On progressive blogs and email lists, there is continual debate about whether to work within, or outside of, the Democratic Party.  I suffer through (and often participate in) such debates.

People who have given up on the Democratic Party say the Party leaders will always betray you;  you’ll always be outmaneuvered or thrown under the bus.  People who still want to work to reform the Dems say that it will be easier to fix the Dems (especially locally) than to build a viable third party; they point to the success of the Tea Party activists, who largely took over the GOP, while the Occupiers so far have achieved little.

But perhaps the Occupiers will succeed not taking over the Dems and not by building a party but, rather, by building an effective enough protest movement to force change, like in the 60s.

Perhaps the division on the left is unavoidable.

The Divided Left

The problem, though, is that progressives in the Democratic Party don’t have enough power yet to kick out the centrists.  And Occupiers and other leftists don’t have enough power yet to build a viable third party or to get heard through the mainstream media muffle.    So the forces on the Left are divided.

This leads me to say: It will be hard for the Left to win unless either (1) progressive Dems abandon the Democratic Party and join the Occupy Movement (eventually forming a new political party), or (2) Occupiers and other leftists join progressive Dems and try to reform (occupy) the Democratic Party.

BTW, the last time progressives DID take over the Democratic Party, with George McGovern, they lost big.

Anyway, the heated arguments about tactics reflect a real division on the Left between those who want to reform the Democratic Party (including Bill Maher and Thom Hartmann) and those who think the trying to fix Dems is a fool’s errand (Occupiers, Socialists, and Carol D-W).

I tell ya, at the local and state levels, it’s not hopeless for the Dems.  Don’t flee; fight! It’s the place where progressives can have the most leverage.

And yet, I understand why many progressives won’t do it.  Democratic Party meetings are boring, and the fight to kick out centrists would be hard, dirty work.

Last summer David Swanson expressed sentiments similar to mine in his article The Divided Left:

Meanwhile many fully engaged in independent principled action would rather fail than join forces with others whom they see as corrupted or partially corrupted or — what amounts to the same thing — Democrats! Rather than struggle to maintain discipline and avoid unnecessary compromise with a vibrant movement, these activists would rather their efforts shrivel away in glorious purity. They are also reluctant to make plans for what comes the day after “Tahrir Square,” for the actual implementation of power, for the inevitable compromises that must be made. This, too, is suicidal.

Then Swanson told of what happened to the Divided Left in Germany in the 1930s: they were sent to concentration camps.

I too have an earlier article on this topic: Undividing the Left: Hard-core and Soft-core progressives.