With Obama's inaugural speech yesterday, hopes are running high that the country will start to see progress made on some very important progressive fronts. It is likely that some Democratic policies will start to become more popular, and stem the flow of GOP damage to social programs, equality, and corporate interests.
Many people are pointing to the recent election and GOP extremism and infighting as evidence that the GOP is falling apart, and will soon become inconsequential.
However, a resurgence of Democrats in power is no longer equivalent to a resurgence of progressive values. While the GOP have moved further to the right in the past few election cycles, the Democrats have not responded by moving at all toward the left.
Inexplicably, Democrats have practically jumped in bed with the GOP. Democrats have joined the chorus line of crying about budget deficits, coddling Wall Street, protecting the vast military complex, and interfering with international governments for the sake of private corporations and their profits, while ignoring real reform and rolling back the parts of government that their constituents rely on the most. At pretty much every level of office, the Democratic Party is right-centrist at best.
And ultimately, if the GOP are going to soon disappear like a few people hypothesize, is there another party poised to take their place?
If what we really want to see is a waning of GOP influence, resurgence of Democratic power, and return to more progressive values, what we need is for a new third party to take the stage. One that better represents the progressive values that used to signify growth and community improvement in this country.
What we need are some Modern Progressives. It needs to be new third party, and succeed where other third parties fail. It needs to be a major political influence, to further cripple the GOP, and force the Democrats to either reclaim the mantle of Progressive standard bearers, or expose them as just GOP-Lite.
Disclaimer: I'm no political science expert. I've never contributed to politics in any major way other than voting in Presidential-year elections and condescending facebook diatribes. I have no credentials to show that I speak for anyone other than myself, or that I deserve to.
Third party arguments below the fold.
First of all, is it realistic to expect the Republican Party to lose significant influence, as many people are arguing, within the next few cycles? I don't think anyone could reasonably make that argument.
The GOP have shown that they will use any method necessary to stay in power. This includes voter suppression tactics, and gerrymandering. These tactics are unscrupulous and without a doubt unethical, but at the same time I'm willing to bet that these tactics will in the end prove to be effective at helping the GOP maintain control of legislative offices they might otherwise have lost.
The best case scenario is that a large majority of voters turn out in response to these underhanded tactics. The Democrats keep winning elections in the next few cycles so that the GOP lose control of the House, lose seats in the Senate, lose the next Presidential election, and start to lose control of state legislatures and governorships.
Even in this best case scenario, though, this does not guarantee that the country will move toward a more progressive government, for the reasons that I've already mentioned above.
This is the best argument that I can make for the need of a third party. Left to their own devices, the Democrats will stay toward the center-right. Perhaps the last election will move Democrats as a whole back toward the left, however that is not entirely certain. Because of the continued need to negotiate with GOP to make key government decisions, it's possible that Democrats will abandon a harder left stance far too easily, just as they have done in past negotiations for awhile now.
A third party that campaigns on a more left platform challenges the Democrats on their allegiances. Either they demonstrate that they are true Democrats, and a to-the-left challenger is not needed, or they rely on capturing the votes that would otherwise go to Republicans, so the Democrats have to take a more Republicanesque stance.
The possible results, then, is that a Democrat or Modern Progressive (abbreviated to MP for brevity) wins by carrying the left's votes, or the Democrat wins by capturing a majority of votes regardless of right or left, or the MP has enough of an effect that the Democrat loses and the Republican wins.
Either way, from a Progressive point of view, it's not necessarily a losing option. Based on the past evidence, there is no longer enough evidence to suggest that a right-leaning Democrat would be any better an alternative than just a plan old Republican.
Perhaps the question now is why there is need for a new party at all. Of the current third parties, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party are the most influential. Why not concentrate on increasing the influence of one of these?
I think from the Progressive point of view, the none of these third parties are necessarily an improvement over the two major parties. While the Libertarian party holds some views on civil liberties that agree well with Progressives, the largest problem is the overall Libertarian argument against government regulation, especially over the economy. In the free market that they envision, what tends to happen is the overwhelming power large corporations have over every other facet of the economy. They have an easier time driving out competition, easier time avoiding government regulation, and find it easier to manipulate the market. On the other hand, the Green Party, from what I've gathered, represents both a weaker government and weaker free-market. More of the power is left to communities. However, this also does not seem ideal, because there is less protection, and less ability for others to intervene when one of these communities faces hardship. The third view is the people who support Socialism, where the state strongly controls the economy. Again, while the government has more control, preventing private interests from holding too much power, it takes competition out of the equation, and the market suffers, if it exists at all.
One of the primary factors that cultivates a progressive economy is competition. In a highly competitive market, consumers have more options, keeping prices lower, and the wider market is better insulated from the meltdown of any large corporation. Without government oversight, though, competition tends to dissolve as larger businesses gain more power to take advantage of systematic flaws like loopholes. Even if one argues that the government shouldn't necessarily penalize businesses that grow too large, it should at least do what it can to protect and promote competition, for the health of the economy.
The Libertarian, Green Party, and the Socialist views fail to represent the values of Modern Progressives, which require strong economic competition driven by a fairly private market, but with a strong government oversight and protections to ensure both competition and the people are safeguarded.
So none of these more established third parties serve the purpose of Modern Progressive ideas. The major parties are also not available because they're already too invested in the large corporations, or vice versa. The only option, then, is organizing and promoting a third party that better reflects Progressive values.
In many ways, winning any office as a third party is difficult. The 2 major parties have many advantages, and at times, it seems far easier to win election as a declared Independent than declaring as a third party. If you don't have instant name-recognition, having any name at all is almost to your disadvantage.
Nevertheless, growing a progressive third party is valuable, for the above reasons. So what goals are realistic, and what are not?
Without going into the known advantages that the two major parties have over everyone else, what will it take for a third party to become a major political influence?
The beginning of any formidable third party starts at the local level. Cultivating grass roots campaigns, getting into local office, through strong community-based support and a strong personal connections to locals.
From there, the next logical step is the state level. At this point, name recognition and fundraising become significant factors. However, compared to the national stage, the necessary resources are still reasonably attainable for people with a strong enough grassroots organization.
The successful third parties have managed to make an impact at the local and state levels, however, they have not been able to translate this into viability at the national level.
The final stage is gaining a national foothold in the political sphere. Even the most seasoned third parties and independents have difficulty at this level. What can the the MP party do to gain a wider national influence?
The other major third parties rally around some positions that appeal nationally and increase national exposure, but at the same time, categorize them into fringe categories and special interests. The Green Party, for its emphasis on the environment and conservation, and the Libertarian Party, for its stance on decentralization and constitutionality, are examples of this.
While a Progressive third party faces similar challenges, one of the advantages is that progressive values are growing increasingly more popular, while some have always been popular. Among the possible groups to target for inclusion:
Unions and low-wage workers - Campaign for improving the working conditions and compensation of all workers, and strengthen unions. the types of jobs that currently go without unions all share the same qualities: low wages, high turnover, lack of promotion opportunities, dental and health benefits, retirement, low job security. Neither major party is seriously working to address any of these.
Immigration - Emphasize increasing the number of avenues available for legal residency and citizenship, as opposed to mass deportation and border enforcement.
Secular Communities - For both major political parties, strong ties to Christianity or religion in general have always been a prerequisite for office. An MP party is posed to claim the overlooked secular community, platforming on strengthening the separation of church and state, invigorating science and medical research, responsible use and conservation of natural resources, rejecting the denial of equal rights on the basis of religious views, and generally favoring no religion over any other.
Military Veterans - Despite rhetoric from both parties praising the sacrifices that our military make, few pass policies that directly benefit them. Possible campaign planks include improving veteran mental and physical healthcare, access to education and vocational training, subsidize jobs for veterans in the private sector.
Occupy Movement - As a third party, the MP would provide Occupiers with a viable political party to support without supporting the two major parties, who both more or less serve the major corporate interests. Many of the Occupy values mirror those of Progressives.
The likelihood that one of these interests resonates nationally is highly likely. Only a left-leaning third party is poised to capitalize on this.
In the end, it takes a very well-crafted, long-range visioned strategy for any third party to have an impact on American politics.
Here is what a proposed strategy for the new MP party might look like:
1. Within 1-2 election cycles, build local, grassroot chapters for a new MP Party. Challenge regional elected offices.
2. Within 3-4 election cycles, build national MP political party, unifying local chapters.
3. Within 5-6 election cycles, win regional representation in a majority of states. Challenge state legislature seats.
4. Within 7-8 election cycles, win state legislature seats. Challenge US Representative seats.
5. Within 9-10 election cycles, win US Representative seats. Challenge control of state legislatures and governorships.
6. Within 11-12 election cycles, challenge US Senate seats.
7. Within 13-14 election cycles, win US Senate seats.
8. Within 15 election cycles, challenge for US President, including winning electoral votes.
What's the goal here?
Is it important to me that the next couple decades unfold the way I proposed? Is it important that a new political party emerges the way I envision?
As long as people read this and start to realize that we are poised right now to reclaim the political landscape for progressive ideals, then this post will have served its purpose. We are at the best possible moment, and at the same time, delaying progress by any more number of years may be too costly.
Will this happen if we just leave it in the hands of so-called Democrats?
They've shown that they're at best, a less evil version of the Republican Party. Just like the GOP, they have prioritized staying in power over using that power to enact meaningful change, and are willing to sacrifice Democratic ideals for that sake. Unless they are challenged from the Left, they will have no incentive to prove that they deserve to represent Progressives.
To establish a realistically viable, influential third party in this country, above all else, one needs an extraordinary amount of community support. However, in my opinion, if anyone proposing a more progressive political party like I am is lacking that support, there is no better place to look for it than DailyKos.
7:32 PM PT: Thank you for the feedback, everyone. It was quite the reality check, but I am grateful for the input, and it was all informative. I was not aware that advocating for a third party is forbidden, and I will leave this post here as a reminder of my naivete. I am not afraid to sound stupid at times if it leads to new insights and constructive criticism, and I hope that in the future some of you will continue to visit my diaries. Thanks again.