The Progressive Tea Party Trap

As members of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party consider their future, they effectively face the original dilemma of the Tea Party movement.  Do they form an independent, third political party and field candidates under a new banner in 2018 or do they attempt to hijack the Democratic Party?

The Tea Party’s leaders did not choose independence and, instead, set course to take over the Republican Party. They elected forty-some members of Congress in 2010 and formed the Tea Party Caucus.  In the intervening 6 years they were successfully vilified by the Democratic Party, have lost many of their original champions, whether to disillusionment or defeat, and essentially failed to advance any of their original platforms and causes.  While there are many reasons for the failures of the Tea Party, one of the principle reasons is that they never held a seat at the legislative bargaining table and were continuously and easily marginalized.

Fast forward to 2016 and the progressive wing of the Democratic Party finds itself at the same crossroads.  In an op-ed in the New York Times on November 11, Bernie Sanders signaled that he will be providing “a series of reforms to reinvigorate the Democratic Party” by breaking “loose from its corporate establishment ties and, once again, become a grass-roots party of the working people, the elderly and the poor” as well as a party that will open its doors “to welcome the idealism and energy of young people and all Americans who are fighting for economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

The Sander’s reforms will be enticing and will promise to move the Democratic behemoth to a new and better place.  But, the “corporate establishment” will not go gently in to that good night and all of the Democrats currently in Congress who do not share the progressive agenda are not likely to step aside in deference to progressive candidates, nor are they likely to embrace the progressive ideology should that put their cushy incumbency at risk.  Similar to the Tea Party, progressives elected to Congress will be chastised for the party’s failures to disrupt the Trump agenda and their issues will be marginalized for the good of the cause. 

Don’t be the Tea Party. Now is the time to build on your success during the Democratic primaries when the “Bern” showed that you are a powerful force capable of generating votes, money and energy.  Form a third party and lay out a plan to grab state and Federal legislative seats in 2018 and beyond. By starting now, time is on your side.   As for 2020, you can accept the nominee of the Democratic Party for president, or not.

If progressives give the Sander’s reforms a chance through the mid-terms, they will lose their identity and will also have lost their window. Once the endless presidential race for 2020 begins in early 2019, any hint at developing a third party will be criticized for the likelihood that it will insure the re-election of President Trump. Need convincing; just look back a few months to the summer of 2016 and failed messaging of the Clinton campaign to the same end.

by Steve Nemerovski

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