“Some forty years ago G. K. Chesterton wrote that every time the world was in trouble the demand went up for a practical man. Unfortunately, he said, each time the demand went up there was a practical man available. As he pointed out then, usually what was needed to deal with an impractical muddle was a theorist or philosopher.”
— Senator Eugene McCarthy
As the Democratic National Convention comes closer, it becomes more evident that the various factions within the party are not, at this time, going to reach the common ground required to reach its full potential by November. We can look at two current dynamics that indicate the intensity of the divisions within the Democratic Party. First, the establishment has self-identified as The Party, and seeks to convince the grass roots to recognize them as such. Second, when asked if Hillary does win the nomination, if he would tell his supporters to vote for her, Bernie has said he is comfortable with individuals making that decision for themselves.
At this point, it does appear that the establishment wing of the party — composed of Debbie Wasserman Shultz and her ilk — will select Hillary Clinton at the July convention. The only possible stumbling block to this would be the FBI investigations. Despite the establishment’s pretending that it is merely a right-wing plot by rabid republicans (or the equally inaccurate belief that Clinton is sure to be indicted), this actually poses a serious threat to the Clinton campaign.
While Hillary herself may not be indicted, if people close to her are, that is a problem. How much so? Again, despite their public position that there is nothing to this, the fact is that the establishment has a contingency plan for a worst case scenario, in which her delegates would “switch” to Joe Biden. Obviously, they know this is serious. Should anyone question if such a move is possible — for the establishment to select a candidate who had not entered a single primary — we need look no further than 1968: the establishment made vice president Hubert Humphrey the nominee, despite his not running in a single primary.
A portion of party members will definitely vote for Hillary. It is an open question if they would also campaign for her. This is a potential problem, for while the establishment elites hold the campaign’s purse strings, it is always the progressives who do the vast majority of the “on the street” campaigning. A well-coordinated campaign requires both money and manpower.
Other registered Democrats will invest their efforts in other non-presidential campaigns. And they will continue to organize within the Democratic Party. For just as the Debbie Wasserman Schultz types want nothing to do with them, they have no interest in the elites’ efforts to promote their power, and increase their comfortable life-styles. They do not represent the grass roots, and so it is only natural that much of the grass roots rejects them.
If Clinton gets the nomination, the progressives will evaluate their relationships with several other groups of politically active citizens. The establishment and their lap dogs try to frame this as progressives going “third party.” Like most things they say, this is simply not accurate. Progressive Democrats are invested in transforming the party. We do not recognize the Debbie Wasserman Schultz types as having authority, in any way that resembles the manner in which we honor Bernie Sanders.
The groups and individuals that we have the most in common with outside of our party are progressives and leftists who tend to be registered as independents. Like us, they understand that the difference between Bernie Sanders and Debbie Wasserman Schultz is the difference between sugar and shit. And that starting with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, that the opulently wealthy have been engaged in an ugly strain of class warfare, primarily waged against the middle class.
Thus, the progressive community must meet in Philadelphia in late July, when the Democratic National Convention is being held. Our progressive convention will be equally important to that inside the halls of the DNC. Indeed, it will be more in the spirit of the first meeting of the Continental Congress in 1774, when many of the men we know as the “Founding Fathers” put their heads together, to discuss their relationships with others, including those in England.
We need to remember that these were not “super men,” although the form of government they were proposing was truly inspired. It was revolutionary. But it wasn’t other-worldly, nor was it new. Rather, these men put their heads together, studied everything from current events to Greek history, and came up with — eventually — the Constitution of the United States of America.
The Founding Fathers did not think that their work reached perfection, or that it should be worshipped separate from the people’s every day lives. These were intended as living documents. They hold basic truths, and give a framework that each generation is supposed to apply to their day and age, and move forward.
We need to look our history, too. That includes documents such as the Declaration of Independence. Read the whole thing. It is revolutionary — certainly one of the most important writings in human history. Tell me it doesn’t apply far, far more to the Sanders Revolution than to the Clinton campaign.
Read that Constitution, too. The whole thing. But don’t stop there: read the Articles of Confederation. While doing so, the influence of the Haudenosaunee starts to come into sharper focus. The ideas of individual rights, as detailed in the Bill of Rights, is closely connected to the Iroquois’ concept of individual and group rights.
But go back further. We have to read Ben Franklin’s amazing Plan of Albany, and keep in mind that Franklin (an amazing human being) was incorporating ideas from the Haudenosaunee, or Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy. He was among those advocating a true democracy — rather than just a republic — based upon experience with both the Iroquois’s Grand Council of Chiefs, and its Clan Mothers.
It’s important that we go even further back, to a close friend of Ben Franklin’s. We need to consider the proposals of Joseph Galloway, of Pennsylvania, who came up with a Plan of Union to present at that first Continental Congress. Too few history classes teach about this, in part because Galloway was not advocating a complete separation from England. At that time — indeed, throughout the Revolutionary War — one-third of the public wanted to remain loyal to England; one-third wanted independence; and one-third didn’t care either way (and this was before cell phones!).
While I’m glad this country kicked England out, I’m not looking to separate in a similar fashion from the Democratic Party. Rather, I am suggesting that the establishment acknowledge that there has been a significant shift in power. We aren’t approaching you with the palm of our hand raised upwards. We aren’t seeking a handout. We are not coming at you with clenched fists. We aren’t looking to inflict bruises. Rather, we come prepared to shake hands as equals.
I understand why those on the Democratic Left do not want to register within the Democratic Party. I appreciate why they sincerely believe that Hillary Clinton is as corrupt as was Richard Nixon. Just as long as they are willing to work with the progressives in the Democratic Party — as equals — we’re good. One person, one vote — it’s that kind of thing.
As we begin to prepare for Philadelphia Freedom this summer, we have some tasks beside the logistics. We need to focus on a nonviolent demonstration — not only on moral/ethical grounds (though they apply) — but because tactically, that is our best option. I’ll address this issue in greater detail in the near future.
We should also take time to consider what common ground we have we with other groups and individuals. There is a heck of a lot of common ground in progressive movements, and we need to inhabit that when we are in Philly. And the thing is that not only are the fights against racism, sexism, militarism, and to protect the environment all on that common ground, but we find that we have a common enemy.
Bernie Sanders is correct: his campaign supporters are capable of thinking for themselves. Thus, this summer’s convention isn’t the “end” of the revolution. At most, it is the end of the beginning.
Patrick R. McElligott