Popular wisdom says 2016 has been a pretty bad year for the left in the UK and US so far. In the UK, we have embraced the ghost of Maggie Thatcher after the Parliamentary Labour Party decided that their wildly popular leader isn’t the man to lead them into an election (which may be true). In the US, Bernie Sanders has come to the end of his Presidential campaign, and called on his supporters to back Hillary Clinton as she takes on Donald Trump for the White House.
I volunteered for the Bernie campaign for months, gave near the max-out amount, and helped thousands of people register. I’m sorry that Bernie didn’t win the nomination — not as sorry as the man himself, of course. And I don’t like Hillary Clinton much, nor am I a true-blue party line Democrat.
But that doesn’t mean I’m Bernie or Bust. Our collective efforts in the Bernie campaign have delivered the most progressive Democratic platform since the New Deal. If we haven’t moved Hillary left, we have done with the Democratic Party itself. And continued pressure on the Party is the only way to continue a progressive agenda.
Bernie’s entire campaign underpins a core truth: you can only achieve real change through the two main US parties. While I might personally like Jill Stein, and have a long history of supporting Left Coast Liberals including Green Matt Gonzalez, the real work, building a party with a national impact, is beyond any of the outlier parties today.
If you want to make the Green Party into a real force in US politics, start organising at the local level, and spread organically. You can run for President all you like, but without a professional national network, you’re not going to get anywhere. And you shouldn’t, because you haven’t committed to do the hard work of politics.
It’s likewise unglamourous, and decidedly difficult to beat your head into the wall of the Democratic Party, but it’s light-years ahead of any third party in the US, and is one of the few organisations which thinks about expats at all. And that’s where I will concentrate my efforts, however insignificant.
Come with me. Let’s take the Democratic Party, which looks more like a group I’d like to be a member of today than it has in my lifetime, and make it into something we can call our Party. This is not the end of our journey — it’s just the start.