Will Progressives Split the Democratic Party?

A recent battle within the Democratic Party has come to an end as ex-President Obama’s Secretary of Labor Tom Perez was elected chairman of the party’s central organ, the Democratic National Committee (DNC), over popular contender Keith Ellison, a five-term Congressman from Minnesota who many say was unfairly passed over for the party leadership job.

What was behind the contest results, which some people are openly saying were rigged? Could it be that Keith Ellison, who was a major supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders in the latter’s 2016 primary race with Hillary Clinton, was too “progressive” for a party that has traditionally identified itself as classically liberal or centrist?

To be sure, there was controversy over the fact that Ellison is a practicing Muslim (one of two in Congress — both Democrats), and many traditionalists within the party may not feel they want someone in a leadership role who potentially could favor Sharia law over the laws of the United States.

But practically speaking, it may have more to do with the nature of power within the top echelon of the party, which, until recently, was all but controlled by elite veterans such as Bill and Hillary Clinton.

As far as many people are concerned, this is still the case.

For those traditionalists, Tom Perez was the logical choice for party chairman because he can safeguard the globalist establishment interests that feed and guide the Democrats through finances and mandates that have made the party a tool of Wall Street banks, the military-industrial complex, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Agribusiness, and numerous other corporate lobbies.

Many of the progressives that sided with Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton also backed the Occupy Wall Street and Keystone Pipeline movements that these lobbies are 100 percent opposed to.

Many of these same progressives were let down when their champion Bernie Sanders appeared to capitulate to the “establishment” wing of the Democrats and told his followers to vote for Hillary Clinton, whom a majority of them considered to be dishonest and corrupt.

For these supporters, Perez’s “victory” is further proof that the Democratic Party is just as corrupt as Clinton, and already, there are signs that the progressive faction of the party may feel the time has come to finally split away from the main organization that they never felt 100 percent comfortable with and that they feel will never be free of the corrupt influence of elites like the Clintons.

To that end, a new group, organized by The Young Turks’ (TYT) Cenk Uygur and Kyle Kulinski of TYT-affiliated program Secular Talk has formed and is calling itself the “Justice Democrats” (JD). One of JD’s central goals is to “get money out of the Democratic Party,” but also out of American politics itself as much as possible.

In asking for voters’ support, they’re restricting contributions to no more than $5,000, in an effort to secure funds strictly from individuals, rather than corporations. It seems clear that one of their targets is the same type of low-income, largely white, populist-identified voters who voted for Republican Donald Trump, although they are loath to say it.

JD’s hero Bernie Sanders, perhaps feeling burnt by Ellison’s loss to Perez (even though Perez ended up appointing Ellison deputy chairman of the DNC as a conciliatory gesture), announced that he wouldn’t commit to handing over a list of his campaign contributors with the DNC that he earlier had been pressured to share.

To be sure, Sanders outraised Clinton in terms of funds, despite the fact that Clinton had virtually every major corporate lobby group and enterprise in existence on board with her campaign. Therefore, Sanders’ list of donors is an incredibly valuable one that the Democrats would love to have in their possession. (Maybe they can hire a Russian hacker to steal it?)

Justice Democrats claim they have more than 85,000 social media followers already lined up to jump-start their party, but before they get their constituent motor running, they might do well to have a look at past splinter groups of the Democratic Party to see the multiple carcasses of other progressive movements that at one time or another tried to hijack or break off from the main party.

In the early 1950s, there was the League for Industrial Democracy, formed by Socialists who had first tried to organize as early as 1921. In 1964, both the Students for a Democratic Society and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, formed by student Leftists and civil rights organizers in Mississippi, respectively, tried to steer the party in anti-segregation and antiwar directions in the middle of the turbulent 1960s.

In 1971, Jesse Jackson formed the Rainbow Coalition and People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), both of which advocated for social justice and civil rights. In 1972, fringe candidate George McGovern won multiple primaries and ended up claiming the Democratic presidential nomination, only to run in the general election against the GOP’s Richard Nixon and lose disastrously.

In the late 1970s, the Democratic Party started to shift more toward what it looks like today, as President Jimmy Carter’s economic policies transitioned from left-wing positions to more right-wing ones. In 1984, Jesse Jackson renewed his Rainbow Coalition in an unsuccessful candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination.

In 1996, a movement called We the People was organized by a man named Jeffrey Peters to initiate more changes in government via citizen referendums. In 2004, two groups — Democracy for America and Progressive Democrats of America were progressive political action committees (PACs) founded by former DNC chairman Howard Dean and former Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

And finally, in 2016, Bernie Sanders, in the wake of his party nomination loss to Hillary Clinton, formed a group called “Our Revolution” to sponsor other progressives for office nationwide, but the group has been shunned by many of his followers for accepting so-called “dark money” from wealthy donors.

It should be noted that all of these movements — save for the last one — died or were co-opted by the larger Democratic Party. Their progressive politics were subsumed or compromised by the more centrist positions of the core Democrats.

Then again, during the 2016 primary campaign season, Bernie Sanders drew huge crowds that dwarfed the numbers of weak, paid “seat warmers” that Clinton had to cajole to clap for her at her own barely “town hall”-sized rallies.

Another argument that can be made in favor of progressives ultimately succeeding in their quest for domination is that the leadership of the traditional Democratic Party is fairly old. Hillary Clinton is 69, Bill Clinton is 70, Nancy Pelosi is 76 and Chuck Schumer is 66. Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada is 77 and just retired. Many of these people will simply not be in politics in another 10 years.

On the other hand, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who many would say are the twin leaders of the current progressive cause, are no spring chickens either (Sanders is 75, while Warren is 67). Essentially, both sides are in need of inspiring new blood that can guide their respective factions to greatness (or obscurity, if they fail).

Of course, all of this is music to the ears of conservatives, who couldn’t ask for a better gift than to see their opposition party split in two. Here’s hoping the Justice Democrats become a real party, and they struggle to the death for a sufficiently long period with the original Democrats — say, about three decades or so. That might give conservatives just a little of the time they need to pass all of their legislative priorities and then some.

~ Facts Not Memes

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