On Why Democrats are the Greater Problem for Progressives


The virtually identical governance structures within our duopoly, i.e., the Democratic and Republican parties, pose virtually identical civic dangers.  The results of their policies are virtually indistinguishable notwithstanding their differing rhetoric and propaganda which fools the gullible into thinking otherwise.  That is especially true given the collusion of the mainstream “disinformation” media.  Their main difference is that one is hypocritical and cynical while the other is just blatantly wrong; very, very wrong, at least from a progressive perspective.  It brings to mind the defense of a politician accused of wrongdoing arguing that she was not corrupt, merely inept; in either case, of course, that’s hardly a solace to the people affected (see, e.g., the campaigns and administrations of Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Barrack Obama and most recently, Donald J. Trump).

For progressives (who in light of political evolution since 1990 we should differentiate from liberals), there is a huge difference between the obstacles each of the two existing major parties pose.  The following analysis makes the argument that the Democratic Party, a right of center political “conglomeration” posing as leftist, is the one that progressives should most opposed; why association of progressive goals with that party tarnishes them, especially given its current incarnation.  Progressives all too frequently now find themselves insulted, outraged and frustrated when unconscionable Democratic Party actions and postures are presented as leftist actions.

So, ….

Both major political parties are composed of patchworks of competing and inconsistent politico-economic interests (consider the current battle within the GOP over healthcare reform) whose common goal is pretty much limited to the attainment and maintenance of political power on behalf of their respective patrons.  All too often, such patrons hedge their bets, the best example being the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) which, in effect, dominates the foreign policy platforms of both major parties.  Among the many political territories with contrary goals which the Democratic Party incoherently currently occupies is the political niche in which progressive policies and progressive electors seek to operate (the real left).  But it is occupied in such manner that policies identified with progressive goals misdirect rather than promote their attainment.  Examples abound but the conflict between Obamacare and single payer health systems, between the Paris Climate Accord and binding environmental protection and between world peace and foreign “humanitarian” intervention are obvious illustrations.  Such “realities” are much more effective in defeating progressive ideals and goals than the straightforward opposition of the GOP (and of the current occupant of the White House).  For other groups, the most dangerous party may be different.  For example, libertarians and theocrats are both ill served by the GOP but that is exactly where they find themselves.

The foregoing is not surprising.  It is true in any context where multiple groups (more than two) are competing for limited followers.  The groups that appeal to similar constituencies are the ones that cause each other the most damage, not in and of itself bad as long as the relevant groups are honest, but where one group is deceiving prospective followers and, while paying lip service to their interests, is actually subverting them, it becomes a cancer.  The problem is most acute in bipolar, “big tent” systems like the ones that exists at all formal levels of United States politics.  Such systems force the entire electorate into a “you’re for them or against them” posture, enforced through threats of apocalyptic greater evils (the other side of the lesser evil doctrine); a situation that is rarely civically healthy.  Multipolar systems on the other hand permit a multiplicity of honestly held perspectives which must then be reconciled through honest negotiation, with electoral accountability in cases where one group betrays the clearly identifiable beliefs and aspirations of its members.

The United States electorate is naturally divisible into multiple groups with related interests and priorities, progressives being one.  Others include libertarians, conservatives, theocrats, Zionists, neoliberalist globalists, neoconservative interventionists, etc.  If they each had their own independent “politico-partisan” identities and some formal legislative, executive and judicial representation, then their interests would have to be addressed (rather than camouflaged) and the resulting conflicts would have to be resolved in a democratic manner through negotiation, with realities transparently disclosed rather than obfuscated.

Unfortunately, our current first past the post, unidistrital, winner-take-all electoral system makes real democracy and real pluralism and real liberty unattainable.  Such problem has been resolved in many other states (e.g., very innovatively and effectively in the Irish Republic) so that its resolution requires neither inventing the wheel nor experimentation, it merely requires a recognition of the existing problem and selection of its solution from among many viable alternatives.  Of course, such solution would dismantle the existing duopolic political system which has so successfully stacked the deck in favor of the tiny oligarchy that now exploits us, but then, you purportedly can’t make omelets without breaking eggs.  Breaking eggs in this context starts with dismantling the current major political parties through defection of their respective component subgroups, especially those who like libertarians and progressives, blacks and Hispanics, labor and immigrants, have been so thoroughly betrayed.

At a time when the Democratic Party’s dementia has become so obvious, when the reasons for its electoral failures are so thoroughly ignored by those who refuse to abide by internal rules and external realities and when its quest for power by any means, regardless of the consequences, is so clear, progressives must wake and in doing so flee, and flee very far, very quickly and very loudly, cleansing themselves of the tarnish with which the Democratic Party may forever become associated.  Criticism of the current Democratic Party is far from synonymous with approval of the GOP and Mr. Trump, far from it, very far from it, but efforts to reform from within are analogous to a woman staying married to a misogynist who beats her because, well, … just because.

There are historical junctures where change becomes more possible, usually because abuses become so obvious.  They are the crazy times when the choices seem to involve either transition or destruction, when hysteria and hyperbole seem in charge.  Times like those in which we find ourselves, surprised despite the many, many warning signs that have for so long clamored for our attention.

If progressives really believe in peace and oppose foreign intervention; really believe in state sponsored free and comprehensive healthcare and education; really believe in a social safety net; really believe in the minimization of corruption (economic as well as political); really believe in real participatory government on the basis of access to accurate, complete and honest information from diverse perspectives; really believe in equity and equality and justice, then they must find their own identity and act, not just complain.

If you agree, then please circulate this article and join in my call for a real, formal and independent progressive political party, one with electable candidates and a formal, detailed platform.  Now.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2017; all rights reserved.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia although he has primarily lived in the United States of America (of which he is a citizen).  Until recently he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies) and can be contacted at wacalvo3@autonoma.edu.co.  Much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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