Independent Progressives to Challenge Democrats from the Left

Last Monday, I highlighted the burgeoning independent progressive movement at FireDogLake.  The group is more organized than I had realized.  Last December, FDL activists began a push to mount a primary challenge to President Obama in 2012 under the moniker 'New Progressive Alliance.'  From the group's first manifesto, published on December 16, 2010:
Voting took place last week here at MyFDL to choose a movement name and platform topics in the effort to mount a primary challenge to Barack Obama in 2012. The results are now tabulated, and “MyFDL” commenters chose “New Progressive Alliance” as the effort’s name, and rated the following five topics as those most important to the Progressive cause:
1) Full Employment
2) Medicare for All
3) Civil Rights/Human Rights/Civil Liberties
4) Fair Trade
5) End the Wars Now 
The organization's website went online earlier this month at, with this announcement:
What began over a year ago at FireDogLake has grown into a determined effort to add more straw to the straining back of the camel that is our sold-out, two-party system. . . .  The NPA welcomes the energies, insights, ideas, and innovations of true Progressives everywhere. It's going to take all these things to achieve our goals, but this week's vote in Canada - like the uprisings in the Mideast and our own Midwest - shows that the Left will not accede to the plutocracy seeking to finally and forever consolidate its control over working men and women. Thanks for stopping by, and please, share with your friends, neighbors, and family.
The group's political independence is clearly apparent in its strategy, which does not shy away from declaring the necessity of third party and independent political advocacy:
This effort has two main objectives:
(1) To supercharge the founding and growth of a viable third party representing the American Left; and/or
(2) To return the Democratic Party to its historically underpinning ideologies of unremitting support for the working class, dogged regulation of commerce, reluctance to enter into armed conflict abroad, conservation of our environment; and equal opportunity for all . . . 
Consider the degree to which third parties have been successful up ’til now, and why. The answers to these questions are “not very” and “bad strategy,” respectively. Most efforts have followed the same flawed plan:

(1) Build a movement
(2) Name a candidate
(3) Get trounced
This effort turns that approach on its head, to wit:

(1) Network with other progressives – common people – to identify and rank potential candidates with proven, uncompromising records of activism strongly espousing progressive thought.
(2) Write the platform.

(3) Approach the desired candidates, one at a time, first choice first, second choice second, etc., until one agrees to run. 
[The NPA] seeks to recruit warriors, already hard at work fighting for progressive values, to the national stage in order to bring a progressive party to national prominence. We will do this by explaining the following rationale to each prospective candidate:

Because the Democrats, the defacto “Left” party in this country, have lost their way, we seek to run a TRUE Lefty for the party’s presidential nomination. We believe the Democratic Party needs either to be killed or wholesale inundated by a new party – rendering it, in its current form, obsolete.

Other third-party efforts have failed because they ignore the realities of the electoral system in this country, specifically, that if you are not initially competing head-to-head within one of the two major parties, you WILL be ignored. Even those who have done so and then ran in the election as Independents suffered from the lack of a party identity.

We therefore aim to give the Left that identity – a real, uncompromising voice – by challenging the spineless, utterly captive Democratic Party. Our effort may result in one or both of the above goals, and you’ll notice that getting elected is not one of them at the moment. We will use the electoral process in building a movement; a coalition of all the Lefty parties now at work in this country: Greens, Working Families, Socialists, etc. In short, a 'new progressive alliance.
The group has apparently already begun its search for a presidential candidate – where else? – on Craigs List NYC, via Pushing Rope. The ad reads in part:
for an NPA candidate who is fully on board with the program, committing political suicide as a Democrat is not only of no concern, but in a sense welcome. That’s because it is anticipated that any NPA approved Democrat primary candidate must, if they fail to win the Democratic Party’s nomination (as everybody expects will be the case), turn around and give their endorsement to an NPA approved progressive Presidential candidate, running under a third party, such as the Green Party, or as an independent.
The NPA's steering committee has a number of well known third party and independent-leaning political activists, including Richard Winger, Cindy Sheehan, Jill Stein, Alan Maki and Cornel West.  Perhaps this partly explains why West has been under attack from the dead-enders of the Democratic party in recent weeks.


Samuel Wilson said...

It all looks very admirable but they seem to be succumbing early to irrational optimism about 2012 being "within reach" based on mostly international precedents. It's more likely that these progressives will be obliged to act paradoxically. Driven by impatience with the Democrats, they'll have to counsel patience during a long-term building process. Presumably more hostile toward the GOP agenda than Democrats, they must de-demonize the Republicans in order to take the weapon of fear out of Democratic hands. They must concede that their interventions will result in Republican victories, but must explain why those will be Democrats' fault. I'd like to see the New Progressives address these necessities before I judge their prospects in the long or short term.

d.eris said...

One domestic development that would seem to be in their favor was the recent announcement by Trumka from the AFL-CIO that the labor organization would, in effect, declare its independence from the Democratic party.

Though, obviously, no one should hold their breath in this regard. Trumka's name is also on the group's short list of potential candidates they would like to see challenge Obama, if I remember correctly.

If they were to run/endorse/support candidates for local/state/federal offices primarily in races where an incumbent Democrat or Republican is running unopposed (and there's no lack of them across the country!) they might be well-positioned to facilitate a strong campaign, and to avoid the bipolar strategic and tactical pitfalls you bring up.

TiradeFaction said...

Essentially Wilson hit the nail on the head, progressive's need to learn to be able to cope with losing elections in the short term so they can gain progress in the long term. A critical stumbling block to this is the fact they view the GOP as Satan incarnate, which needs to be addressed. Though frankly, I'm not sure how we can, any ideas?

Solomon Kleinsmith said...

It's amusing that they liken themselves to the uprisings in the Islamic world... they have next to nothing in common with them, besides the populism.

Unless they merge with some bigger groups, like hard core union types, they just don't have the numbers to ever get beyond something nearing the size of the Green Party - ala totally insignificant.

But if they organize and get people riled up, ala the Tea Party, they could be a force that pushes the dems farther to the left. I expected this, but thought it would come from labor, not these folks.

Solomon Kleinsmith
Rise of the Center