By Asher Platts
February 24, 2016
Asher Platts, a Green Party candidate for state Senate in Maine in 2012 and 2014, provides this response to the call for Greens to participate in the Democratic primaries in support of Bernie Sanders–and makes the case for what the left should be doing instead.
MANY PEOPLE are calling for Green Party members to abandon our posts within our party in order to caucus or vote for Bernie Sanders in the upcoming Democratic Party primary contests. To do so would be incredibly irresponsible.
Sanders is just the latest in a long line of principled crusaders who have taken on the undemocratic Democratic Party in an attempt to win serious progressive reforms–and whose campaigns have been fought tooth and nail by the very party they run within.
The Democratic Party has no desire to implement anything in Sanders’ platform, which is why its leaders have repeatedly attacked the Sanders campaign: by denying him access to his own NGPVAN database, by limiting the number of his debates, by opening the floodgates of corporate money to their own party to better support Hillary, and more. And there will be much more to come.
Why is this the case? The root of problem is that the Democratic Party is just as dependent on Wall Street funding as the Republican Party is. They are both capitalist parties–one is rude and blatant about it (the GOP), and the other is slightly less enthusiastic about it (I’ll let you guess which one). But the end result is the same: a government that is completely bought by the 1 Percent.
In this arrangement, the role of the Democratic Party is to promise us progressive reforms during the election cycle, and then, after getting into positions to implement those reforms, explain to the masses why these reforms will never be implemented on their watch.
This just happened recently regarding single-payer health care. The Democrats don’t want single-payer health care, as Sanders does, because they–like the Republicans–take money from the insurance industry. The ACA is a bailout to that industry, forcing us to buy a financial product that doesn’t actually help us get the care we need. The ACA leaves upwards of 30 million Americans unable to afford insurance, and millions more forced to buy inadequate “catastrophic coverage” plans. With a deductible of $4,000 to $5,000 coming out of pocket, the coverage of these plans truly is that–catastrophic.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, with the backing of Democratic Party leaders like Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, took to the bully pulpit to decry Sanders, saying that single-payer will “never happen.” That is, however, largely thanks to the Democratic Party itself.
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HERE IN Maine, not so long ago, the Democratic Party, while controlling both chambers and the governor’s seat, torpedoed efforts by citizens to achieve single-payer health care. What they gave us in its place was a privately administrated plan, which used public dollars to line the pockets of a politically connected private insurer.
At the national level, during the ACA hearings, then-Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus of Montana called for security to arrest my friend, Dr. Margaret Flowers, a soft-spoken pediatrician who was attending a committee hearing on the health care legislation to speak in support of single payer. She instead was arrested and escorted out while legislators from both the Republican and Democratic Parties laughed at her attempt to provide information about why single-payer was the least expensive, best-health-outcome system we could implement.
Dr. Flowers had a rude awakening that day. The Democratic Party is not on our side, it’s on the side of the giant corporations that donate to their campaigns. Dr. Flowers is now running for U.S. Senate in her home state of Maryland – but instead of making the mistake that Sanders is making, running in the primary of a capitalist party, she instead is running on the Green Party ticket, where she can be as progressive and principled as she needs to be–something the Greens actually encourage.
The Democratic Party’s betrayals of working-class people are extensive. But for this article’s sake, I will simply suggest readers purchase the book The Democrats: A Critical History by Lance Selfa.
It isn’t even a distant memory yet that the Maine Democrats recently failed to open impeachment investigations against Gov. Paul LePage–not because they don’t have a majority in the state House (they do), but because nearly half of the house Democrats voted against it, in a move that showed political cowardice, and has only emboldened LePage to act out even more recklessly.
So back to the Sanders campaign. Because the Democratic Party is so deeply entrenched in the corporate control of our government, his campaign looks to be an insurgent one. Great.
But the inner workings of the Democratic Party are not democratic. People will be voting on March 6 to send delegates to the Maine Democratic Convention, who will then elect Democratic Party bosses to do the voting for you on the DNC floor. Your votes in the caucus are really more like suggestions.
Making matters worse is the Democratic Party system of “superdelegates” who are appointed by the DNC, not elected by its membership, and make up a full one-sixth of the vote on the floor of the convention–enough to sway the convention to the favorite of the party bosses in a tight race.
Why would the “party of the people” have such a bulwark against any real democracy? It was created to prevent a grassroots insurgent like Bernie Sanders.
Even without this spitefully placed obstacle course that the DNC is dropping in front of the Sanders campaign to slow his advance, there are a number of bureaucratic procedures during the nominating convention–all “legal” and “part of the rules”–that could be used to deny Sanders the number of delegates needed to win.
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SO WHAT should a progressive do if they agree we need the kind of serious reforms that Sanders is talking about?
When the Democratic National Committee punts the insurgent forces of the Sanders campaign this summer, unless there is a Green Party nominee for president on the ballot, Bernie’s insurgents will have no place to go to support a candidate for president who shares Bernie’s progressive domestic agenda–unless they join the Green Party.
Which brings me back to Bob O’Connell’s suggestion that Greens should join the ranks of the Democratic Party. I would argue that the Democratic Party is not our battleground, or at least it isn’t one on which we can win.
The real battleground is in the workplace, in your union, in the streets and at the ballot box–not in the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is committed to standing in the way, between us and political revolution. If we are serious as political revolutionaries, we must stay focused on building a politically independent vehicle of our own.
For me, that vehicle is the Green Party. Right now, the Maine Greens are in the middle of maintaining our ballot status in Maine by holding caucuses in all 16 counties, and turning out a certain number of our registered voters for elections, as all three political parties must do, by state law. This is work that must be done by registered Green Party members.
We also have candidates of our own for state Senate and state House who need to gather signatures to get on the ballot so we can bring the fight against the entrenched corruption of the two capitalist parties to the ballot box, not just at the presidential level, but at the state legislative level as well.
Abandoning our post in the Green Party to vote in the Democratic Party caucus for a candidate whom the DNC is actively fighting to prevent is incredibly irresponsible for a Green.
First, state law would then prohibit that Green from being able to hold a caucus for the Green Party’s presidential nominee. Second, it would also prohibit them from signing for Green Party candidates who need signatures from other registered Greens to be on the ballot this November to challenge the corporate duopoly at the state level.
In order to keep the political revolution that Sanders calls for moving past the Democratic convention this summer, we need to be doing the work now to ensure that it will have a place to land.
If you live in Maine, join the Green Party and caucus for one of our five candidates presently seeking the nomination of our party. Sign ballot access petitions for our state legislative candidates. Keep the revolution going past July 28, through this November and for years beyond, by doing the work to build the Green Party now. It’s in your hands.
For more information about the Maine Green Independent Party caucuses, please go to MaineGreens.org.