Endgame 2016, pt. 2: Do you want power, or not?

Hillary Clinton is going to be the 2016 Democratic nominee. Bernie has endorsed her, which puts an undeniable end to his campaign, despite the hopes of those who wanted to see him fight all the way to the convention. It’s not the result I would have hoped for, but I’m done grieving. He won nearly half the vote, for chrissakes. That’s not insignificant — and it shouldn’t be allowed to become insignificant, either. Even if some of y’all are doing your damnedest to make sure it does.

I’m not going to tell you what you should do next. My own personal viewpoint is that whoever gets the win in November is going to be making SCOTUS nominations, which is not to be taken lightly. I’ve been seeing some fairly strident arguments, at least on Facebook, that Trump would be kept in check by either Congress or the Constitution; if Trump wins, however, he’s going to get to stack the Supreme Court in his favor. He’s already name-dropped one potential nominee, a guy who would have jailed LGBT people for having sex in their own homes. Do you still feel like taking that bet, especially after the “payoff” we got from Dubya? I sure as hell don’t.

I’ve seen an awful lot of people say they’re going to go third party, a lot of them for Jill Stein of the Green Party. “I’m voting my conscience,” they say. Increasingly, I’m finding that to be a fairly disingenuous stance. Why? Because while I see a whole lot of people “voting their conscience,” I don’t see a helluva lot of people doing the shitwork it takes to build a third party into something that would actually be competitive: getting down-ticket people elected (or even local-ticket folks), and so on. I would enjoy being proved wrong, but for the most part, what I see in the Green Party looks more like a mere feel-good option, not unlike buying a Rage Against the Machine CD: it allows one to feel revolutionary without actually getting one’s hands dirty with the work of a real revolution.

It seems to me that the most useful thing progressives can do is to leverage the political capital they have, in fact, accrued with the Bernie campaign — he won close to half the vote, for chrissakes — into a bigger place at the table for progressives within the Democratic Party. Something which can be built on, even expanded, in 2018. Because this fight doesn’t end in 2016, or even at the presidential level: those down-ticket Senate and House elections may be even more important, at least in determining what kind of Congress the next President is going to have to work with.

What I’m talking about is taking back the Democratic Party for progressives — one hates to compare the effort to the Tea Party, but there’s no denying how successful they were at taking over the Republican Party, and in a short time, to boot. As I’ve written before: taking back the Democratic Party from the neoliberal corporatists that now hold sway is not an easy task to take on — but it’s a damn sight easier than trying to build a third party capable of challenging it, especially if the goal is to amend the current system in favor of one which makes third parties viable entities. (Which, by the way, may not be the saving-throw third parties might hope for: if they’re polling at anything less than 20%, are they really any less marginalized, even in a multi-party system?)

I’m not going to pretend that Hillary Clinton is, say, Elizabeth Warren (though the hints that Warren could be her VP are, to say the least, tantalizing) — but under the conditions of 2016, a Clinton presidency could, if played right, be a stepping-stone for progressives toward actual power — in the Party, and in the government. Which, however much one might agree with her, one cannot say of Jill Stein. That may be unpleasant to realize, but it’s the political reality of the situation.

The Bernie campaign was always described as a revolution; at this point, the question remains: does the revolution stop here, with different factions going off in different directions (as is so often the case), squandering the potential gains they’ve won? Hillary has, at least in one speech, started opposing the TPP, even if her operatives have kept that position from becoming a plank in the party platform. This is not insignificant, even if it is inconsistent. That said: The neoliberal establishment should not be allowed to continue sneering at the progressive base as insignificant — Bernie got nearly half the vote, for chrissakes. But what comes next is going to depend on whether or not progressives are willing to fight to reclaim the soul of the Democratic Party, or if they’re going to dissipate their energies chasing third-party unicorns.

Because that’s what it really boils down to: do progressives really want power, or not? It’s yours for the taking, people. You only have to be willing to exercise it….