For Progressives, Capturing the Democratic Party Is More Important Than Beating Trump

By Ted Rall

November 8, 2019 6 min read

Nothing, leading Democrats say, matters more than beating Donald Trump. 2020, they argue, is the most important election of our lifetimes (OK, they always say that).

It's not true. If you're a progressive voter, taking back control of the Democratic Party from the Democratic Leadership Council-Clinton-Biden centrist cabal is more important than defeating the incumbent.

For four long decades, progressives — Americans who put people before profits — have been living in the political wilderness. Progressives account for 72% of Democratic voters. Figuring lefties had nowhere else to go, party leadership took them for granted, ignoring their desire for a stronger social safety net and fewer military adventures in favor of a pro-corporate agenda. What other choice did they have? Vote Republican?

People who often didn't vote turned out for Bernie Sanders' 2016 primary campaign, proving that many nonvoters weren't apathetic; they were disgusted. After the Democratic National Committee got caught pulling their usual dirty tricks, however, sabotaging Sanders in favor of Hillary Clinton, enough Bernie-or-busters boycotted the November general election or cast protest votes for Trump to cost her the election.

Look what happened! Progressives scored their first major win since the1960s' War on Poverty.

Yes, Trump has been a disaster. He is a terrible president, an international embarrassment, insane, brazenly corrupt, overtly racist, with over-the-top authoritarian tendencies. But consider the alternative.

If Hillary Clinton were running for reelection, progressivism would still be on the outs. Like Barack Obama, Hillary wouldn't have appointed a single liberal, much less progressive, to her cabinet. She's so far to the right of Trump on foreign policy that she might have gone to war against Iran. Russian national security analysts concluded that Clinton was crazy enough to start World War III. She's equally awful on domestic stuff. Hillary is against any increase in the minimum wage. She opposes Medicare for All. She hates the Green New Deal. Her bankster backers would be running wild.

Because progressives withheld their votes in 2016, Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the Democratic front-runners, enjoying the combined support of 50% of primary voters. Both support a $15 minimum wage, Medicare for All, free college tuition and the Green New Deal. There is no way, no how that those policy positions would be part of a Clinton 2020 campaign.

Progressives are so close to seizing control of the Democratic Party they can taste it. Why, at mile 25 of this political marathon, should they let up on the pressure? They're about to win!

If Sanders is the nominee, supporting him is a no-brainer for progressives. He's been one of them forever. He's trustworthy. (It's a different calculus for leftists like me. Among other things, he needs to swear off militarism.) Progressives will vote for him.

Warren's bona fides are squishy. She used to be a Republican, endorses capitalism and keeps Hillary on her speed dial. Is she a prog-come-lately or another fauxgressive who would sell out to Goldman Sachs? She would have to come up with some way to reassure voters she's more Sanders than Clinton.

But what if the DNC shoves Joe Biden or another centrist/moderate/corporatist down our throats again? As usual, they'll say we have to pull together behind some turd in order to defeat the dastardly Donald Trump. But why?

History is clear. Lame-duck presidents don't get big laws, new wars or much in the way of policy accomplished during their second terms. Richard Nixon had Watergate, Ronald Reagan was hobbled by dementia and Iran-Contra, Bill Clinton was impeached because of Monica Lewinsky, and George W. Bush spent his last four years in the quagmires of Iraq and then the bursting of the subprime mortgage meltdown. Obama avoided scandal, but an intransigent Republican Congress left him with little to show for years five through eight.

By 2021, Trump will almost certainly have already been impeached. Congress will probably still be Democratic. I ask my fellow Trump-haters: Why exactly are you so afraid of a second term? What do you think the president can do in a second term that he hasn't already done? Does he strike you as the kind of person who has been plotting some big right-wing surprise to unleash in case he wins reelection?

Forget the Supreme Court-is-everything argument. As Obama proved when he refused to push for Merrick Garland, Democrats don't move the needle. Anyway, it's a right-wing court now. Write that sucker off.

There is a nightmare scenario: Trump dies early on. Mike Pence has three years to establish himself before running in 2024. That would really, truly suck. That is a real risk. But is fear of a Pence planet powerful enough to go back to letting the centrist scum take progressives' votes for granted?

If the DNC robs Warren or Sanders in favor of Biden or whomever — or Hillary — Democratic progressives have little to lose by boycotting the general election again. It may be that the corporatists need to be taught the same bitter lesson a second time: Without progressives, there is no Democratic Party.

Ted Rall, the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of "Francis: The People's Pope." He is on Twitter @TedRall. You can support Ted's hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.

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