American leftists are stuck in a conundrum. On the one hand, our two major parties are dominated by corporate interests — including the Democrats, who are currently tasked with (and failing to) meet the challenge of opposing the openly reactionary and wealth-worshipping Republicans.
On the other, our country’s laws governing third parties are the most restrictive of any established democracy, making ballot-line challenges to the two major, corporate-dominated parties arduous, if not impossible. We seem doomed to either quixotic, ineffectual third-party challenges, or getting sucked into the conservatizing force field of the Democratic Party.
In a 2016 article, Jacobin executive editor Seth Ackerman proposed another way. He argued for creating an independent organization that functions in key ways like parties in other countries around the world, with an official membership, a binding platform, and clear mechanisms to ensure fealty to that platform from candidates and officeholders running under the organization’s banner — all things the Democratic Party currently lacks.
The issue of whether to run on the Democratic ballot line or something else, he argued, should be secondary: left candidates should run as independents when it makes sense to and Democrats when it doesn’t. But our principal concern should be creating that party-like organization — not what’s listed on a ballot line.
In the wake of successful challenges to the Democratic Party leadership by insurgent candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the explosion in membership of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Daniel Denvir of Jacobin’s The Dig podcast spoke with Ackerman about the ideas in that article and the path forward.
Read the full transcript from Jacobin here.