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Taking Your Ball And Going Home Preemptively Is Not Really a Strategy

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Salon‘s EDITOR’S PICK today is yet another random guy who wishes to confirm that he understands politics much less well than Bernie Sanders:

The idea that Bernie Sanders might mount a third-party or independent run has little basis in reality. Sanders himself has said as much. He’d have to fight a legal battle to gain access to the ballot in “sore loser” states or others that throw up barriers to third-party runs. And seeing how the Naderification of Sanders has already begun, it’s hard to see what benefit there is to Sanders to split the Democratic vote and help elect Donald Trump.

He’s actually right about two things, rare for this kind of thing. First, he’s right that Sanders considers throwing elections to Republicans to be really dumb. And second, he’s right that it’s really dumb to compare Sanders to Nader, for exactly this reason.

Alas, things get much worse from there.

There’s a salient point, however, that the Sanders campaign could foreshadow a party that flanks the Democrats on the left. And if there were ever time to lay the groundwork for a real labor party in the United States, it would be now.

“If there was ever a time for third party wankery in the United States, it’s when a self-labelled socialist has run a competitive race for the Democratic nomination, and lost to someone who will be running on what is probably the most progressive Democratic Party platform since 1972.” We’ve been through this recently so I won’t repeat the arguments, but wow.

The Sanders coalition, despite statements to the contrary, is not dominated by white men. Rather, according to the Reuters Polling Explorer, it revolves around a high level of support among 18- to 29-year-olds that translates across racial and gender lines. As the respondents get older (and more wealthy), his support wanes across all of these groups.

This argument isn’t right; race and gender, as well as age, are strong predictors of the vote in the Democratic primary. But it’s beside the point, anyway. If Sanders’s success in the primaries portends a new majority coalition, that coalition can just capture the Democratic nomination. If it isn’t, it can’t magically become a majority coalition by forming a third party.

The party has to see this, which may be one reason why on Monday, they gave Sanders so much control over the party platform. If they’re able to adapt to the change at least better than the Republicans adapted to the Tea Party, maybe they’ll be able to keep the coalition together and happy enough not to depose its leaders. The bulk of Sanders’ supporters could see it this way as well, that the Democratic Party is worth saving and shaping into something more palatable to the left.

This is, again, pretty much correct. I appreciate how much self-refutation was left in the piece; saves me a lot of trouble.

This wouldn’t be easy, of course, but neither is changing a party from within that, in its modern era, has only really made substantial progress on issues like LGBT rights, and is only recently starting to show signs of life on welfare and criminal justice reform. And given how the party rolled back progress made in the New Deal and Great Society to become more viable in the post-Reagan years, there’s no guarantee even a relatively modest trend of progress will continue.

Again, we should blow up the Democratic Party now more than ever…because it’s moving to the left? It is true that we cannot guarantee to an absolute certainty that the party will keep moving in this direction. But do you know what would stop this? A significant party of the left of the party leaving to indulge in counterproductive third party wankery!

Take the Democratic primary for Florida’s 23rd District seat, for an example of the disconnect between the two wings of the Democratic Party.

DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, aside from being a controversial figure in the primary, has also been a reliable Third Way Democrat. Wasserman-Schultz represents one of the safest seats in one of the most liberal districts in the country, even as she has made a number of questionable votes disagreeable to progressives.

Again, this is correct. DWS — a fairly conservative Democrat in a +11 D district, and unusually influential for a House member — is exactly the kind of Democrat who should be subject to a primary challenge from the left. And she’s facing a credible challenger, who Sanders has endorsed, showing the value of his campaign within the party. The lesson?

She’s being primaried by Tim Canova, a law professor who was, on Tuesday, endorsed by Sanders, and like some of the other candidates Sanders has endorsed, has far more in common politically with the Sanders coalition than the Clinton wing. In a more welcoming scenario to the challenger, Canova would face Wasserman-Schultz in the general, where turnout is guaranteed to be higher. If Canova won the seat, he’d caucus with the Democrats (like Sanders has in the Senate) while the party or coalition he represents builds itself up.

Before we even see if Canova can succeed, we should instead talk about him winning as a third party candidate! Even though this is far less likely to succeed! What the hell?

Again, the Republicans are the obvious model here. Not every primary challenge mounted by movement conservatives succeeds. But they don’t walk away from the field after they lose one, let alone preemptively doing to. Hopefully Canova wins this time. If not, try again in two years. It’s not complicated.

This is a rare moment in American history where the opportunity presents itself for a party on the left. For Sanders, who has spent his whole life railing against the two-party system we have, lighting the fire would be a fantastic legacy for his campaign.

If by “fantastic” you mean “transform it from positive to highly negative,” yes. Either such a party would have a negligible impact, or its impact would be to hand national elections to Republicans. There is no third option. Again, to his credit, Sanders understands this stuff a lot better than you do. You should listen to him.

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