by Leo Casey
1) How should the left approach the 2020 elections? Here are my thoughts. The paramount objective must be the defeat of Trump & the retaking of the Senate from GOP. This is the ‘prize’ on which we must keep our eyes.
2) If we do not win this ‘prize,’ the elections will be catastrophic for American democracy, those targeted by Trump’s authoritarian populism & the left. But much of the discussion on left twitter and facebook takes place within a political vacuum, as if context was irrelevant.
3) There will be a vigorous campaign over which presidential candidate would be the best standard bearer in that all important battle. But the very breadth of the current field means that there are many authentic progressives who are credible prospects.
4) Rather than rush to anoint a particular candidate as the one and only prospect, it makes much more sense for the left, at this early point in the campaign for an election two years down the road, to be focused on promoting issues that it wants the Democratic Party and whomever is the candidate to embrace.
5) Alexandra Ocasio Cortez’s ability to put the #GreenNewDeal on the agenda before she was even sworn in illustrates what the democratic left can – and should be – doing to advance an agenda that will address critical issues such as climate change and economic inequality & set the stage for 2020.
6) By contrast, the rush to focus on a particular candidate plays into narrow conception of elections, focused on personalities to the exclusion of program. And insofar as it takes the form of insisting that the personality can only be a self-avowed democratic socialist, it becomes an exercise in sectarian purity.
7) Nothing would be more damaging to the development of democratic socialism as a political force that can seriously contest for political power in the US than the loss of 2020 elections, with the sense that democratic socialists harmed Trump’s opponent and sat on the sidelines in a critical struggle.
8) Insofar as some on the left feel that it is absolutely essential to weigh in behind a particular candidate, it is critical that this intervention take a positive form, providing reasons to support their preferred choice, and not a negative campaign against others.
9) Negative campaigns against progressive candidates are worse than a zero sum game: they damage both the target and the intended beneficiary. If a candidate wins by such means, it becomes all that more difficult to unify the supporters of others for the critical general election.
10) The consequence of negative campaigns among progressives, based on dubious logic that they are competing for same votes, is that pro-business ‘moderates’ would be advantaged in campaign to win the nomination.
11) Attacks on Elizabeth Warren in the name of support for Bernie Sanders, such as that conducted by Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara, are illustrative of precisely what those of the left should NOT be doing. Such tactics will hurt both Warren and Sanders, to the benefit of those to their right.
12) Above all else, a left approach to the 2020 elections must never lose sight of the ‘prize’: the defeat of Trump, the GOP and the racist, authoritarian populism they have brought into the mainstream of American politics.
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.