by Alan F. Zundel
Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Presidential campaign activated a tsunami of people willing to work for fundamental political change, but the wave split apart when he lost the nomination to Hillary Clinton.
Since then I have seen countless online debates among progressives, socialists, and disgusted Democrats over how to best move forward. Reform the Democratic Party from within? Join an existing alternative party such as the Green Party? Create a new party? Work with any one of a number of citizens organizations such as Our Revolution, Justice Democrats, Indivisible, or Democratic Socialists of America? Focus on advancing an issue, such as single-payer health care or voting reform?
Here is my opinion, based on my decades of observation and political experience. Stop arguing over which path is better and just pick one (or more if you can handle it) and get to work.
The oldest trick of those trying to maintain power is “divide and conquer.” Arguing over which way is best is just another way of dividing people who should be allies. Time and energy spent arguing among ourselves is time and energy wasted.
That’s because there is no definitive answer to the question of which way forward is the best. All of the various paths offered have obstacles in their way and histories with failures as well as successes. All of us have different perspectives, assumptions and experiences which bear on our judgment. Better to accept that there will always be different opinions and stop criticizing those we don’t entirely agree with.
For those who have settled opinions about the different options, stop trying to recruit people from one path to another. Instead limit such discussions to respectful and honest assessments of the pros and cons of different paths—including the cons of your own favored path–for the benefit of those who still thinking things through.
And for those who are unsure, tune into respectful and honest discussions and tune out debates over the (nonexistent) one right way. And of course do some research of your own. I would advise checking out the organizations that most attract you, realizing you will never be 100% sure which has the best strategy, and picking one of them go with until you learn more and see a good reason to change horses.
A few key things to consider are:
- Who runs the organization? What do you know of their background and political associations? Who vouches for their integrity? Do members have means such as periodic elections to keep leaders accountable?
- Funding. Where does it get money from? Big donors or small? Individuals or organizations? Are they transparent about big donations and where they came from?
- Budget. Is their budget transparent and easily accessible? How much is spent on administrative staff and overhead versus program activities?
- Do they cooperate with organizations having similar goals, or are they focused on competing for members and money? Are they working to build a movement or just their own organization?
A final caveat. I’ve been talking about strategies of how to move forward, not about short-term or long-term programmatic goals. The latter doesn’t have definitive answers either, but the more consensus building around this the better. Agreeing on where we are heading is not the same as agreeing on how to get there.
Coalitions are stronger with agreement on goals but a diversity of strategies. If one path becomes blocked, others can still move forward. Such diversity keeps opponents off balance and makes it harder for them to know where to focus their resources.
In other words, let’s not put all our eggs in one basket. But do let us agree that we all want unbroken eggs.