Quo Vadis Democrats, Americans, . . . Democracy?
Updated: Jun 27, 2020
The Democratic primary is over. Since it's inception as the party of slavery, the battle for the party's soul has never ceased, just as the meaning of the United States of America has always been a matter of contention, frustration, despair, and boundless hope. Whether it's a matter for hope, cynicism, or disgust, it is difficult to refute Tim Murphy of Mother Jones when he claims,
Bernie Sanders’ movement could shape Democratic politics for years to come. Only one thing is certain. Politics and government ARE going to change. This is always true. But perhaps NOW, in the shadow of a murderous plague, we are in an especially fraught “moment of pivot”. Bernie can be counted upon to be solid, serious, honest, and relentless in his quest to make the meaning of America valid and stirring for those who are forced to confront the reality that too much of our culture is an arena where the strong can exploit the weak by keeping us divided, passive, cynical, and afraid. But how things change is always (at least) PARTLY up to us. The belief that we are all (somehow) “change agents” is what makes us “progressives” and which is what recruits my support for Bernie. Change agents and change advocates ALWAYS have had mixed feelings about the electoral process - the prime “official” avenue for democratic change — just as the electoral process is the principle vehicle for democratic conservatism. When considering US electoral politics, the simplistic choice is between two binary options: to create a new political party or to “take over” one of the two major political parties. The two dominant US parties have NOMINALLY been “the same” since before the Civil War, but in reality they BOTH have gone through several major transformations. Over the last forty years an uneasy coalition of right wing operatives has transformed the Republican Party. By the last Bush administration it was pretty clear that they had taken command of that party. The trimp election and its ongoing chaos have made it painfully obvious that the “Grand Old Party” is now something “new”* and dangerous with old guard leaders and traditional elite types scrambling to follow, taking advantage of its strange dynamics when they can. But the billionaires, the reactionary fundamentalist Christians, the crackpot vandals, and the politicians who struggle to broker among them and with other other political leaders are steadfast in putting their “principles”* above party. Since their emergence in the late 19th century, progressives have historically played a balancing game between the liberal wings* of the major parties and “traditional”* workers parties. Putting workers first must still be one of the primary principles of any progressive movement. But time and experience has helped us to better incorporate the reality that workers are also consumers (of goods, services, and ideas) as well as citizens with families. And now, more than ever, we are becoming acutely aware of the fragility of the earth’s biosphere when it comes to supporting organized human cultures where people work, share, dream, and create. Bernie is still working to coalesce progressives. In part he is doing this on the edge of the Democratic Party in the spirit of older workers’ parties in an attempt to activate young people, minorities, and women who have “traditionally” been actively marginalized by the US political process. Correctly AND sincerely he has reminded us that progressivism as a MOVEMENT is more important than any leader, any elected office, any branch of government, or ANY governing establishment as a manifold “entirety”. Progressives ARE progressives because we believe that somehow we, playing our individual parts in a collective, CAN influence how our society (or civilization) will evolve and change. Bernie has relinquished his bid for the presidency, but not his claim to influence party platforms, legislation, policy, and the hearts and minds of the 99% of us whose status and means of survival are based on working for a system that is still too predatory and too destructive. Bernie, people like Joe Biden, and all of us will have to weigh heavily how we will choose to proceed and present ourselves. We must do that knowing that we are facing an apocalypse of intentional incitement of our hopelessness, our fears, our desperations, and our selfishness - an intentional incitement malignantly designed to divide and demoralize us for NO DECENT PURPOSE. Any serious analytical approach to projecting the effects of the challenges facing humanity is bound to be overwhelming - and can easily elicit despair. Just look at the projections the state government of New York used to plan its orchestrated response to the Covid-19 pandemic crisis. But as the New York governor magisterially points out, no such model can take full account of the human spirit, it’s appetite for creation, it’s urge towards sustainment, or its tendency toward self destruction. The future is ours to create. “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” - Martin Luther King (assassinated by racism) “The trajectory is the trajectory we create by OUR actions.” - Governor Andrew Cuomo (NY) Joe Panzica (Author of Democracy STRUGGLES! and Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass. He is currently working on his second novel I Wanna Be Evil. ****************************************************************** *”something new” - at least to the extent that Caesarism, Bonepartism, and Fascism were always “new” emanations of popular authoritarianism, a corrupt expression of the democratic and leveling impulse. Contempt for liberal (constitutional) democracy (the concept of a "republic) is an idiocy that those who claim to speak for the the majority are not immune to. *”liberal wingS” - up until the 1990s there were still some proud remnants of the liberal wing of the Republican Party, the party that had been the original productive foil and vehicle of the original Progressive Movement of the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. *"traditional workers parties" - There is indeed a long tradition of worker's parties in the industrialized world. Just not in the United States. And yes, along with the British Labour Party, there are those that proudly wave the red flag of the Paris Communards, sometimes emblazoned with the hammer and sickle. But there is really no single "tradition" for Socialist Parties and their advocacy of economic democracy. A meaningful distinction, though, can be made between those who honor and support the principles of liberal (constitutional) democracy and those who treat it with cynically affected respect or open contempt. * “principles” — the legitimate “principles” of the conservative impulse have always veered between 1) protecting the position of the privileged because those in privileged positions are somehow essential to preserving and advancing civilization and 2) being especially cautious about extending and expanding ideas of injustice lest unforeseen consequences of any well-intentioned measure lead to new forms of injustice that conceivably could lead to an overall increase of injustice. But recent developments, including (but not limited to) neoliberalism demonstrate that their actual “principles” are totally (and cynically) fungible and wholly subservient to power politics that are fundamental hostile to liberal democracy and justice.
Joe Panzica is the creator of Democracy STRUGGLE'S. He is also the author of the unpublished Saint Gredible and Her Fat Dad's Mass and is working on a second novel: I Want to be Evil.