Turn left at the next intersection: Why the US needs a sustainable third party

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By Creative Media News

  • Need for viable left-wing third party
  • Democrats’ shift rightward undermines democracy
  • Student protests highlight political suppression

The past few months of student protests against Israel’s war on Gaza, and the way they were suppressed by the authorities and vilified as “violent” and terror-related even by supposedly left-leaning, progressive political leaders, revealed an important truth: the United States desperately needs a viable, left-to-centre-left third party committed to democracy.

The issue is no longer limited to Republicans and their open support of Nazism. The response of President Joe Biden and other top Democrats to the student protests demonstrated that even the party that claims to represent the left in America is now trending right and has an unmistakable anti-democratic bent.

“Order must prevail…” Vandalism, trespassing, shattering windows, campus closures, and forced class and graduation cancellations. “None of this is a peaceful protest,” Biden remarked of the Gaza solidarity marches at Columbia University on May 2. “Smashing windows with hammers and taking over academic buildings does not constitute free expression. “It is lawlessness,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer declared a few days ago.

Not only are their descriptions of what happened at Columbia and dozens of other campuses incorrect, but their phrases appear to have been taken directly from Richard Nixon’s famous “Silent Majority” speech in 1968. When the nation with the greatest tradition of the rule of law is plagued by unprecedented lawlessness,” Nixon had earlier stated, “when the President of the United States cannot travel abroad or to any major city at home without fear of a hostile demonstration – then it’s time for new leadership for the United States of America.

Democrats today sound like Republicans from the past for one simple reason: both parties have shifted dramatically to the right over the last 50 years.

Indeed, since Nixon’s presidency, administrations of both parties have advocated for laws and policies that favour corporations over working people, creating the circumstances for “dark money” to shape and control American politics. They enabled huge firms and the wealthy class to escape paying their fair share of taxes, exacerbating inequality and societal tensions.

The Democrats occasionally chastised Republicans for their brutality on social welfare entitlements and public spending. Still, they always enthusiastically backed the yearly almost trillion-dollar defence appropriation, revealing their right-wing proclivities.

Democratic leaders continue to talk about “empathy” and how they “feel the pain” of average Americans. They continue to assert that they are the party of democracy and justice, the only force capable of “protecting” America from the growing authoritarianism of Trump’s far-right Republicans. However, their ongoing military and political support for Israel’s apartheid dictatorship throughout its war on Gaza, as well as their insistence on characterizing antiwar protests as a national security danger, reveal more about their goals and approach to justice and democracy than any of their remarks.

Its stance on the Gaza conflict and anti-war rallies in the United States is only one of several issues that highlight the Democratic Party’s significant shift to the right.

Consider reproductive rights. President Donald Trump’s selection of three anti-abortion Supreme Court justices may have been the immediate cause of the Dobbs decision (2022), which overturned Roe v Wade (1973). However, the failure of Democratic majorities in Congress under Presidents Carter, Clinton, and Obama to codify reproductive rights in the 1970s, 1990s, and 2000s laid the groundwork for the eventual abolition of women’s reproductive rights in this country.

The same holds for climate change mitigation. Biden previously advocated for a national climate change program prohibiting oil and fossil fuel production in more than 40% of Alaska’s National Petroleum Reserve.

However, in 2023, he approved the contentious Willow oil-drilling project in Alaska’s North Slope territory, well within the Arctic Circle. And, despite Congress’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which includes $500 billion in tax breaks to help the United States become a zero-emissions nation by 2050, the country is unlikely to accomplish its initial 2030 targets, let alone attain carbon neutrality in 26 years.

Several high-ranking Democrats, like Senator Joe Manchin, oppose the US taking any real action to alleviate the climate problem, exposing the party’s ever-expanding right-wing viewpoint.

With Democrats boldly taking views once reserved only for the most right-wing Republicans on matters ranging from foreign policy and climate change to social security and women’s rights, there is a clear need for a third, left-wing party.

The United States may be a historically right-leaning country that has steadily drifted to the right over time, but that does not mean it lacks truly left-wing views.

There has always been a left in the United States; however, it has split, and this sector is increasing and becoming louder. From the so-called “war on terror” to the Great Recession and the advent of Trumpism, the last few decades of crises have radicalized many Americans, pushing a significant proportion of them to take solidly left-wing and even far-left positions.

Please leave it to a pandemic, economic downturns, the mainstreaming of the far right, and the constant threat of mass shootings and domestic terrorism to persuade a sizable percentage that American society needs a drastic, social justice-oriented adjustment.

Suppose these left-wing Americans, who unapologetically advocate for universal healthcare, universal basic income, the abolition of prisons and police, opposition to American-backed wars, and an aggressive climate change agenda, are to form an electorally viable party. In that case, they must make some difficult decisions and significant sacrifices.

If they want to see a truly left-wing party on the ballot with a possibility of winning, they must first swallow their pride and vote to re-elect the “soft-right” Democrats in the 2018 elections. To acquire traction for a credible left-leaning third party, they require a less autocratic US than the one that would exist if Trump takes the oath of office again in 2025.

Second, they must put aside their many differences and arguments and work together for the greater good. Any movement to form a new party should bring together decidedly progressive politicians such as Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights Maya Wiley, as well as somewhat center-left Democratic Representatives Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.

Building an American alliance of various left-wing factions, ranging from Christian Democrats and Social Democrats to Democratic Socialists and Neo-Marxists, would not be easy. Left-wing infighting has long hampered the development of a viable, leftist third party in the United States.

Many radical leftists (including members of the Antifa movement) are also vehemently opposed to any political groupings that seek to take power away from Democrats and Republicans. They believe the system is too corrupt to participate in and must be abolished before anything better can be constructed.

This, however, is impossible. Even under the worst historical conditions, such as the Great Depression, most Americans stayed faithful to the two-party system despite being desperate, pro-union, and radicalized by the violence and poverty of the time.

The Green Party is the only left-wing organization with moderate success with its presidential candidates in recent years; Ralph Nader, for example, garnered over three million votes on the Green ticket in 2000. Nonetheless, he did not achieve any real power.

Today, the Democratic Socialists, which include Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and several other state-level lawmakers, are likely the left-wing movement with the best possibility of gaining traction for a leftist coalition capable of winning elections.

However, the movement’s continued affiliation with the Democratic Party, as well as its neoliberal policies such as social welfare cutbacks and economic deregulation, make it unpopular among many US lefties.

However, the hurdles ahead should not deter those who want to see a left-wing governance choice in the US. Each viable party had to begin somewhere. Following President Lyndon Johnson’s victory against Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election cycle, conservative elites such as Goldwater, William Buckley Jr., and Richard Nixon conducted intellectual soul-searching.

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The Republican Party reinvented itself by forming organizations such as the American Conservative Union (the parent organization for the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC), new Republican National Committee objectives, and perfecting the Southern Strategy. The new Republicans welcomed far-right Jim Crow segregationists who began to join the party following the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Between Nixon, the Reagan Revolution, and the Contract with America, the GOP evolved into a party of conservatives and presentable far-right fascists over three decades. Building a leftist third party from the ground up, bringing together all left and centre-left groupings, and convincing enough Americans to vote for it would take much longer.

Under the two-party system, this November, Americans will be forced to choose between allowing the US to become a right-wing semi-fascist hellhole under Trump and his MAGA Republicans or re-electing Biden and trying their luck with a smooth-talking but hypocritical and possibly equally right-wing administration. Under these conditions, creating a viable third party is essential work. The alternative is a status quo that will eventually spell the end for America’s long-struggling democracy.

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