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What Progressives and Democrats Need is Coalition Not Unity


What Progressives and Democrats Need is Coalition Not Unity

Peter Bloom

After a heated primary, Hillary Clinton is now the presumptive Democratic nominee for President. During the campaign, she has redefined herself as a “progressive who likes to get things done” to ward off the insurgent populism of her rival self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders.


On moving to the center to attract “moderates” - there are extremely few moderates among independent, supposedly-swing voters; if HRC goes there, it’s not to get votes, it’s because she’s a right liberal

“[Clinton] is already looking ahead to the general election—threatening to move back to the ideological center ground to attract “moderates” in November.”

As has been written about extensively, there are few true swing voters among independents - almost all ‘tilt’ toward Democrat or Republican. And the main reason Democrats and Republicans go independent is because the party is perceived as abandoning “core principles” - meaning, in the case of Democratic-leaning independents, they are almost all to the left of the Democratic Party.

If HRC tilts to the center, going after “moderate” swing voters is an excuse for pursuing her right liberal politics against the wishes and politics of about half of Democratic leaning voters.

The moderate “swing” voter is a pretext for ignoring the politics or interests of the DP electorate, instead favoring the rich and powerful.



Not Unity or Bust: Power-sharing or Bust

“[I]s there an alternative option beyond the opposing poles of unity or bust? Is there a way for progressives to find a compromise with the Democratic Party without becoming compromised?”

As framed by Bloom, the burden of compromise lies with progressives: it is progressives who must figure out a way to “compromise…without becoming compromised.”

This conventional framing follows from the organizational frame of U.S. politics - in a ‘winner take all’ electoral system, there is no power-sharing; whereas in a parliamentarian system, a narrow win would require large concessions - in terms of both policy and cabinet appointments - in the undemocratic US system, the party that wins rules, period.

The problem is, the DP rules and organizational power will always support the ruling, right liberal faction of the DP.

The solution? As I have argued numerous times on this site - progressives must charge Sanders with demanding that the DP and Clinton come to the negotiating table. The DP must democratize its rules, scrapping super delegates and closed primaries; the presumptive nominee must make public, binding commitments to a progressive short-list of a to-be-determined number of cabinet appointments.

If the DP refuses to negotiate, or fails to share power with half its electorate - it will not be progressive refusal to “compromise” that costs the party electoral support, but the DP’s refusal to democratically share power.


Since Reagan, the Democrats have had to gone more toward the center to win elections they want. I guess the question is whether is still true. The problem is not that Democrats want to be centrist it is that they have been left with no choice. To win elections you have talk tough on military matters or you will be labelled weak. It is hard to raise taxes now even to wage a war. That seems to be one reason that the national debt is approaching $20 trillion. The Republicans continue to be dedicated to blocking every progressive advance no matter how small. Big things in Congress are no longer accomplished. Even budgets can’t be passed and we wind up with a sequester. There is even opposition to raising the debt ceiling so the US can pay its bills. Progressive seem to be identifying the Democrats as the basis of the problem might be why progressives do not seem to get anywhere. The basis of the problem is this Goldwater conservatism that has become so widespread, particularly in the South and Plains states. The ideas of Goldwater, Reagan, etc is what need to be defeated in the public forum for the country to move in a progressive direction.


I agree – to a point – but the problem is that a Progressive Populist Party, no matter how big is still locked out of the process for all intents and purposes. We get no debates, no coverage, though ballot status and no electors.

Instead, forming a semi-independent Progressive Populist block we can work on electoral reforms that make other parties viable and competitive. We can enlarge the progressive caucus and continue to fund and encourage “Bernie’s Army” and we can continue this revolution beyond the campaign season. That effort may well split off from the Dems after paving the way if we can’t purge that party of corporate lackeys.


That is not true.

Peter Edelman - a Clinton appointee who resigned to protest then-President Clinton’s 1996 welfare “reform” legislation - argued persuasively that Clinton did not have to sign this destructive bill to appease supposed moderates or Republicans.

Clinton, and Obama - who largely supported the reform, even when he had significant congressional support, and even as evidence of its impact on the poor mounted - supported it because of a fundamentally right liberal outlook, much in line with the Republicans.

Blaming Republican opposition is an excuse for the modern Democratic Party’s abandonment of its New Deal constituencies and New Deal politics.


Why the hell on Earth would progressive want to form any kind of coalition with the corrupted Democratic War Party? They wouldn’t and they don’t and it will never happen now. The Democrats had a chance given to them to stop their sick perverted pro-war and torture ways and they chose not to change. History will not be kind to them.


I agree with this article to an extent. We do need to decide now what to do in November that will most serve the on going fight for progressive ideas. I strongly oppose “uniting” around a war hawk/criminal under any circumstance.
I think though most of us have come to the conclusion to vote for Bernie or vote Green. In fact it may be that Bernie wants to try to convince the Dems he is a more viable candidate and that they are willing to change.
I don’t believe they are going to do either.
But if not, that frees him up to start a party of progressives or to join with the Greens. He has promised not to run Independent and he will honor that promise (I wish he hadn’t. He believes the Nader myth).
But we are not bound by that in any way. It is our revolution and as frightening as this election is there is no way we can back off now. They are hell bent on plastering Trump all over the media, like hanging a dead chicken around a dogs neck so he won’t hunt chickens, hoping we will be so turned off by Trump we won’t notice what a horrible mess she is, a neocon is a neocon whether Dem or Repug. Watch the Birdie!!
They expect us to do their bidding. We won’t. After July, I will make the decision to vote Green or write in, assuming Bernie doesn’t have something else in mind but this is the time to stand up and just say NO HILLARY EVER!


Exactly. I’ve been saying that through out Obama’s term. The Dems hide behind the Repugs to do their dirty work. They cry foul that they can’t get anything passed and so on. They don’t try hard enough to be believed. They are as right wing as the Repugs and I see little difference other than who they blame when the public is angry.


Well OK, Trump wins. But somehow they get him out of the way on technicalities. Cruz is left and he’d be only a micron better in the best of all possible futures (Chomsky says worse). Then the broader-coalition building during the following four years might end up precluded as the world might end up in chaos if not ashes. It’s a hard, hard row to hoe, because it’s a matter of teaching people what financialization and militarization are! All those people who were working rather than voting in SC! Things are more dire than the coalition builders want to face. Are they doing those jobs the kids in SC are doing? Wake up, ya gotta get out there and talk to folks. These blah blah rock and R&B groups need to write some songs that say something. Stop paying for your cable TV, keep the net. We gotta let’em know. We gotta get it on.

BTW, how can all this strategizing hooplah end up pushing aside events on the border with RUSSIA? The world could go poof even before the convention. Go to Consortium News. Go to American Committee for East West Accord. Go to Oliver Stone’s page. Go to Open Democracy dot net. Read Andrew Bacevich. Read Juan Cole. Read Patrick Cockburn. Listen to Vijay Prashad. Listen to Matthew Hoh from the “Breaking Through Power” conference. Let’s learn something! Let’s admit what’s go’n on!


The problem is thinking we have no options but a win/lose between these two parties.


I agree with the idea of power sharing as long as both are considered equal and it is written into binding laws. But the idea that Killery would move off her throne enough to go along with this is a stretch to say the least. Maybe that’s what Bernie has in mind. It won’t work though.


I like your progressive populist bloc, but it must shove toward elimination of restricting political life to parties, especially the current two-and-only. We must take the independent momentum and move to a system where parties may coalesce to promote candidates and platforms, but once elected, public servants are not identified as owing first loyalty and discipline to those platforms.


It’s not clear just what Bloom foresees in building a coalition for this election cycle. What I understand Bernie is doing is giving the Dems one last chance at his new voters (and us oldies), as they make the symbolic decisions on platform, and in how they wind up treating himself at the convention. If they simply hold a coronation, then we’ll see where Bernie goes. But I don’t see him joining another party, and this year, without a party ballot, there’s little chance of being elected.

Also note that Lucy Flores lost her primary in Nevada.


Yes, all I could get out of the piece was a kind of call for multi-tasking, but vote for Hillary.


Interesting article, but partly inaccurate:

  • Sanders could no sooner validate Clinton as progressive than part the Red Sea
  • It is questionable what pull Sanders has within the party to force Clinton towards any progressive act.
  • It is very doubtful that Sanders can work with Clinton as a Green or Independent candidate.

I am not sure what to explain or defend about the above. That means that I am overlooking something, of course, and I would love to see what, but for the moment, the above seems self-evident.

As a more complicated point, opportunities to work with a Clinton presidency and a Clinton party full of Clinton Democrats in any sort of coalition are almost nil:

  • Any leveling of income works against Clinton’s neoliberal ideas and her financier chums
  • Any significant move towards green anything moves against Clinton’s work towards hydrocarbon and nuclear empire, as does any response against the globalization mafia, and any
  • Any move towards freedom of speech or transparency in government threatens to make the above obvious
  • Any move against Fourth Amendment violations like death by fiat drone or other COINTELPRO or mafia-style assassinations limits the power of Clinton’s associates in the black ops community and their drug and arms businesses.
  • Any successor to Sanders becomes a threat to any successor to Clinton as long as the Democratic Party continues to pretend to its constituency that it is liberal, progressive, honest, or humane: Sanders gives it the lie, and another honest liberal | progressive would too. Clinton will therefore continue to purge the upper levels of the party as Obama has. And you have to wonder whether Clinton’s camp is not planning already how to prevent anyone else from coming into the party to represent humane ideals as has Sanders.

There is another point that will take a bit more text, but it’s a more broadly applicable principle. While there may be some useful coalition with Clinton with respect to one or another social point in which she finds it convenient to appear progressive, like abortion or maybe same-sex marriage or barbecues on King Day in California and Florida, there can be no useful coalition as regards war and empire or economic inequality. The reason for the first is that while Sanders himself has failed to call out the MIC juggernaut to the extent that one might wish, and might therefore find some area of agreement with Clinton, that agreement would be the most regrettable and damaging possibility in all of this business of coalition. Clinton’s position on such things is clear: escalate in Western Asia, escalate in Central Asia, escalate in Latin America by destabilizing nations that attempt to protect their citizens, escalate in Africa, move NATO east and escalate nuclear weaponry to play brinksmanship in an attempt to cow Russia and China into longterm economic and energy-related submission, along lines more or less laid out by Brzezinski or the New American Century Project in a continuation of Cold War and ultimately British Empire ideologies.

Squeezing the American and allied populations as goons for endless wars of aggression ultimately comes in direct conflict with any project involving an equitable share of wealth, resources, or even information. In this, Clinton is absolutely as much the enemy as Donald Trump, and a far more focused and intent, far more competent and well connected enemy. With nothing to gain from either party, can this possibly not be the hour not to overthrow them, which will not be directly possible, but to at least put both aside and start a more reasonable project?

What progressives and liberals and radicals need is a coalition without Clintons and Romney and Kochs and Bushes, but with other progressives of different idea or faction, and even with people of a somewhat libertarian or even libertarian-Republican persuasion: for all the weirdness of their economic misconceptions, many of these people really do oppose military adventurism, electoral restrictions, and FIrst and Fourth Amendment violations. There are at least as many areas of agreement here as with the Clinton camp, and they are generally more central to any divestment in central governmental or corporate power.


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I am really sick of supporters of Jeffrey Dahmer saying we have to vote for Dahmer instead of John Wayne Gacy because Gacy had more victims than Dahmer. Those morons seem to forget that Gacy only had sex with his victims while they were alive, while Dahmer had sex with victims living and dead, AND ATE THEM!

Dahmer is definitely NOT the lesser evil.

Gacy 2016


Who are you to talk about the Dem’s illegally refusing the people’s choice?

You’ve attacked Sanders throughout the campaign.

Don’t pretend you weren’t celebrating when the AP crowned Clinton.


WE Bernie bots forgot one very important condition for any alliance with the declining neoliberal con puppets. We forgot to demand an absolute end to the bipartisan charade and absolute clean and level playing parliamentarian fields as a condition to form governing coalition with the lesser evils of any stripe. By no means is participation with any Wall Street party unity crapadoodle gonna’ get my vote. Why would any citizen vote for lesser evil when we can all vote for the greater good? Jill Stein is still the most viable option if Bernie still wants to fold back into the D mess.