The Democrats in Congress last Spring voted $120 billion to continue funding of the War in Iraq, saying that they had been sandbagged by the administration, with its so-called “surge” strategy. They promised that come September, though, they’d take a stand and end the war.
In August, the Democrats in Congress, who had been mouthing criticisms of the administration’s five-year crime spree of illegal wiretapping and internet monitoring by the National Security Agency, caved in under administration pressure and passed a “temporary” bill, authorizing that warrantless spying on Americans by the NSA. They promised, though, to “fix it” after they returned from summer recess.
Now they’re back, and they are voting to approve another $190 billion to keep the Iraq War going full bloody tilt right through next year and the end of Bush’s catastrophic second term of office, guaranteeing that the next president, Republican or Democrat, will have the war as his or her major preoccupation. And they are now talking about giving this criminal president — and the next one and the one after that — permanent authority to spy on Americans without a warrant, using the full technological powers of the NSA.
And still progressive Democrats are standing by the party, afraid to say NO.
A few weeks ago, I published a call for progressives to quit the Democratic Party. I said at that time that after 50 years of being dissed, ignored, and, in the end, taken for granted, by the Democratic Party, and after half a century of trying to “work from within” to remake the party in its old New Deal progressive style, it was time to realize that only a serious threat to withdraw our support had a chance of working.
My idea is simple. Progressives should simply quit the party. Not silently and individually, but in a mass movement — loudly, visibly and as a group. I envision mass marches on city hall voter registrars’ offices, long lines at Democratic Voter registration drives, and rallies at Democratic Party headquarters, at which people would fill out new registration forms, changing their registration from Democrat to independent.
As I wrote at the time, if several hundred thousand, or millions, of progressives would quit the party enmasse, it would have an electrifying effect on the ossified and corrupt Democratic Party leadership. They would see clearly that they could no longer count on the automatic support of progressive voters next election day. And if they didn’t get the message on their own, local Democratic elected officials would. They depend on those Democratic registration lists for their money mailings and their get-out-the-vote campaigns. Without those lists, local Democrats, for whom turnout of the faithful is everything, would be dead in the water, and they’d be hounding national party officials for action to bring progressives back.
If we left by the hundred of thousands, all saying our bottom line was ending funding for the Iraq War, and initiating impeachment hearings against Bush and Cheney, you can bet that those things would start to happen.
The immediate response to my little campaign was 1000+ people going to my "I Quit This Party" page and signing onto the petition. But then things began to slow down.
Progressive websites like Common Dreams, Truthout, DailyKos, and the like, have not taken up the campaign. Without broad support to spread this message far and wide, it won’t happen.
And unless progressives don’t take an action like this, the Democrats in Congress have made it clear they will do nothing of consequence for the rest of Bush’s term of office, and most certainly will do nothing to end the war or hold the administration to account, through impeachment hearings, for its many high crimes and misdemeanors.
While most progressives who have heard this call to quit the party, have expressed excitement about the idea, there are some who raise the same tired and discredited objections: We need to stay in the party to keep our voices heard, reform takes time, if we quit, we leave the party to conservatives, if we quit, we hand victory to the Republicans in 2008. And we need to vote in the primaries.
Let’s take those one by one.
First of all, we’ve all been trying in one way or another to move the Democratic Party to the left for 50 years, during which time, with the one exception of 1972, it has moved the other way, such that today, Richard Nixon would be considered too liberal to be a viable Democratic candidate! And we don’t have another 50 years to keep trying this approach.
As for quitting and leaving the party to conservatives, this is nonsense. A conservatives-only Democratic party couldn’t win a single election in America. To win elections, Democrats have to have progressive votes, and if we make it clear that our votes are no longer automatic, the party will have to move left and win us back, or die.
As for the 2008 election, the current Democratic Party strategy of playing to the middle, of giving in to the president, of ducking their responsibility to end the war and to hold the president to account, are going to lose that election. Forcing the party to change course by quitting and threatening to withhold our support is the only thing that can prevent that disaster.
Finally, the primaries. If you live in a state like California, Virginia, New Jersey, South Carolina or New Hampshire, it’s no problem. You’re allowed to vote in a Democratic Party primary even if you are an independent, so go ahead and quit the party and vote in the primary. If you live in a state like Connecticut or my state of Pennsylvania, where you have to be a Democrat to vote in a Democratic primary, and you really want to vote for Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel, or against Hillary Clinton, you still have options. Quit the party now, and when you do it, check with your election officials to find out the last day for registering with the Party in order to vote in the primary. Go ahead and re-register, cast your vote, and then quit again! There are no rules limiting the number of times you can change your party affiliation.
Now it may be that I’m wrong, and that the party leadership is so afraid of progressive ideas, so afraid of taking a stand on an issue of importance like stopping an illegal war, or starting an impeachment proceeding, that if progressives resign from the Democratic Party, that it will continue on its death march. If so, then by quitting publicly, we will have created the historic conditions for establishment of a new party — a genuine progressive party that could threaten the sclerotic two-party fake democracy that we have lived with since at least the mid-1970s.
Either way, it seems to me we have no alternative.
The Democratic Party has made its position clear: We progressives don’t matter any more. Our job is to hold our noses and vote for the candidates they offer us, and while we can complain all we want about their policies and principles, or lack of them, in the end, we are supposed to ignore our principles and vote for whoever is a Democrat.
Now we have to make our position clear: No! We are no longer Democrats. You can’t have our addresses. You can’t send us solicitations for money. You can’t count on our votes. We are leaving the party, and until you end funding the criminal war in Iraq and bring all American troops home, and until you start impeachment hearings against the most criminal president and vice president this nation has ever known, we are gone.
Quit the Party!
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