Enough about the Democrat Party being one big tent. It’s more like a refugee camp inhabited by multiple parties that would naturally — in a parliamentary system — squabble and scrap before elections, but then come together to form a coalition government afterwards.
And there’s nothing unhealthy about that.
Right now the leadership of the Democratic establishment — from Pelosi to the DNC — is starting to pick fights with the progressive new Democrats who won in 2018, and the pundit class has been quick to endorse the project.
Who are these loud-mouth rookies, anyway? How dare they come to Washington talking about the “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All” and pushing for the impeachment of a clearly criminal and dangerous President? They haven’t earned their bones yet!
Which is true.
But the problem with this framing is that it makes the conflict personal: It’s Pelosi vs. AOC, Old vs. Young, Establishment vs. Upstart, and so on.
The more productive framing is this one: It’s a center-left party vs. a left-center party conducting EXACTLY the kind of policy contest that Americans want from a representative democracy.
Yes, Republicans win as a minority because they are ruthless and single-minded about victory. They enforce strict discipline. They cheat. They exploit. They lie, and they do it in unison.
But they can do that because they have one electorate — a shrinking majority of white people — and one agenda — protecting the interests of wealth. The GOP is no longer on the slippery slope to fascism. They’re on the autobahn.
Democrats must unite in November 2020 and defeat these bastards or we’re finished as a republic. But so long as we look at the divisions in the party as a matter of “discipline,” we’re going to be in trouble.
Discipline is how you manage a unitary party to face outward challenges: Individuals must get in line for the crucial push, or else.
But if the progressive wing of the Democratic Party were ITS OWN PARTY, then no one would be calling for Pelosi and Perez to discipline it. They’d be calling for compromise and coordination.
“The Democratic Party and the Progressive Democratic Party disagree on some policies, but we share the same core values,” Pelosi might say. “We’re going to debate strenuously, but when it comes to election day, we’re going to join forces and win.”
This is where I need to stop and address all of you who just thought this: IF THE DEMOCRATS SPLIT INTO TWO PARTIES, WE’LL JUST BE HANDING CONTROL OF THE GOVERNMENT TO TRUMP, MCCONNELL AND THE REPUBLICANS!
If you’re thinking about the example of, say, America’s pathetically dysfunctional Green Party, you’d be right. You’d have Biden as the nominee for the Democrats, Warren as the nominee for the Progressive Democrats, and Trump would win in a landslide.
But let me introduce you a 21-year-old organization called The Working Families Party, and an old concept called “fusion voting.”
The Working Families Party is active in 14 states and the District of Columbia. It’s to the left of the neo-liberal Democratic center. But while it sometimes offers its own candidates for office, it has traditionally cross-endorsed candidates from the Democratic Party. The system gives a smaller bloc of voters at least a small voice when it comes to policy, but protects the center-left majority in elections.
That’s why the creation of a new Progressive Democratic Party, founded on the principle of fusion voting, would eventually strengthen our chances of defeating the GOP in elections all across the country — and revive an American democratic tradition that has been defiled and perverted by decades of corruption and abuse.
Here’s the key to this idea’s success: Fusion voting allows for parties to run a unified primary. So long as the Democrats and the Progressive Democrats agree to terms, you could run for Congress as a Democrat and I could run for the same seat as a Progressive Democrat, and the winner of our primary contest would be deemed the joint nominee of both parties for the general election.
Yes, only one of the parties would “win” the Presidency, but don’t fixate on that. Think about the legislative branches of government instead.
With centrists and progressives competing in the primaries but united in the general, leadership elections in the House, Senate and state legislatures would become truly meaningful, because in many instances there wouldn’t be enough votes for any one party to claim a majority of the body. Instead of top-down discipline “within the ranks,” parties would need to negotiate with their legislative partners.
And while Pelosi might still be the Speaker of the House, her Progressive Democratic “partners in power” would also have a leadership team. Each leadership team would police its own membership. But at least dissenting voices would be heard.
Let’s not forget that America is a big country, and geography matters. In New York City, for instance, you’d expect the Progressive Democrats to win majorities, while places like Georgia might see the centrist Dems picking up House seats in suburban districts where white voters are no longer comfortable with GOP misrule. That’s a good thing for the Democratic coalition.
Right now, the debate in the Democratic Party is whether the people want moderates or progressives. The flaw is that people want BOTH. If you give them a chance to compete — fairly, with all voices given a share of the spotlight — you’ll improve voter turnout and revive the belief that government can still represent people.
You’ll even make it easier for centrist Republicans to change parties and join us.
Not our party, per se. But our coalition.
The majority coalition.