gotta go.

In order to save American democracy, we need thousands and thousands of honest, smart, articulate, angry people to run for public office. We need candidates who have never run before, but who have always known deep down that they have something valuable to contribute. We need new blood, and lots of it.

Why do these new candidates need a party? Well, why do workers need a union? Why do community activists need a club? Such organizations give people a way to divide up the work and to give every member a chance to participate. Sure, a person can run for office as a lone wolf, as a full independent. But that's a very hard way to do it, perhaps much harder than it needs to be for most people. Doing politics takes time and effort. And money. And organization. That's what a political party is for.

How many people could be brought together in such a party? Well, millions of people want a single-payer healthcare system that covers everybody, not one that excludes some folks and forces everybody else to buy health insurance from a private insurance company. Millions also want labor laws that make it easier to form unions -- to raise their standard of living and give them more power in the workplace. And certainly millions want to bring all the troops and mercenaries home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and even from many other U.S. bases all over the world that pointlessly stand guard against rival superpowers that don't exist any more. There are millions of Americans who agree on all these issues, but the Republicans and Democrats keep throwing up roadblocks. What's the obvious solution? Form our own party and do the job ourselves.

What's It All About?

Politics is about power. It's about competition just as much as it's about cooperation and compromise. Yes, it would be wonderful if all of us--rich and poor and middle-class alike--could converge in a gigantic group hug and agree to share our resources and responsibilities. But the world at present is dominated by a very small, fabulously wealthy group of people who want all the money and power for themselves. For a long time they only hoarded money, but for the past 20 or 30 years they have been hoarding political power as well. They have become a grave threat -- a near-mortal threat -- to American democracy.

But there is a way to save our democracy. We can do it by using the democratic process itself. Competing for power in elections --competing for the support of our fellow citizens and indeed for the support of people of goodwill all over the world--that is the instrument we can use to save democracy in the United States.

Nowadays it's fashionableto be cynical about electoral politics. That's not surprising, considering how completely the Democrats and Republicans have sold out to the big corporations. Many people seem to feel it's a waste of time even bothering to vote. But feeling discouraged and giving up altogether are two different things. There is no reason to give up, when there is such vastpotential for working people to take public power into their own hands. Ifthousands of activists take responsibility for their own future, if they finally graduate from being voters to being candidates, then we can transform and renew American democracy. And we can win. If we are the 99%, it shouldn't be any great trick to win elections by a simple majority of 50% plus one.

Some people -- particularly those in the Occupy movement -- seem to have given up on the electoral process entirely. We should abandon the old system, they argue--not so much overthrow it as leave it behind. We must not try to reform the old politics but instead simply ignore it and build new institutions. Also, many Occupy participants want to rely entirely on direct action--demonstrations, marches, and acts of civil disobedience -- rather than engage in party politics of any kind.

Maybe they're right. I'm proud to be a member of Occupy in New York Cityand in my own neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. I'm certainly willing to consider Occupy's non-electoral, "non-partisan" approach. After all, I can't knock success. Occupy Wall Street captured the attention of the world in the fall of 2011, before it was violently put down. And indeed the day may come when the corporate state becomes so powerful that civil disobedience will be our only possible way of fighting back.

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Jerry Kann has made his living in New York City since the late 1980s in a variety of odd jobs--proofreader, copywriter, messenger, secretary--all while pursuing the very challenging avocation of independent politics. For years Kann's primary (more...)

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