Reblogged from Talking Union. Written by Steve Early and Rand Wilson.
Bernie Sanders’ segue from presidential candidate to barnstorming author was seamless. In between the Democratic National Convention in July and hitting the stump this fall to boost Hillary Clinton’s stock in battleground states, Sanders cranked out a 450-page book, which hit bookstores November 15. The author was not far behind, with sold-out appearances from Boston to San Francisco.
This thesis is the story of Bernie Sanders, the socialist mayor of Burlington and his campaign for governor of Vermont in 1986. The campaign is used as a prism to explore his version of socialist politics and policies within a capitalist state. The policies which Sanders developed in this campaign for lowering property taxes for middle and lower income people, increasing social spending, increasing citizen participation, and raising the taxes for wealthy people and corporations are examined in detail. Sanders claims that city governments can work for poor and working class people; however, this thesis demonstrates the difficulties leftists have in getting elected and in implementing policies whenever they do win. In conclusion, I examine the questions about left participation in the electoral process, the autonomy of the state, and what socialist municipal and state policies should be.
The issue before us is often referred to as the “spoiler problem.” When more than just two candidates are in an election, the majority can split such that a candidate that the majority believe is the worst choice can win with a plurality of less than 50%.
The notion that prompted this meeting is that it might be possible to persuade two particular political parties (the Democratic and Progressive) to cooperate or even merge to avoid this problem.
The debate between Jason Schulman of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and Barry Finger of New Politics about how to build a party to the left of the Democratic ‘Party’ in the 21st century has largely ignored actually existing third-party efforts and focused instead on whether it is possible to use the Democratic Party for progressive ends in light of the astounding success of the 2016 presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders. Schulman along with DSA argue that yes, it is possible — in certain situations under certain conditions — while Finger says no, it is not possible in any situation or under any conditions. For Schulman and DSA, working within the Democratic Party could help lead to the formation of a left-of-Democratic Party wheras Finger contends that all roads within the Democratic Party framework lead inevitably to dead ends.
The best way to settle this debate is to look at the three organizing models provided by America’s actually existing third-party efforts. Continue reading →
Part 1 of this piece dealt with whether or not pro-Sanders and Sanders-skeptics could work towards common ends despite our differences.
What happens to the Sanders campaign after the nomination fight is over has yet to be determined; its future is to a large extent what campaigners make of it since the official campaign’s three offices (one in Burlington, Iowa, and New Hampshire) can hardly control 100,000 volunteers in 3,500 groups in all but 12 of the country’s 435 Congressional districts.
If Sanders loses to Clinton, his campaign faces three basic evolutionary possibilities: Continue reading →
This is Chapter 8 of Building Progressive Politics: The Vermont Story, a 1993 pamphlet by Marxist Terry Bouricius that chronicles how the only successful left third party in the U.S. today was built over the course of three decades. The remaining chapters will be published on this blog in the coming days.
The Vermont experience is a case study – not a model. Here are the lessons I think it teaches, and some conclusions I have drawn.
Persistence counts for a lot.
Voters, and even the establishment, can be persuaded to see the political landscape in a new way.
The truism that nothing succeeds like success is the key. Find a race that is winnable! We shouldn’t wait until desired election law reforms are passed.
One-on-one elections can be found and they allow alternative parties to escape the “spoiler” accusation.
The most likely place to find winnable races is at the local level.
This is Chapter 5 of Building Progressive Politics: The Vermont Story, a 1993 pamphlet by Marxist Terry Bouricius, that chronicles how the only successful left third party in the U.S. today was built over the course of three decades. The remaining chapters will be published on this blog in the coming days.
Ideological labels rarely have pinpoint accuracy. Political people with the same beliefs may describe themselves with the labels “socialist,” “liberal,” “progressive,” “anticapitalist,” “populist” or countless others. A consensus seems to have formed in Vermont and nationally that the word “progressive” best describes our movement. It is important to know what, if anything, this word means to most Americans. Is it simply a safe code word for those in the know (as with the professor who teaches “political economy” instead of “economics”)? My guess is that the word is still subject to definition in the public mind. Continue reading →