By Justin Akers
Jun 14, 2015
A movement is taking over America - the movement against inequality. We live in a revolutionary moment, but the moment requires a unified vision that will give direction to the struggle against inequality. Now is the time to start building a new Democratic Socialist Party.
We need to be honest with ourselves about a couple of things. First, we need to admit that Bernie Sanders can win the election. There is no doubt that he can win. But, here’s the other thing we have to be honest about: we can’t be certain that he will win. And if Sanders loses the election, we can’t stop.
We cannot allow a Sanders defeat to discourage us or halt our momentum. We cannot allow a Sanders defeat to rope us into the Democratic Party and neutralize our progressive, grassroots vision. We have to focus on the longevity of the movement against inequality. We are taking part in something much bigger and much longer-lasting than the Bernie Sanders campaign.
If Sanders loses, some of us will vote for whoever wins the Democratic nomination in order to try to prevent the Republicans from winning the White House. Some of us will not be capable of voting for a corporate Democrat, no matter what the consequences might be. If we are faced with such a choice, all that any of us can do is vote according to the dictates of our own conscience.
But the larger issue, the long-term issue, is whether or not it is wise to continue down a road where we are constantly being shamed into voting for the “lesser” of two evils.
Do we want to spend the rest of our lives voting for the lesser of two evils? Why would we want to keep voting for any degree of evil?
Beyond 2016, beyond 2020, the Democratic Party will continue to be a thoroughly Corporatized and Militarized Party. Do we want to continue being corralled into voting for inequality by a Party that does not share our goals and values? Or do we want to chart a new course in American democracy and form a new party that truly represents the 99 percent?
Democratic socialism has been electorally successful in the past - sometimes in the most unlikely of places.
Oklahoma became a state in 1907. In the 1908 Presidential election, Eugene Debs received 8.5 percent of the vote in Oklahoma. Four years later, in 1912, Debs received 16.4 percent of the vote in Oklahoma. In 1916, Allan Benson, the Socialist Party candidate for President, received 15.5 percent of the vote in Oklahoma - 45,000 votes. In terms of percentage, Oklahoma was the state where the Socialist Party achieved its greatest electoral success.
Unfortunately, at the peak of socialism’s popularity in Oklahoma, America entered the first World War and nationalist chauvinism and militarism ruled the day. The socialist movement in Oklahoma faced violent opposition. Eventually, the socialist movement would be systematically stamped out throughout the US. By the time the Cold War began there was almost nothing left of the old left.
In the 2004 election, George W. Bush won in every county in Oklahoma - the whole state went Republican. In the 2008 presidential election, Oklahoma was the only state in the union where not a single county went for Obama - John McCain won every county. In 2012 Mitt Romney won every county in two states - Oklahoma and Utah. In a century, Oklahoma went from being the most socialist state to being the most Republican state.
It’s a sad story. But as the Oklahoma example shows, the socialist movement was, and is, fully capable of winning hearts and minds anywhere in the country. The left was crushed in the United States, but it’s coming back now, and we are in the vanguard of a Socialist Renaissance.
The Cold War is receding into the past, inequality is reaching absurd proportions, and socialists are coming out of the woodwork.
Look around, you can see abundant signs that revolutionary momentum is growing. The Sanders campaign, the draft Warren movement, the fight against TPP, Fight for $15, Black Lives Matter, Our Wal-Mart. But there is one critical piece of the puzzle that is missing: an organized and popular political party that shares our values and our goals.
We need a new party that embraces the varied movements against inequality and puts the struggle against inequality at the very front and center of its platform. We need a Party that will relentlessly focus on Inequality, a Party that is single-mindedly devoted to the struggle against inequality. We need a Party to field candidates for city, state, and national elections - candidates who will raise their voice against the outrageous economic and political injustice that pervades our daily lives.
We have the numbers. We have the motive. We need to win elections and fight against inequality at every level. We need a Party we can believe in.
In the past, progressive campaigns for President, when they were defeated, were absorbed and neutralized by the Democratic party. It’s time to go down a different path. The two-party system has been ruthlessly effective at stifling debate because both parties have been successful at absorbing and neutralizing alternative visions.
The corporate parties use the “spoiler” argument to scare people away from voting for alternative party candidates. But the real issue is not whether third party candidates might spoil things for the Democratic Party, the real issue is the fact that the Democratic Party is Progress’s spoiler because it is inescapably intertwined with corporate and military power.
The way things are now, there is nothing left for a “spoiler” to spoil. If the only choice is between a corporate Democrat and a corporate Republican, it’s not even possible to vote for the lesser of two evils anymore - evil is all that’s left to vote for.
We need a new Party that brings new voices to the debate, with new faces running for office throughout the country. We need a Party that’s passionately devoted to the struggle against inequality. The Democratic Socialist Party will be a grassroots movement that takes back political power from the ground up, throughout the land.
We’ve got to start thinking of ourselves as being part of a unified, long-lasting, organized, and mainstream movement. We have to think long-term, beyond Bernie Sanders, beyond Elizabeth Warren, beyond our lifetimes. We are part of something bigger and longer lasting than we might have previously imagined. We need to solidify this growing movement, form a new party, launch a new progressive era, and take back our country, election by election.