Articles and Essays by Dr. Ron Daniels
What Next for the Progressive Movement
Beyond Cautious, Calculating Hillary
Author’s Note: The article was initially scheduled for release just prior to the Democratic Convention. It was revised after the Convention to take into account the impact of the proceedings.
At a moment in history when Bernie Sanders came out of nowhere to mount an electrifying campaign as an unabashed Democratic Socialist and galvanized millions of people to vote for him, Hillary Clinton continues to reveal that she is a moderate/centralist, Democratic Leadership Conference (DLC) devotee, unwilling or incapable of seizing the moment. The Sanders’ Campaign demonstrated that millions of people in this country are ready for a bold, visionary progressive agenda for change. Indeed, his campaign created the political space for cautious, calculating politicians like Hillary Clinton to safely move to the left. But, her selection of Tim Kaine, a moderate-centralist, nice White guy from Virginia indicates that Clinton chose “experience,” pragmatism and incrementalism over a bold, visionary progressive agenda. She’s playing it safe when daring, audacity and courage should be the order of the day.
The selection of Tim Kaine is certainly caused chagrin and pause on the part of many on the left who had hoped that Elizabeth Warren would get the nod. It remains to be seen whether Clinton and Kaine will embrace and campaign on some of the planks in the platform, which were concessions to the Sanders’ campaign. Congressman Keith Ellison has declared that the Platform is the most progressive in the history of the Democratic Party. In his rousing endorsement of Clinton at the Convention, Bernie Sanders reeled off a number of unity planks that were impressive. However, it’s not unusual for presidential candidates to simply walk away from the Platform to run on their own positions once the campaign starts in earnest. While Hillary did emphatically support some policy proposals that were the cornerstone of the Sanders’s campaign during her acceptance speech, it remains to be seen whether she will advocate for them once elected unless we make her.
I’m not some wild-idea ideologue who doesn’t understand the “realities” of getting things done in the face of the kind of Republican obstructionism that President Obama has had to endure. But, it is clear that a huge swath of the electorate is yearning for something other than the articulation of the “doable.” The massive income inequality, wage stagnation, assault on poor and working class people and the “State of Emergency” in Black communities across this country has produced a sense of urgency among large numbers of people who are more open to bold ideas to fix their tenuous condition. Therefore, the time is ripe to push for bold solutions even if they may take time to achieve. We cannot achieve what we don’t conceive. If incrementalism is presented as the best we can do, then it will take us far, far longer to dismantle the exploitive and oppressive structures that stand in the way of creating a more just and humane society and world. In that regard, it very much looks like the Clinton-Kaine candidacy is a wasted opportunity!
It is also a wasted opportunity because, in her penchant to be safe, Hillary Clinton missed the chance to select an African American or Latino for Vice-President. Apparently, Senator Corey Booker, a moderate/centralist, and Julian Castro, the rising Latino star who currently serves as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development were on Clinton’s list but were passed over in favor of the nice, safe, Spanish-speaking White guy from Virginia; the man with the “experience” to take the reins of government on day one should something happen to the President. Other than experience and comfort level, I’m not sure what Kaine really brings to the ticket in terms of encouraging a larger African American and Latino voter turn-out in November (perhaps, Clinton felt that having a Spanish-speaking V.P. was sufficient to attract more Latino voters). Most African Americans and Latinos will vote for Clinton/Kaine. The question is will skeptical or new voters turn-out in large numbers. By passing over Booker and Castro, the calculation is that African Americans and Latinos are safely in tow and have nowhere to go.
Hillary is right. In the face of the threat posed by the retrograde forces behind Donald Trump, progressives, African Americans and Latinos have few options. Some will choose to stay home, others will get behind the candidacy of Jill Stein, the Green Party Candidate for President. In states like California and New York, progressives can choose this route with no apparent risk of being accused of taking away votes from Clinton. But, even in battleground states, progressives may choose to vote Green, and we should respect their right to do so.
Despite her flaws, I will choose to vote for Hillary Clinton as a far better choice than Trump. We are one Supreme Court Justice away from a “Plessy versus Ferguson moment” in this country; an occurrence which could potentially turn the clock back on numerous rights for decades, e.g., civil rights, labor, environment, LGBT, women. Therefore, even in New York, I choose to vote for Hillary Clinton to hopefully be part of a resounding, popular vote rejection of Trump and Trumpism.
Whatever option progressives choose, there is much work to be done after the election. It would be a monumental mistake not to take advantage of the momentum inspired by the Sanders for President movement to create a Third Force or Independent Political Organization to continue to relentlessly advance an agenda for transformative change; an entity that will pressure Clinton while simultaneously fighting for change through various forms of advocacy and by endorsing and running progressive candidates at the local and state levels. I’m not exactly sure what Sanders has in mind, but, the most encouraging thing he said during his Convention speech was, “our revolution continues.” Hopefully that means he’s willing to play an instrumental role in building a Third Force in American politics.
It’s not enough to criticize cautious, calculating Hillary or to simply endorse her and go home. The onus is on the progressive movement to seize the moment to create the vehicles for transformative change. In a real sense, the question is will progressive continue the “political revolution” sparked by Bernie Sanders.
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com. His weekly radio show, Vantage Point can be heard Mondays 10:00 AM – 12:00 Noon on WBAI, 99.5 FM, Pacifica in New York or streaming live via WBAI.org. To send a message, arrange media interviews or speaking engagements, Dr. Daniels can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org