The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Wanted: A Progressive Party

Not much posting going on here. Due to the snow, everything’s pretty much closed here. So I’m at home with Parker, splitting my time between keeping him entertained and trying to get some work done. But last night I came across this post on Tavis Smiley’s State of the Black Union conference, over at Mirror On America, and one part in particular resonated with me in light of the events of the past week and previous events.

I do think that the effort by Tavis Smiley and others (called ‘the Covenant’) leaves out one major thing. It spends a lot of time begging the two political Parties to listen to the concerns listed in the Covenant Statement, but there is no effort (not even the idea) to create new alternative Political Parties…Independent Progressive Political Parties to challenge the Republicans and the Democrats. As long as Black voters…(or ANY group) continue to operate in the small-minded world of the existing 2 Party system, not much will change for Black Americans.

In the past year, and particularly this week it’s occurred to me that we do not have a progressive political party in America; and as the two parties we currently have become more like one another, we desperately need one

What do I mean by a progressive party? Certainly one that stands for economic justice and social justice. What we have right now in the Democratic party is a leadership that’s only willing to go half the way, and work on issues like poverty and war, but stops short on social issues in the interest of not offending voters who are either unconcerned with or even opposed to progress on those issues. From a party chair sitting down with Pat Robertson to netroots activists believing they need to support candidates who aren’t progressive on some issues in order to win elections, to a party now distancing itself from the principle of church/state separation, we’re inching closer to what I predicted we’d get a while back.

And then I remembered something I hear a certain A-list blogger (who honestly seems to care about these issues, and keeps asking how Dems should talk about them) say a while back: just getting Democrats elected is not sufficient. Certainly not if they’re going to put their constituents and the convictions in the closet in order to win. A party that believes it has to put its own values on the back burner in order to win must not believe that it can and should win based on its values. It becomes something else entirely, and will find it hard to go back if the trick should work.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. The ultimate victory of the “Republican Revolution” may very well end up being a more conservative Democratic party.

And what of those progressive who care about and are working on issues like war and economic justice, but who are also passionate about social issues? What do we do with a party that seems to want less to do with those issues?

The problem is that we’re stuck in a party that’s not so much progressive as it is “progressive-to-a-point,” stopping short of some progressive values in pursuit of voters who do the same. I can think of three off the top of my head. To my mind, in addition to other issues, a progressive party would also stand up for:

  • reproductive choice
  • equality
  • separation of church and state

Right now, it looks like Democrats don’t have the stomach to stand up for any of the above. They didn’t have the stomach, after all, to stand up to someone like Bill Donohue or Michelle Malkin.

Because they can’t. Or at least they think they can’t.


  1. You might be interested to check out the VT Progressive Party. We have been electing people to the VT Legislature since 1990. We’ve held the mayor’s office and much of the city council in Burlington, VT since 1981. Of the 7,000 plus legislators around the country there are 7 elected with a third party label. The Vermont Progressives have 6 of these. We’re tiny but we’re pushing hard and are light years ahead of other similar efforts around the country. Take a look:

  2. I am sorry to point it out, but a third party expousing liberal values, at least nationwide, would lead to Republican dominance for YEARS by splitting progressive voters in two. Just look at Nader in 2000.

    I think the solution is organizing to take back our Democratic party. Many progressives today work within the Democratic party to change it from the inside.

    I think it is working. In Maryland for example, Equality Maryland has been fighting tooth and nail for Equal Marriage rights, and they are winning.

    While you may see the Democratic party as becoming more conservative, I see it the other way around. We are becoming more progressive every day.

    Democratic Presidential candidates are presenting realistic universal healthcare proposals, advocating strongly against the war, and taking up the concerns of working Americans.

    Yes, there is still a lot of work to do to make our Democratic party work for the people again. However, we have a better chance with them than we do starting a third party. I know that many people disagree on this point, but I would once again refer them to 2000, and how Ralph Nader delivered the presidency to Bush. You could say the same about Perot getting Bill Clinton elected over the first Bush.