A New Left?

By John Samuel Tieman

I asked a buddy, a fellow social science teacher, his opinion about joining a third party. “Is there a reason for joining any party?” I’m not quite that skeptical, but I get it. I generally vote Democrat, but, were I a card carrying member, I’d resign.

Folks call Barrack Obama “a socialist.” I want to hand such folks a dictionary. The president isn’t a socialist. He isn’t even a liberal. That’s the problem.

We no longer have a liberal party and a conservative party. We have a conservative party, a more conservative party, and a far right. Which leaves leftists where? It leaves most of us unrepresented.

I’m a leftist. I am also an historian. I don’t have great hope for a third party. I also don’t have great hope for the Democrats to incorporate the views of the left. The recent election of Pope Francis makes us painfully aware of just how long it has been since America had a leader who speaks for the poor. Which brings me back to the need for a leftist party.

What would a truly leftist party look like? I think the platform of such a party would have, as its ideological basis, something like this:

A mixed economy, one that consists of private enterprise and publicly owned or subsidized programs for universal health care, child care, elder care, veterans’ benefits, and education;

An extensive system of social security that counteracts poverty, and insures the citizens against destitution due to unemployment, retirement, injury or illness;

A government that supports trade unions, consumer protections, and that regulates private enterprise by ensuring labor rights and fair market competition;

The unequivocal and unwavering support of a woman’s right to choose;

Environmentalism and environmental protection laws, funding for alternative energy resources, and laws designed to immediately combat global warming;

The elimination of the death penalty;

A value-added tax and a progressive tax to fund many government expenditures;

Fair trade, not free trade;

Strict gun control;

Policies that value immigration and honor multiculturalism;

The rejection of predatory plutocracy;

A foreign policy that supports the promotion of democracy, the protection of human rights, and, whenever and wherever practical, effective multilateralism;

Campaign reform which promotes public financing, and restricts private donations;

The advocacy of social justice, civil rights and civil liberties.

These leftist views promote initiatives that range from the progressive to the center left to the democratic socialist. And, yes, democratic socialist. The Cold War is over. Joseph McCarthy is disgraced and, for that matter, dead. Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair was George Bush’s best-est buddy. There is nothing radical about the British Labour Party. Nor is there is anything radical about the now pulseless progressive wing of the Democratic Party or, lest we forget, progressive Republicans from Teddy Roosevelt to Lowell Weicker.

Is the formation of such a party possible? I don’t feel any urgency on the part of the electorate or the elected. What is clear is that, with the exception of a Senator Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.) here and there, there is almost a vacuum on the left. A democracy is predicated upon a dialogue, a dialectic if you will, between opposing forces that form opposite and competing poles of loyal opposition. We don’t have that. In this country, we have the right wing. That’s it. There’s no left wing. There is no loyal opposition. There is no dialogue left and right.

There is much debate about the future of the Republican Party. As well there should be. I think, however, that there should be a shift in this debate. Often, reform within a party originates in criticism from the outside. But, to shift the focus slightly, there is no serious ideological debate left versus right. The anxieties of Jack Danforth and David Brooks notwithstanding, to the extent that there is a debate among Republicans, the debate tends to be concerned with electoral method. How does a moderate Republican keep from getting “primaried” by the Tea Party? Democrats offer no ideological challenge to Republicans.

For that matter, the Democrats offer no serious challenge to Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street called for a rethinking of how we do business. For all the scandal of the 2008 financial meltdown, not one C. E. O. has been jailed. But we don’t just need a new way of doing business.

We need a new way of doing democracy.


 

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