How to Create a United Left?

There’s been a tendency among left-wing pundits and internet shouters to claim that the election’s outcome demonstrates that whatever we previously believed to be true is, in fact, true, and that you are wrong. The crowning example was an NYT Op-ed against “identity politics,” but it’s happening constantly. Bernie vs Hillary still rages through my twitter feed with an intensity not seen since May.

I am guilty of this. Bernie says something (“I’ll work with Trump,” “I’m not joining the Democratic Party,” “We need diversity BUT also working class.” I start yelling about it or sighing about it (I have liked Sanders for a long time. I still like Sanders) and then Berners jump into my mentions and yell at me and I yell back and then we block mute and the Left remains divided.

So here we are.

I don’t know how to defeat Trump, Trumpism, and the particularly savage version of American conservatism that has taken hold. I know, though, that we need to articulate visions that are inclusive of multiple styles of liberal thinking, that recognizes historic and contemporary inequalities of all sorts under a rubric of joined struggle for a better America. I honestly thought Clinton’s “stronger together” motto and policies did a good job of that, but clearly not quite enough of white America agreed.

Still, her massive win in the popular vote ought to push back at the “failed candidate” narrative, even as we should all agree her campaign put energy into the wrong places (AZ rather than Rust Belt). They believed their data. They campaigned based on their data. The data was wrong.

What’s next?

When I was just leaving Minnesota, a young black man named Keith Ellison won the Democratic primary in one of the most liberal districts in America. I didn’t live in the district, so I just observed, but I was impressed at the way he rallied diverse elements of the community around him. He was a Muslim and he rode the 2006 wave to Congress. Now he wants to run the DNC. I support his candidacy, as I believe the DNC should be led from the Left, not the middle. He is, of course, being attacked for being too Muslim.

Here’s what he has to say, via an interview with ThinkProgress (READ THE WHOLE THING! ITS GOOD!)

1 – On Labor, where the Democrats have grown weak:

I also think [the DNC] is perceived as too top-down. We do a good job at fundraising from labor and having them go knock on doors, but they’re not at the table enough. The party needs to have the labor voice featured at the table much more prominently. They could help us form the message and deliver the message. They don’t feel as included as they should be.

2 – On fighting the GOP without the belief that there are norms:

There is one other basic fact that Democrats have to come to grips with: that character assassination is item number one in the Republican playbook. Whether they’re saying Obama’s a Kenyan or making a big hairy deal about Hillary Clinton and Benghazi, these are not sincere allegations. Their purpose is to make sure that instead of talking about your plan, you’re defending yourself from these falsehoods.

 3 – On identity and class. He rejects the choice:

Well, the party needs to be very clear that we have to stand for a strong, populist economic message and we have to care for everybody’s rights and uphold everyone’s human dignity. If we try to trade one for the other, we’re going to lose both.
The way the working class is always controlled is that it’s divided. When you don’t stand together in solidarity, the other side starts picking off groups, and they end up hurting everybody.

Will it work? I don’t know, but Ellison is a new perspective. He’s not going to be a national candidate for office, but that’s not the job of the DNC head. The job of the DNC is to build, rebuild, expand the party from the grassroots up. The current leadership failed. I’m eager to see Ellison given this chance, as he seems to get what the work entails.

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