Hampton Institute - February 20, 2020
Two nights ago in Seattle, during a rally for Sen. Bernie Sanders attended by thousands, City Councilor and Socialist Alternative leader Kshama Sawant called for an independent Third Party for the working class.
Last night on the debate stage in Nevada, every Democratic presidential candidate except Sanders refused to commit support for a plurality primary winner, escalating the possibility of a screwjob during a potentially brokered convention in Milwaukee this summer.
Bernie Sanders is likely to continue to rise in popular support and cleanly win the Democratic party nomination and then the White House in November – making this a moot point. At this time, mass popular social movements should take advantage of the momentum and continue to work with or alongside the Sanders campaign to challenge the party from the inside, exposing the sharp contradictions that come with fighting for social justice in a system that is designed to cater to capital.
However, Sawant's call for a third party this year absolutely makes sense if billionaire Michael Bloomberg buys the nomination outright or there is convention fuckery in Milwaukee that robs Sanders of the nomination.
If either of these happen, it is imperative that the movement respond in kind by winning a Sanders presidency on a third-party ballot. There is no time to wait. An independent Sanders run against two bipartisan billionaires could realistically win a plurality of the general election vote, but we don't just want an independent sitting-in as president, we also need a new party structure that grows and lives on beyond Bernie.
Independent candidates can gain ballot access in most states by submitting a few hundred petition signatures by August or September.
Small groups need to quietly begin working in the few states with earlier ballot access requirements. This doesn't have to be widely advertised or become a distraction from our main work right now, but it must become a priority if and when the Democratic party sabotages the movement by obstructing Sanders’ ascendancy.
We also need to ramp up movement organizing around the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. If Sanders is going to win the nomination cleanly, he'll need backup inside and outside the convention hall. And if he loses, there must be a powerful and immediate response on the ground. The city itself will be militarized with riot police. We will need 50,000 or more people ready to contest for space in the streets in addition to all of our delegates and observers inside.
If Bernie Sanders is not the nominee this year, the core of an independent workers (third) party must be formed from:
- Bernie Sanders and the Sanders campaign, including Squad surrogates AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Andrew Yang, and all of their followers;
- The Democratic Socialists of America;
- The umbrella network of community organizations dedicated to electoral power independent of the Democratic Party, such as National Nurses United, People's Action, and their allies;
- the groundswell of Black, Arab, Muslim, Hispanic, and Latino organizations already backing Bernie this year;
- The remnants of the Green Party and Libertarian parties.
The current momentum that has been generated by the Sanders campaign is impossible to ignore. More importantly, the corollary movement that is building alongside this momentum, which has radical characteristics that appear to be carrying folks beyond the limitations of not only the capitalist political arena and the Democratic party, but also beyond Sanders himself (a good thing), is setting a foundation that can successfully uproot capital’s grip on the public agenda.
The presidency of the United States has always served as the CEO of global capital and imperialism. Ignoring its occupant will inevitably bring us closer to a fascistic reality, something we are witnessing in real time. Getting Sanders in this office, while representing a small step in the right direction, can slow this tide. Therefore, it behooves us to keep our eyes on the prize and push to elect him state-by-state on the Democratic Party ballot - by doing electoral politics better and cleaner than everybody else.
But we have to keep our eyes open, too. We need to start anticipating the rearguard and flank attacks inevitably coming our way, instead of always reacting to them after the fact like we have been doing. If Billionaire Bloomberg wins the Democratic party nomination, or a brokered DNC convention robs Sanders of the same, we have to respond in kind. The rhetorical and practical groundwork for a third party run needs to be laid now.