Liberal Democrats – Take Two

I summarized a key point of my last blog in its penultimate paragraph:

“I think instead of us joining them, [liberal Democrats] should join us. I think it is time for those who have been holding their noses and voting Democratic, to admit that their course of action is doomed. There are a lot more of them, they have a lot more clout, money and power than those of us who are a little further to the left. If we joined our less radical friends in voting Democratic it wouldn’t make much difference, but if our less radical friends were to join with us in forming a left-wing political alternative to the Democrats it would have a much bigger impact in the long run.”

One reader wrote in response: “I agree with this analysis to a point, but there is another alternative and that is support primary challenges within the Democratic Party ... to move the Democratic Party to the left. This is part of the inside/outside strategy of the Progressive Democrats of America. Third parties have never done well in the US. It seems a better strategy is change the Democratic Party.”

Since Tuesday (9/14) was primary day in Massachusetts and electoral matters are on my mind, I’ll take the unusual (for me) step of writing a second blog to reply to this thoughtful comment.

I’m skeptical that this strategy will move the Democratic Party to the left, but I won’t argue that point here. Instead, I’ll concede that I’d probably vote for a truly progressive candidate who mounted a primary challenge to a more mainstream Democrat. And as long as this strategy did not degenerate into endorsing the least obnoxious candidate in the field, rather than confining support to real progressives, I see its value.

But what will you do after your candidate loses in the primary? At least in the short run that is likely to happen most of the time. If you plan to hold your nose and vote for the mainstream Democrat who won the primary then you will fall into the same trap I described in my blog last week. Are Progressive Democrats of America willing to participate in the development of a true left-wing party formation after their candidate has lost a primary election? Are Progressive Democrats of American willing to mount a primary challenge against Barack Obama in 2012?

In closing I’ll reiterate my main points from last week. I think the American public is fed up with the way the country is being run. That makes this a radical moment. If the Democrats won’t even push for basic change, let alone succeed in delivering it, any ascendency they attain will be brief and voters in the next electoral cycle will either stay home or vote the Republicans back into power. I do not believe that the Democrats are the same as the Republicans. Instead, I believe that the minor benefits Democrats bring will discourage those who want real change and, thus, in the long-term, only lead back to more Republican major damage. I propose that we attempt to break this cycle by developing a left-wing alternative.

What do other readers think about this controversial subject?

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If dissatisfied Progressives should form their own party, that party might have the effect of drawing votes from the mainstream Democratic party. Nader did it with the Green Party in 2000. And when the mainstream party starts losing elections, they will take notice. No telling what they'll do about it, though.

Nader did not cause Gore's defeat in Florida in 2000. That's a myth. A careful review of the election totals shows that Democrats in Palm Beach County who voted for Buchanan by mistake (remember the butterfly ballot snafu) tipped the balance, and outright Republican voter fraud may have palyed an even bigger role. In any event, I understand that this does not negate the general point you were trying to make, but rather just that your example was not a good illustration of that point.


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