There are a lot of alarm bells sounding about the rise of socialism among younger Americans. None seem to be louder than those being rang by the Democratic establishment. With the bad taste in their mouths and still blaming Bernie and his supporters for having lost the election, the party elite is going about business as usual, hopeful that this fad will simply dissipate, and that Trump and Comp. will be enough to push voters back into the lesser of two evils politics that has dominated the landscape since time immemorial.
You would have to be living in a cave as a leftist not to have heard the arguments and debates, with so many wondering now, will the Socialists vote Democratic? The answer I find most likely is... it depends on the Democrats.
While I am certainly no millennial, I feel like my own experience is a pretty good example of what is happening, and why the incremental politics of the two party, corporate dominated system just isn't going to cut it any more. For me, it all started with this guy...
|Then Presidential Candidate, US Senator John Kerry. When I first saw this on the news during his campaign, I said, "Oh fuck. We just lost the windsurfer vote now, too.|
I was a 31 year old organizer for a construction union when John Kerry ran for President. I had only recently been plucked from a world of pouring concrete and digging ditches, where men suffered unimaginably to most, simply to earn their daily bread. It was my first election cycle as a union staffer, and being in Iowa, that meant the cycle started long before everyone else in the country had really put much thought into it.
As Iowans, you get a lot of attention from candidates. If you are any kind of union official, or party hack, they will come and mow your lawn during the caucuses. They practically live in the state, and it seemed pretty cool to be hanging out with senators and governors all of a sudden. In fact, when the union (LiUNA) I worked for at the time came out as an early endorser of House Leader, Dick Gephardt, I got to follow him around to all of his events. I thought it was awesome hearing about how his dad was a Teamster and a milk truck driver...at first.
Sixty days into it though, and I would rather stab my own ears out with campaign pin back buttons than hear the same speech again. I mean, nice guy, but he literally only had one fucking speech, and after twenty or thirty times, it started sounding cheap, and pandering, and less authentic all the time. I was actually almost secretly relieved when someone else got the nomination... until I got to spend some time around John Kerry.
Not that Kerry was a bad guy. He was fine as far as Democrats go, but he was so fucking dry. Like stale, white toast left on a window sill in Arizona on a hot windy day, dry. He was rich too. Really rich. I remember being asked about that time and again on jobsites where I went to talk to our members about him on their lunch breaks.
"What's the difference between one rich fuck, or the other rich fuck," one guy said to me. "Aren't we pretty much screwed either way?"
"No," I said, explaining the nuanced differences between one party that wanted to crush our unions, and strip America of what was left of the middle class, and the other party that would at least slow the hemorrhaging. Of course, rhetorically speaking they were worlds apart, but to a guy who stands out in the heat of the sun, and the cold of the Iowa winter, and works with his hands and his back for a living, I was forced to wonder, what is the fucking difference to him, really? I mean, we all knew that Bill Clinton and NAFTA had crashed our collective boat into the rocks. Is that the kind of thing we were working for again?
When Bush Jr. was elected, I got to see the differences, of course. His administration was able to use the attacks of 9/11 to undermine our collective strength as unions, attacking pension funds, weakening regulatory agencies, and allowing big business to wreak havoc upon workers through the further erosion of rights and protections, and starving the agencies meant to protect us. Not to mention, he was the dumbest guy I had ever seen in politics. I mean, he literally couldn't complete a sentence.
|Governor Culver. Iowa Democrats answer to Bush's dumbness.|
And, on that dumb note, along came a Senator's son to run for Governor of Iowa. He seemed to us like a lump of clay that we could mold and shape to get real gains for working people. We worked our asses off for him and gave him a truckload of cash.
The same week he got elected to the governor's mansion, Culver came to one of LiUNA's larger staff meetings, took the stage, and began talking about how our relationship was going to get even better after he was elected to the US Senate. I mean, here is a guy that just won the governor's race and he is already talking about the senate instead of the job he was literally just elected to perform. What a piece of... work.
During Culver's administration, labor worked our asses off and won him the trifecta in Iowa. We had a Democratic Senate, House, and the Governor who Labor had elected. It was the perfect storm. And in the end, we got absolutely NOTHING to show for it. That's right. We won nothing, nada, zero, zilch. In fact, the only real piece of labor legislation we managed to squeeze through the weasels in the statehouse, this prick vetoed, because he had a hard-on for the guy over at AFSCME.
It was then that the LiUNA national leadership (who fucking loved Culver because for $100k per cycle, he would go golfing with them any time they came to Iowa), does exactly what national leadership always does. They said, "we need to get a bigger majority in the house!"
There it is. Right there. It's where labor and the party fails every single fucking time to "get it." In the field, we had been working the rank and file over like crazy to get them out door knocking and phone banking and opening their wallets to these pricks. We got two out of three and said, we just need one more piece of the puzzle and then Iowa workers will win big. We filled in that piece, won the trifecta, got nothing out of it, and then had to go back, look those same members in the eyes, and say, "we need a bigger majority in the statehouse and THEN Iowa workers will win big!" We as staff didn't even believe it by then, and neither did they.
|Most Labor Union Leadership to every buffoon with a 'D' behind his name.|
I have said it before. Organized Labor, and the two parties, are the ONLY business model in the world that will invest $10 million dollars in something, get absolutely nothing out of it, and then think it wise to double down on that investment the next cycle. I have literally sat in meetings and listened to national presidents of building and trade unions say, "last cycle we gave $8 million dollars to candidates. Next cycle, we are going to try and double that to $16 million so we can really make a difference and be players!" But when the fuck does it all end, and when do workers start winning in this game?
In 2006, I drove to Illinois to sign a petition started by Senator Dick Durbin, to get a young Senator to run for President. I had the good fortune of having met this guy, and after bums like Bush and Culver, I wanted somebody I knew was smart and had the interest of working people in his heart. I was the first Democratic County chair in Iowa then to endorse Senator Barack Obama for President. I was also the first union official to do so. When he announced on the steps of the old capitol in Springfield, Illinois, I was there freezing my ass off with my family. When his staffers came to Iowa to setup shop, I was the first one to go and meet them even before they had an office. I was a believer.
As far as Democrats go, I still believe he was among the best. As far as the two party political system goes, I still doubt that anyone could have done much more with Congress. But when it came right down to it, and when working people's rights were being threatened in Wisconsin, he never showed up. He never "laced up his sneakers and walked the picket lines" like he had promised me to my face and had promised many others during his campaign. He never said much of anything about it at all. And that, for me, was the last straw.
With the Iowa trifecta, and Obama disappointments fresh, and the members of the local I was then president of seeing raises disappear into rising healthcare and pension costs, and their living standards continuing to decline, I simply couldn't stand in front of them, look them in the eyes, and tell them again that anyone with a 'D' in front of their name is going to really do much of anything for them beyond NOT attacking them like a Republican would. But this just isn't enough for me any more. It wasn't enough for the men and women of my local then, and it shouldn't be enough for anyone struggling to survive and make ends meet in America's working class any more. We all deserve something better.
That year, I resigned my post as the County Democratic Chair. That same year, I took tens of thousands of PAC dollars under my control that would have gone to Iowa Democrats, and gave every last penny of it to local charities instead. It was the best PAC money I ever fucking spent, too, and accomplished more for actual working families than it ever could have if I had merely handed it off to every lump with a 'D' behind their name who showed up with a hand out.
Now, don't get me wrong. I am still a registered Democrat. I still work to get candidates elected. I still give a little money to union PAC funds too. But if I am ever going to be expected to go all in again for Democrats, or anyone else for that matter, it will be on my terms, and not the terms established by the Democratic establishment.
My terms are simple really. Candidates need to recognize that labor (union or otherwise) and corporations have absolutely nothing in common. If a candidate accepts money from corporations, then he or she hadn't ought to expect my support, financial or otherwise. If a candidate accepts PAC moneys or party moneys that include bundled corporate moneys, then he or she hadn't ought to expect my support. Then, and only then, can we begin to have a reasonable expectation that a candidate might actually be working for we, the people again.
So, in answer to the question plaguing the left at the moment, of will Joe Socialist support Democrats in coming elections, while I can't speak for all of them, I can tell you with absolute certainty that what I will do, or not do when it comes to future elections will depend entirely upon the actions, or lack thereof, of the party itself. And right now, I'm not seeing anything that might draw me back into the fray and have me pushing all of my chips into the middle of the table to once again support a lesser of two evils candidate.
The establishment has always held it over our heads that, while they might suck, imagine how much worse it would be if the other side won? It worked for a long time, too. But the worst case scenario is here and now with Republican dominated states and total GOP control of Washington. The slow downward spiral of the working class has finally plummeted into a deep abyss, and the incremental politics of a two party, corporate dominated system, is not going to bring us back, or undo the damage in any of our lifetimes.
So, what am I going to do on election day? Maybe I'll be busy voting, or doing GOTV work for certain Democrats. Or maybe I'll just be protesting somewhere instead. The answer to what happens to all of the Bernie Democratic Socialists is not a choice for any of us to make. It is entirely up the Democratic Party at this point. But I can promise you this much: the status quo isn't fucking cutting it any more, and if you think it still might hold water, then figure on another great big surprise come November of 2018.
Fiat Justicia Ruat Caelum