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It is getting harder to find a Democrat who is not running for president. I have found a few, but they were running for Mayor of Dallas.

So many candidates, so few choices!

I guess they think 2020 will be their electable year, because anybody could beat the presumptive Republican candidate, Donald Trump. But for the rest of us, the giant list of Trump-defeaters is a source of frustration. With so many candidates in the primaries, they are going to expend a large part of the resources and energy they would need to actually win in the general election.

So why are they all running?

One would like to think that each of the candidates running for the Democratic Party presidential nomination is doing it in order to defeat Trump and restore democracy. Or at least they could be running just because they think the Democrats are better than the Republicans.

But we know that’s not really it. If it were true, they’d be looking for the strongest candidate and trying to help him or her over the finish line, not cutting each other’s throats in the primary race.

The sad truth is that nearly all candidates for public office are doing it for opportunistic reasons of their own. In other words, they are advancing their own careers no matter how many times they say they are doing it for us.

The political term “opportunism” generally means sacrificing higher principles for personal gain. It sounds so awful that one would like to think that it’s rare, or at least not customary.

Followers of Bernie Sanders in 2016 are especially angry, and rightfully so, at all the candidates coming forward with most or part of Bernie’s trailblazing 2016 program. If they’re really for Bernie’s program, why aren’t they supporting Bernie?

Opportunism exists in many forms, not just in electoral politics. When a good union representative gets promoted into management, especially into the human relations department, that’s opportunism. It happens a lot. Stool pigeons in the progressive movement are opportunists, and so are so-called progressive leaders who sell out for personal gain.

It’s like polio, AIDS, or malaria, it’s awful and it’s everywhere.

–Gene Lantz

I’m on KNON’s “Workers Beat” program 89.3FM in Dallas at 9 AM central time every Saturday. If you want to know what I really think, check out my personal web site

The exciting new organization “Brand New Congress” (BNC, click here)  just held its first meeting in my town. Its provocative electoral program may be the most innovative set of ideas in a century or more. In the 2018 primary elections, they plan to run more than 400 candidates without any regard to political party. The candidates will be people who have contributed to their communities, are good at it, and will uphold a radical progressive program similar to Bernie Sanders’ present campaign.

bnc-zac

Brand New Congress met at the Dallas CWA 6215 Hall, where Bernie has his offices

One of the most interesting twists in the projected scenario is their intention to totally disregard party affiliations. The main speaker said, ““Parties are so 19th century!” Polls are showing that a lot of Democrats and Republicans are not so crazy about their own parties. Youth has been showing its disdain for some time; I recently read that only 19% of Americans 19 to 29 years old voted in 2014!

How It Will Work

The Brand New Congress strategy would have their candidates running mostly as Independents, but, where it’s easier, as Democrats, Republicans, Greens, or anything else that’s useful! In other words, they would use political parties the same way they said Bernie Sanders used the Democratic Party — to get on the various state ballots and to obtain a wider hearing.

Turnout at our meeting was good, but not nearly as good as earlier Bernie meetings. Like the Bernie meetings, diversity was not its strongest characteristic. I’d estimate about 8% African Americans, maybe 10% Latinos, 2% Native American, and 40% women attended. Like the Bernie meetings, they were considerably younger on average than most political gatherings.

It’s worth noting that neither of the two presenters claimed that Bernie Sanders would publicly support this program.

Will It Work?

After having seen the electoral miracles accomplished by the 74 year old socialist from Vermont this year, who is prepared to say that Brand New Congress won’t be successful? Who could say that almost anything couldn’t be done by the younger people around the Bernie campaign? One of the BNC organizers maintained that Bernie had raised $240 million and moved tens of thousands of volunteers!

During the last decades, a growing number of citizens has developed a severe distaste for the status quo and a yearning for something different. Maybe these are the “people with a plan” who bring that change!

On the Other Hand

The idea of such a broadly innovative electoral campaign is breathtaking. But after I resumed regular breathing, my age and experience began to ask questions. In the immediate sense, I didn’t like all of the answers. Hope I’m wrong on every count:

  1. The strategy is purely electoral and limited to the U.S. Congress. Whenever somebody tells me that a single tactic is going to revolutionize America, I start wondering if they aren’t making a fetish of that tactic. Remember Occupy? A revolutionary program, it seems to me, would have to relate to all forms of struggle.
  1. Although one of the BNC presenters talked a lot about his views on the economy, little or no mention of the international situation was mentioned. People who think that their country is the only one that matters may be a little bit out of step with the economic situation today.
  1. Where are the working people in all this? I heard one mention of the term “working class,” but it was parenthetical and in passing. The idea that all Americans can be brought together under a single program seems idealistic to me. Only working people can confront the bosses and beat them, not a vague idea of “everybody.”
  1. Much worse, I didn’t hear any mention at all of the bosses and how they were going to relate to all this. Do people think that there’s only one side in this fight? There are two sides, and the other side isn’t just sitting around waiting to see what happens. They are really good at all forms of political fighting, especially elections. Also, they blacklist people. They arrest people. They kill people. You can’t expect success with a strategy that ignores them.
  1. How would we govern? No one would be happier than I to see somebody make gigantic fundamental change in American politics by 2018, but this electoral trick sounds more like a coup than a revolution. In a revolutionary process, people organize themselves by communities, by workplaces, and by their interests. They get better and better at meeting challenges and utilizing opportunities. Leadership develops at every level. Revolutionary struggle is a giant learning process whereby everybody learns more than how to take power, they also learn what to do with it.

Maybe my skepticism has no place as America yearns for improvement. Let’s not condemn, but encourage. Let’s do what we can!

–Gene Lantz

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The clearest lesson learned from the current election cycle is that Americans, especially young Americans, are out of patience with both halves of our electoral system.

ara-bernieWorking people have long dreamed of having a political party that consistently represents their interests. I’ve heard radicals blast union leaders because they haven’t stepped out alone to start a workers party. I’ve heard people so desperate for a workers party that they formed a pretend one.

Once, I was actually in a group that said it was a workers party. The American Workers Party was started by Tony Mazzochi of the Oil, Chemical, and Atomic Workers 20+ years ago. The United Electricians were involved. I was on the Executive Board. They had a wonderful membership card with a great quote from Eugene Victor Debs on it: “As long as there is a working class, I am in it. As long as their is a criminal class, I am of it. And as long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free!”

What they didn’t have is a snowball’s chance of actually making any difference in America. Part of the deal that brought them some funding, Mazzochi admitted at the 3rd meeting I attended, was that they would not run candidates! As soon as I heard that, I quit. Never went back. It was a pipe dream.

What Would a Workers Party Look Like?

A real workers party would have significant support from organized labor. It would have a mass base. It would have a clear program. Unlike both of the bosses’ parties today, candidates would be under discipline to carry out that worker-friendly program! It might not be revolutionary in and of itself, but it would be a step on a revolutionary path.

Do We Already Have A Workers Party in America? Maybe!

As I wrote on June 5, I expect great things from the Bernie Sanders movement. I’m not sure what Bernie intends, but I think that a significant part of his young followers will stay together. I think they will endorse and work for down-ballot candidates in 2016. I think that, by 2017, they will be picking some of their own candidates in local races. By 2020, they may well be ready to run their own presidential candidate. Americans will be more than ready for them.

I don’t know what they might call it and I don’t much care. If it keeps the program it’s fighting for today, and if it continues to add supporters as it has up to now, and if the Communications Workers, Postal Employees and other progressive unions stick to their guns, — all of which seem likely — we are going to have a workers party in America!

–Gene Lantz

The doomsayers who have been counting Bernie Sanders out of the Democratic primary race all along are doing it again. The pundits are asking, “what’s next?”

Marchers for Bernie

Marchers for Bernie

What’s Next?

There’s no “next” until Senator Sanders concedes the primary race, and he’s not conceding. But even if he did, would he go the way of previous candidates, including President Obama, who said they would keep the movement alive, but didn’t? The answer is no.

Sanders has already started picking down-ballot races to boost, even as far down the ballot as some state legislators. Some of his supporters are already working on a movement called “Brand New Congress” to carry the momentum for progress forward whether it’s in the presidential race or anywhere else.

Is Bernie Pure Enough?

Of course, there are activists who never actually supported Bernie and still don’t. He wasn’t pure enough for them. For some people, if V.I. Lenin’s stuffed body doesn’t reanimate and walk out of the Kremlin to lead them, nobody is good enough.

Those people don’t see all of politics as processes. Nothing stays the same, everything is changing. The Bernie Sanders campaign has already, and still is, moving America and the world toward real change. It’s true that he’s a social democrat and by definition not a revolutionary. It’s true that his program of electoral reform and restraining Wall Street wouldn’t, by itself, result in permanent gains. The workers will never make permanent gains as long as the bosses are in power, and Senator Sanders has only said he wants to restrain them, not dis-empower them.

But he has started and amplified a wonderful trend in American politics!

Look What’s Already Been Accomplished!

Millions of Americans have realized that the two-party system, neither half of it, is really democratic. Millions have become conscious of the amazing power that big money exerts over the electoral system. Millions have begun seeking real solutions, and I don’t mean they were sitting in their easy chairs and daydreaming about it. Millions are in movement! Millions are experimenting. Millions are working together. That’s amazing accomplishment!

What’s Next?

This movement is going to continue. The youth of America, already smarter and more capable than the rest of us, are taking this movement forward. This isn’t a flash-in-the-pan new trick like the Occupy movement. This is millions of young people joining together to seek fundamental change. They don’t even need the older Americans. They don’t even need Bernie. If they needed to, they could just outlast us older people. But they don’t need to, and they won’t.

The movement identified today with the Bernie Sanders election campaign is going to go on far beyond electoral politics, and it’s going to win!

–Gene Lantz