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Only in America? The False Dichotomy Between Movement Building and Electoral Politics

Only in America? The False Dichotomy Between Movement Building and Electoral Politics

Tom Gallagher

Most people we might think of as being on the American left don’t generally embrace the idea of “American exceptionalism.” There is one apparent exception to this unexceptional point of view, however, at least in some corners of the American left. That is the notion that in the U.S. – unlike any other country with a reasonably democratic system – electoral politics are somehow only an optional part of a serious political movement.

Bernie has said that he would run only if he thought he had a chance of winning. I do not think he has a chance of winning the election, and I’d be surprised if Bernie really thought so either.

He may have meant winning in another sense - winning the beginning of a real progressive movement.

Bernie will probably lose against Hillary, but if he then teams up with the Greens, that would certainly strengthen the Greens and could also be the beginning of the active and sustained movement we’ve been waiting for.

I see Bernie in alliance with the Greens as the best service he could provide to the US left.

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The New Deal was FDR’s concession to movements far to the left of him. Movements were part of the human experience at that time, allowing for social interaction and political education of the participants. Corporate consolidation of media and the two-party system are largely designed to prevent recurrence of the reappearance of people’s movements. That is why Occupy Wall Street scared the scat out of the powers that be. That is why most protests probably do not get national media coverage. That is why the expression arose that the revolution will not be televised. It’s either bottom up pressure or more foot-on-neck submission.


Important article and the difference between mature politics and idealism that goes nowhere. It is important to support Sanders. The issues and solutions he is proposing need to be heard. This is no substitute for a movement but it can help strengthen one around these issues beyond his candidacy and gives progressives a chance to Occupy the national conversation.


Only Warren would win.

So Hillary has to run.

That way Obama’s rescuing of the GOP brand can be successful.

A presidential campaign gives Bernie a movement building national forum, yet the actuality is that partisan politics is a form of hierarchy. Real democracy is nonhierarchical and has zero secrets; the distributed intelligence of humanity is part of the movement of cosmic powered biology as it rides the ever accelerating big bang wave in conscious spacetime at life speed. Life lives for fun. Partisan politics exists to impose order.

I will vote for Bernie and support None of the Above during the actual election. Real democracy will begin with a victory for None of the Above. Hierarchical partisan politics has squeezed as much life as it can from US democracy, from coast to coast. The current governor of California, for example, won with 18% of the voting age population. Massachusetts, as an example on the Atlantic, was only able to muster 13% of voting age citizens for the last primary election.

Imagine the people actually winning for the first time in a a US election, with a victory for None of the Above. What will the people do while the corporatistas meet behind closed doors at the eclectic collage and attempt to hammer out another four years of fake war monger democracy? Whatever we the people do, the majority won’t bother to vote unless life becomes way more fun than endless war and environmental destruction for the profit of a few.


No way will Bernie jump the Dem (garbage) barge - he has made clear he has no intentions of being a “spoiler” …

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I disagree, it is important to support those who will oust the duopoly from power - Bernie is not one of those, nor has he any intentions of being one. In fact whether he intends to or not, he will act as a Trojan horse for the Dems - sucking up prog time, money and effort only to support the Dem nominee if/when he doesn’t win and the machine will make sure of that (remember the last time Kucinich tried - when he appeared to be popular in the debates, he was kicked out of them) … And, he has made it clear that he does not intend to “spoil” the election for Dems …


So if only Warren would win, why doesn’t she run?

“None of the above” will never win an election under the current format - it has no standing as a “legitimate” determining choice …

So if Bernie doesn’t get the nomination, why is “none of the above” a better choice than Jill Stein?

Interesting - he claims elections are important, a claim i have been making forever, but apparently only if we
support a prog Dem …

Wonder if he would make the same argument if Bernie weren’t running …

Why can’t his argument about how a Bernie win would be important be applied to a Stein win - IMO, that would be a hell of a lot better …

As you point out, it’s settled, Jill Stein is the other candidate, and she will be until she is too old to do it anymore.

I have voted for Jill for years and would like to see None of the Above win and establish that line on all ballots.

We are well beyond the tipping point, The American Empire is Collapsing and it want rise from the ashes. History offers no model other than Rise then Fall. The important question is WHAT will rise from the wreckage of today’s vile abomination of Greed served by negligence.
I’m sure the future inhabitants of this continent will look back with contempt at those who so willingly participated in the systems that destroyed the accomplishments of centuries of toil. Movements call forth Leaders, the lack of Leaders implies the absence of a Movement worthy of the name. Collectives of issues aren’t movements. There must be a vision, grievances want serve, acting not bitching.

A holistic approach succeeds where the atomistic approach fails. Great article.

I’d rather see Stein win …

In addition to Louisiana icon Huey Long pulling FDR leftward, the big difference between the New Deal era and today is that nearly 10% of those voting in the US voted for socialist or communist candidates, giving DC politicians cover to toss the 99% a few crumbs to keep the US from going commie.

With 98% of those voting in the 2012 US election voting for the corporate D or R and only 1% voting for the two socialist candidates combined, D and R have lots of incentive to destroy what remains of the New Deal and no incentive to toss any crumbs to the 99%.

The Indignados of Spain were one of the main models for US Occupy. Now they have formed the political party Podemos, which has a good chance of winning the next Parliamentary election. At the same time they have stepped up their grass roots organizing.

It is as Tom Gallagher says. A movement grows by taking on new tasks, making room for all varieties of temperaments.

Can the left walk and chew gum? We’d better learn how, soon.

Exactly. Vote Bernie, then Green.

he can’t be a spoiler in the primary, he can educate folks and push hilary a little. supporting Bernie can bring about an interesting debate with hilary that may wake up some people.

The left has always been too busy infighting to get anywhere.