Shortly after the election, I wrote an article saying that far from embracing progressives, the Democratic Party would rebuff them. Far from resisting Trump, the party would facilitate him. The article was the case and blueprint for a new progressive party founded by Bernie Sanders.
From that day on, people have approached me without pause asking how they can make it a reality. A growing number of us watched as the Democrats shut progressives out and collaborated with the Republicans. Activists, academics, artists, delegates, volunteers, and former Sanders staff came together around the idea. We waited for someone to call Sanders to a new movement-party. Till one day, we realized that it was up to us, and Draft Bernie for a People’s Party was born.
Over the next few weeks, we will be making the case for starting fresh. We hope you will engage in the conversation, and should you be persuaded, we hope you will join us.
Since the presidential election, there has been a remarkable exodus from the Democratic Party. More than 14 million people have left and become independents. That represents a loss of nearly 20 percent of the party’s following from early November. The number of Democrats has fallen to a historic low. So low that Republicans now outnumber Democrats in a progressive country.
Despite Bernie Sanders’ monumental endeavor to bring people into the Democratic Party, people are leaving it by the millions. The collective efforts to reform the party cannot stem the tide of people who are going independent, let alone expand the Democratic base.
At a time when Americans are leaving the establishment parties in record numbers, progressives shouldn’t be swimming against the populist current in a fruitless attempt to save the corporate party that created this mess.
The people are leading the way to an independent alternative. What if instead of struggling against the current, we swam with them?
History offers a successful model for building a new party in America. A popular politician builds a large following in the establishment parties by representing a neglected majority. Then he breaks from the old regime to form a populist party. This is how the Republican and Democratic Parties were created.
“If Sanders starts a new party, we would begin with a least half of the Democratic base.”
If Sanders starts a new party, we would begin with a least half of the Democratic base. Then we would add independents, anti-establishment voters, the white working class, young voters, third party supporters, people who’ve given up on the political process, and many conservatives who just want a decent life. Now we’ve got something far larger than the Democratic and Republican parties.
We spend the next four years laying the foundation for ultimate progressive victory instead of just opposing Trump. The people’s party galvanizes the strongest sustained resistance. It gives us a revolutionary home where we can build the political power necessary to win in two and four years. The Sanders campaign taught us that it isn’t enough to frighten people into sustained action, you must also give them a bold vision to believe in and strive for.
There have been many attempts to reform the Democratic Party over the past few decades. Progressive movements millions-strong were unable to change the direction of the party or the country at a time when it was less entrenched and money in politics was less pervasive.
We know where that path leads. Even the most progressive candidates for DNC chair do not oppose large campaign contributions to party politicians from billionaires and super PACs. Nor have they proposed banning lobbyists gifts or closing the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street. How can we free our government from the influence of the oligarchs without even challenging their mechanisms of political control?
Our country was much more sharply divided over slavery than it is over present-day money in politics and inequality. Yet Lincoln’s Republicans replaced the Whig Party in four years. If Sanders starts a people’s party representing the views of the large majority of the American public, we can replace an establishment party in four years too.
Bernie Sanders can follow in the footsteps of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Van Buren. Both men became president a few years after building their parties.
The creation of the Democratic and Republican Parties ushered in a decades-long period of dominance for each. As we replace the Democratic Party, we will be left with a corporate authoritarian party as our only opposition. This moment can mark the beginning of a 21st century progressive era.
We choose that future.