Divisions continue to deepen within both major political parties, as the U.S. ruling class struggles for a way forward in the face of historic social crisis and upheaval.
The health care debate has served both to expose the polarization within the Republican and Democratic parties and to further exacerbate it. While Republican attempts to force through some version of their vicious “Trumpcare” legislation have faltered again and again, the Democratic Party leadership has faced a new stage of revolt, particularly in California, as they fight to stem the growing tide for single-payer.
Facing a full blown movement for a California single-payer system on June 23, the state Democratic Party leadership abruptly pulled the plug. This graphically illustrates the conflict between the interests of working people and a party leadership beholden to corporate interests, including the the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who stand to lose billions if single payer is enacted. To add insult to injury the California Democratic apparatus fiercely backed former Big Pharma lobbyist Eric Bauman for state party chair, who then won a narrow and disputed victory even though Berniecrats dominated the recent party convention.
Just a few days after California State Bill 562 was shot down, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren came out strongly for Medicare for All, setting the stage for a broader battle between the Sanders/Warren wing of the Democratic Party and its corporate establishment heading into the 2018 mid-term elections.
In Chicago, at the People’s Summit on June 10, Bernie Sanders further sharpened his criticisms of the Democratic leadership, saying “the current model and the current strategy of the Democratic Party is an absolute failure.” At the same time he continued to emphasize the key task of “transforming” the Democratic Party.
This is clearly the desire of millions of progressive workers and youth. But what would it take to turn the Democrats into a “people’s party”? Running individual Berniecrats for office will clearly not be enough. To even begin a serious struggle against the entrenched corporate leadership would require building a powerful mass membership organization prepared to fight to the finish against Pelosi, Schumer & Co.
To grow and develop its forces, this mass organization would need to take up bold campaigning initiatives. Socialist Alternative has called on Sanders and key progressive organizations to organize mass rallies and occupations to defeat Trumpcare and fight for Medicare for All. If such a campaign had been taken up seriously by Sanders and others over the past months, it could have been used both to deal Trumpcare a decisive defeat and to begin developing a fighting mass organization, which would itself represent the outlines of a new party.
For the Democratic Party to serve the interests of the 99% it would need fundamental structural change. Its representatives would need to reject all corporate money. The party would need a binding party platform alongside grassroots democratic structures to hold elected officials accountable. Representatives should take no more than an average worker’s wage, as Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant does, to remain in tune with the interests of workers. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Democratic politicians would leave the party rather than accept this.
We believe that taking the Democratic Party at the national level out of the hands of these entrenched corporate interests is virtually impossible. Nevertheless the intense struggle taking place represents a critical development in preparing the ground for a new party.
This fall, Socialist Alternative will be joining with Draft Bernie, Progressive Independent Party and other organizations to hold a “Draft Bernie Town Hall” in Washington D.C. While Bernie may not attend, and a new party will not be launched at the event, with speakers like Cornel West and Kshama Sawant it can help push forward the debate; discuss strategies and tactics for the movement; draw a balance sheet on the efforts to reform the Democratic Party; and raise the banner for a “people’s party” that can provide a real alternative for working people.