It is important to note that most presidential candidates, Democratic leaders, and rank & file Democratic Party members will categorically deny being Democratic
This morning I read a Common Dream’s article by Jeffrey C. Isaac titled “Kamala Harris Is Not a Red-Baiter, She’s Just Not a Socialist (Like Most Americans) that is worth reading. At first, I was not sure what “Like Most Americans” meant since it implied most Americans are Socialists. On reading the article it is clear the author believes they are not.
There is much legitimate excitement about the revival of the left, and I strongly believe in supporting this energy and excitement; as I said only last week in praise, “New Blood Brings New Energy to the Democratic Party.” But I’ve also seen and experienced too much in my six decades to fully share in this enthusiasm. And I am painfully cognizant of the fact that while there is much discontent, and while the left has made headway in some important quarters, American society in 2019 is not fertile ground for democratic socialism. More importantly, the American state is being governed—or rather, mal-governed—by an aspirational fascist who, while he has no majority, does have a very strongly mobilized base, and has the power to create emergencies, and is doing his best to wage a campaign of vicious red-baiting.
In short, there are no guarantees that Trump will be defeated in 2020. He might well win, through some combination of an orchestrated crisis, a highly mobilized base, i.e., his mob, and acrimonious divisions among his opponents.
And while the left has gotten many headlines—many due to the charisma of Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who I have repeatedly celebrated—and has advanced important proposals, like Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, this does not mean that the left is a hegemonic force. While fine high-profile left candidates like AOC and Rashida Tlaib won in November, most of the Blue Wave involved centrist victories. That is a fact.
While the Democratic party now includes socialists and must respect these socialists, it is not yet, and is not likely to ever be, a socialist party. This means that it has many currents, and leaders, who are not socialist and who do not believe in socialism. These currents, and leaders, need to be recognized for what they are. And leftists and socialists who are now working inside the Democratic party and supporting leftist Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez need to understand that they need to argue with and sometimes challenge these other leaders, but also must work with them, and in all probability work in a context in which it is these leaders, and not the leftists, who will have the upper hand. This is simply how the balance of forces leans in the Democratic party—and until the U.S. adopts a different form of representation, and becomes a multi-party system, the Democratic party is where the action is on the left when it comes to national politics.Jeffrey C. Isaac
I agree that the pseudo-chaos brewing in the Democratic Party between those who admit they are Democratic Socialists and those who profess their devotion to Capitalism as they categorically say that they are not Socialists could re-elect Donald Trump. The problem is that it is a false argument based on labels, Progressives have lazily and timidly allowed the Right to malign for years. If Progressives are unable to institute labeling honesty in 2019, a year when all the evils of Capitalism are at the forefront, then we should all take our marbles and go home. It is the timidity and fear for an outright battle between the very few leaders of an oppressive system with its indoctrinated cohorts that are the problems.
While the Democratic party now includes socialists and must respect these socialists, it is notJeffrey C. Isaac
yet,and is not likely to ever be,a socialist party. This means that it has many currents, and leaders, who are not socialist and who do not believe in socialism. These currents, and leaders,need to be recognized for what they are. And leftists and socialists who are now working inside the Democratic party and supporting leftist Democratic leaders like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez need to understand that they need to argue with and sometimes challenge these other leaders, but also must work with them, and in all probability work in a context in which it is these leaders, and not the leftists, who will have the upper hand. This is simply how the balance of forces leans in the Democratic party—and until the U.S. adopts a different form of representation, and becomes a multi-party system, the Democratic party is where the action is on the left when it comes to national politics.
I have said for some time that Progressives need to work within the Democratic Party from the precinct chair level all the way up. While it is not yet a labeled Democratic Socialist Party, by definition the wants of most Democrats and the majority of Americans follow its tenets. It is the maligning of the word that institute fears and it is the responsibility of brave Progressives to lean into what most Americans want.
The double-edged sword that Progressives are fearful of is to give the needed robust critique of the corrosive nature of Capitalism. Just for amusement, I looked up a definition of Socialism, Communism, and Capitalism. Of course, it tried to make Communism and Socialism similar. They are not. But what grabbed my eyes was the following from Investopedia.
Both are the opposite of capitalism, where limitations don’t exist and reward comes to those who go beyond the minimum. In capitalist societies, owners are allowed to keep the excess production they earn. And competition occurs naturally, which fosters advancement. Capitalism tends to create a sharp divide between the wealthiest citizens and the poorest, however, with the wealthiest owning the majority of the nation’s resources.Investopedia
How difficult is it to turn “owners are allowed to keep the excess production they earn.” into the phrases “stealing from” or the “pilfer of the worker” especially since it is enriching from the intellect and labor of others who then live in financial stress? This is not rocket science. It is the same pathology that keeps many majorities at the behest of immoral minorities.
As I have argued many times, and as I will continue to argue, the activism and voter mobilization and policy positions of self-identified socialists like Sanders and AOC are a breath of fresh air in the Democratic party. The party needs to take these leaders, and their constituencies and voters and ideas, very seriously. They ought to be given a fair chance to win out, in the primaries, in the platform debates, and in politics more generally. But this does not mean that those Democrats who are more centrist or moderate or even left-but-not-left-enough-for-some are doing something underhanded or wrong by standing for what they stand for.
Those left activists who have done so much to support leaders like Sanders and AOC, and to support local organizational efforts to promote left issues and policies, have every reason to expect the Democratic party to take them seriously and to refuse and denounce all right-wing efforts to red-bait left Democratic candidates. But they have no reason to expect the many Democratic leaders and voters who are not on the left to agree with them. The debate within the Democratic party has shifted to the left, and this is good. But it is still a debate within the Democratic party, which is not a seminar or a town meeting but an organization with real institutional investments and mobilizations of bias. And as the election approaches, it is a debate that will center on two linked questions: which candidate, and which platform, can mobilize core Democratic constituencies, and which candidate and platform can win the 2020 election.Jeffrey C. Isaac
Mr. Isaac is right on most accounts. Where I disagree is that I believe that Americans are disassociating their wants and desires from a label because of the corrosive fear that the Right has successfully marketed — with the help of the Powell Manifesto — which by inference makes the policies they want rhetorically, toxic. If one thinks the Democratic Socialism label is toxic, and Medicare for All is a Democratic Socialist ideal, then it in itself becomes toxic. It is that psychology that requires honesty in labeling and why we must fight to get it.