It seems that as soon as the 2016 presidential election ended, a new rallying cry among Democrats arose: “Get ready for 2018!”
This election, they contend, will bring a sense of “normalcy” back to our country. Normal, you know like mass deportation, financial deregulation, police shootings of unarmed black men, women and children, austerity budgets, fracking and a skyrocketing gap between take-home pay for CEOs and workers.
In other words, what Democrats have offered the American people over the last 50 years hasn’t been all that different from what Republicans have offered us . It was a Democrat in Lyndon Johnson who put boots on the ground in Vietnam, a Democrat in Bill Clinton who slashed social welfare and ramped up mass incarceration and a Democrat in Barack Obama who deported 2.3 million undocumented immigrants. You may argue these presidents were simply inheriting what their Republican predecessors had already put into action, but that is precisely the point —that Republican and Democratic leaders are a part of the same capitalist machine. The Democrats, after all, were described by a former Nixon strategist as “history’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.”
It’s unclear how voting for Democrats gets us the world we want. Voting for the “lesser evil” ensures that Democrats have no incentive to listen to anyone on the left — those, for example, who advocate Medicare-For-All, free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage. So long as progressives can always be herded back into voting Democrat every two years, there’s no reason for the Democrats to do anything other than court moderate Republicans, those in “the center.” This, in turn, ensures that they move further right.
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As a member of the International Socialist Organization, I believe this country needs a different kind of party — an unapologetically progressive workers party — that advocates for the rights of workers in their workplaces, rejects racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and rejects the pressure to conform to the right-of-center platform of the Democratic Party. The kind of party we need should threaten the dominance of the current two-party system. The Democratic Party doesn’t represent true progressive values — it never has and it never will.
We need a party that does more than maintain the status quo, a status quo that has led to the incarceration of millions of people of color — disproportionately black, brown and indigenous — and that could see the median wealth of black and Latino households hit zero before this century ends. We need a party that rejects policies that have led to the longest war in American history over the past 16 years in Afghanistan, to the expansion of the surveillance state and to millions of uncounted deaths of men, women and children in Iraq.
But to do this, we need to build movements, not just moments. People are rising up in unprecedented numbers: From the airport protests in the wake of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, to the five million who protested in the Women’s March, people are stepping up to stop attacks on human rights.
But, fighting oppression means more than just protesting — it means getting involved with an organization, and making one voice into many. The fight against environmental catastrophe, against sexual assault, against systemic racism —these issues are interconnected and demand that we challenge these different fronts to win a different kind of world.
We have a world to win.
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But how should we organize to win the world that we need? What will such an organization look like, how will it function, and what will its politics be?
If these are the questions you’re asking yourself or if you want to know more about socialism, consider coming to the International Socialist Organization’s meeting Nov. 30 on “Socialism, Anarchism, and Communism: Winning the World We Need.” The meeting is at 7 p.m. in Sterling Hall, room 1313. No matter your familiarity with these topics, we welcome all in what promises to be an enlightening discussion on fighting for a better world together.
Jonathan Isaac ([email protected]) is a graduate student in the English Department and a member of the International Socialist Organization.