I have been registered to vote as either an independent or a Green for decades, and for 41 years I have been a member and sometimes a leader of organized efforts to form a progressive alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. Yet, I just filled out a form to change my registration from “Green” to “Democrat.”
This is not a permanent change. After the June 7th New Jersey primary election where I will be voting for Bernie Sanders, I will be changing it back.
On one level, this is a very small thing for me. I’ve been openly supportive of Bernie running for President since November of 2013 when I wrote a Future Hope column entitled “Run Bernie Run.” In it I said that whether Bernie ran as an independent or a Democrat I would support him “because I’ve believed for months that Bernie Sanders is easily the one person who, by running for President in 2016, can do the most to excite and inspire tens of millions of people in this country, give the kind of leadership needed to generate an independent and progressive, multi-issue mass movement for systemic change.”
On the other hand, I haven’t changed my decades-long view that we need an alternative to the corporate-dominated, two-party system that is a huge obstacle to the social, economic and political changes which must be made if humanity and so many other life forms on this beautiful planet are to have a future worth living in and living for. So is this action a violation of my principles?
Of course not. If I thought it was I wouldn’t be doing it.
It should not be a personal or movement principle never to support someone running on the Democratic Party line. There are numerous examples that doing so does not necessarily mean a person is selling out, Bernie being just the latest example.
More significantly, if the reason for supporting a progressive third party like the Green Party is because you are seriously committed to trying to bring about fundamental and systemic change, and if you understand that to do so strategies and tactics must be developed which can generate the kind of massive, tens-of-millions-of-people-in-motion kind of movement which is an absolute prerequisite for that change, then, if you live in the USA, you cannot be a rigid third partyite.
I’ve believed, written about and acted upon this belief for many years. I’ve advocated for the Green Party, when it is running a Presidential candidate, to do so using a “safe states” strategy, going back to 2003. In July of last year I urged the Green Party to support the Sanders campaign, not across-the-board but in a constructively critical way. Such support could, among other things, help Bernie strengthen his positions and statements on foreign policy and militarism, areas where he has been weak although, fortunately, he has been getter better and stronger in recent weeks.
Unfortunately, that point of view doesn’t seem to have much support within the national Green Party.
I’ve seen several national Green Party statements to the effect that Bernie is waging a hopeless crusade, that the corporatist wing of the Democratic Party would never allow him to win. I have to admit that when I’ve seen those statements I’ve thought, “and you’re saying that running a Green Party Presidential candidate is a more realistic option?”, which of course it isn’t.
The ruling class, the 1/10th of 1% which dominates our economy and government, is going to put up a desperate battle against any serious political movement attempting to democratize and take back our country from their mis-rule. In a way that the Green Party never has, the Sanders campaign is showing the world a way to create and build a genuinely mass progressive movement that has a fighting chance to win.
“Winning” doesn’t just mean electing Bernie. Indeed, one of the most important things about his campaign is what he is saying about the limits of just electing someone, even someone to the Presidency. Repeatedly, in televised national debates, in interviews, on his own initiative he has spoken about how the only way change happens is when millions of people join together, stand up, speak out, vote, demonstrate, hit the streets, take action for their rights and needs and those of the planet.
It also means building organizational networks that go beyond election campaigns, and sooner or later Bernie needs to begin talking about this.
It is essential that we all do whatever we can to try to get Bernie Sanders elected President. The impact of such a victory would be tremendous, would unleash a process of political, social, economic and environmental change of the kind that we desperately need. It would without question be a political revolution, the beginnings of one.
But whether Bernie wins or loses, there will be a need for an organized, fully multi-cultural, multi-issue, independent and progressive political organization reflective of the current Sanders campaign and even broader. As incredibly important as the Sanders campaign is, there are challenges it still has to address to involve more people of color, and other constituencies, in central leadership and in the movement.
Such an organization would not be, at first, a political party. It will be a hybrid. It will involve people like Bernie, someone who has never run, until this campaign, on anything but an independent line. It will involve progressive Democrats who are aligned with the movement’s program, as reflected, in general, in the positions of the Sanders campaign at http://berniesanders.com. It probably will involve some grassroots Republicans too. And of course it will involve tens, hundreds of thousands of activists and organizers.
Bernie’s campaign is the proof, the visible evidence, the manifestation of the kind of electoral-oriented, progressive, multi-issue organization which must be built in the United States of America if we are to have a chance of defeating the 1%, the power elite, the billionaire class. And it is happening right now! History is being made! Si, se puede!
Ted Glick has been a progressive organizer and activist since 1968. His primary work in on the climate crisis with Beyond Extreme Energy. Past writings and other information can be found at http://tedglick.com, and he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jtglick.