By Evan Vann | 10/3/16
Recently, I was approached by a Colorado Democratic Party field organizer as a result of my writing in this column. Spurred by a genuine interest in my stances on policy, our brief, somewhat impromptu meeting ended in an offer for a fellowship with the party.
The fellowship would include helping coordinate events in and around Ouray County and the greater region, promotion, and ghostwriting in favor of Democratic Party candidates up for election in November, namely former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Michael Bennet.
The offer was extremely enticing. It was pointed out to me by many, even radical friends who have renounced their association with the Democratic Party, that it would be an invaluable opportunity. These people were adamant that the opportunity to fellowship with the party, even if it meant “compromising” (as my colleagues so delicately worded it) on some of my political values was more than worth it.
However, while the offer was somewhat flattering, and no doubt generous, from the moment it was extended to me, I knew what my answer had to be. As much as I tried to reason with myself and set differences aside, some things I could not morally reason. When the scales were weighed, and the pros pitted against the cons, it was clear that no matter what doors the fellowship opened, it was not ethically correct for me to accept.
While this conclusion took me a while to come to, it wasn’t a particularly hard one.
An extremely important factor was the prospect of having to organize for Senator Michael Bennet. In the past, I have outlined reasons for my opposition to Bennet as a politician. Bennett has embodied a neo-liberal agenda that values profits over people. His opposition to ColoradoCare is a policy decision that is directly contradictory to my values regarding healthcare as a human right, and harmful to the countless members of my own community (including my own family) that either struggle or are unable to pay grossly high coverage costs for healthcare. Bennet’s incremental environmentalist policies, especially energy issues such as the Keystone XL Pipeline and fracking are troubling to anybody committed to immediate action regarding the climate crisis we are facing.
For Bennet, the list goes on, including financial regulation (his deregulatory policies, including opposition to the reinstatement of the Glass Steagall Act will most likely have devastating economic repercussions for the middle and lower class), fast-tracking the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and pro-interventionist foreign policy votes demonstrate an extreme disregard for the working class. Perhaps the most troubling thing, however, is that his continued acceptance of money from lobbies, special interest groups and corporations show that his policy decisions against reform in favor of the working class are inorganic. Rather, his moral compass (or lack thereof) is fostered by who is willing to write the biggest checks.
Organizing for Clinton was equally unappealing. Like Bennet, I see Clinton as an enemy of progressive reform and working class Americans. Clinton and Bennet share many of the same views on financial regulation, healthcare, the environment and other important progressive issues. Also shared with Bennet is her inorganic opposition to these critical issues.
Clinton has often come under fire from progressives regarding her exuberant acceptance of money from special interest groups, corporations and lobbyists to her campaign, super PAC and foundation. In a common trend with Democratic candidates backed by big money, her anti-progressive stance on single-payer health insurance, oil practices such as fracking, globalization and trade agreements, financial regulation and foreign policy, are all directly affected by campaign contributions from major players in these industries who are able to profit off of less regulation.
If anyone has read my column, my opposition to Bennet and Clinton is no secret.
It is in my opinion that they are two of many Democratic Party politicians who have traded the well being of working and middle class Coloradans for campaign contributions from predatory industries. This not only demonstrates an extreme disregard for the general welfare of all citizens, but is telling of the Democratic Party as a political organization. The corruption of Bennet and Clinton is part of a larger trend regarding the greater so-called “Democratic” Party, and the cronyism and fraudulent nature of the party were perhaps the biggest factor in a decision regarding a fellowship.
Best demonstrated on a national level, it is plain to see that the Democratic Party is not democratic at all, and the establishment’s favoritism towards certain political figures heavily tips the scales against those focused on “changing the party from within”.
Of course, the most obvious example of this is the DNC’s bias against Sanders during the primary season. The WikiLeaks dump of DNC emails confirmed many Sanders’ supporters suspicion of rigging against the senator, particularly involving Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. After the controversy however, in yet another move of cronyism, Clinton named Schultz honorary chair of her campaign.
While this is the clearest example of the corruption against progressivism within the Democratic Party, it is by far not the only one. Around the country, establishment politicians have beat out their progressive challengers with help from backing of a biased Democratic National Committee. In Florida, progressive Tim Canova was beaten by Wasserman Schultz herself (who received endorsements from people like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton). Political insurgents and populists such as P.G. Sittenfeld, Joe Sestak and Andrea Zopp have been defeated by elitist Democrats.
This is a testament of what the Democratic Party has come to stand for. The once great party of Roosevelt has now become a club of crony corporatists, focused on resisting progressive proposals, and with little to no regard for the wellbeing of middle and working class Americans. The Democratic Party have cemented themselves as very undemocratic by squashing insurgent campaigns with gross amounts of corporate money.
This is not the party I would wish to align myself with in any capacity, especially not working for them. Their representatives are not the people I would wish to align myself with. I regard the politicians I would be working for, as well as the party backing them, as nothing short of morally void – the farthest thing from proletarian, and perhaps most importantly, hell bent on barring off the political process from common people.
In consideration of all of this, I can’t help but think of the field organizer who approached me, a young woman new to the Western slope, obviously intensely passionate about politics and policy, the sort of person who is passionate enough to be a deciding factor in terms of organization and campaigns. This seems to be a common characteristic of previous Sanders supporters, whom she expressed had her vote and support prior to Clinton.
Perhaps our respective situations can be used as a microcosm for the state of the Democratic left. After Sanders’ fall in primary season, an extremely symbolic moment of progressive failure in the face of the establishment, we went in very different directions. If I recall correctly, the exact words used were “warming up” to Clinton.
I was not able to warm up to a candidate who sits idly as millions of Americans go uninsured or underinsured in terms of healthcare. I was not able to warm up to a candidate who sits idly as the next financial crash is set to be once again burdened on the working class as a result of lack of financial regulation. I was not able to warm up to a candidate whose hawkish foreign policy has resulted in the death of many innocent civilians and the destabilization of an entire region.
As for Clinton, Bennet and their backing party of corporate elitists, I encountered an ethical roadblock in lending them my support. Colleagues urging me to accept used the word “compromise”. There would be no compromise if I accepted, rather, a full betrayal of my political and moral beliefs. Had the Democratic party truly appreciated the involvement of young, politically active people such as myself and the field organizer, the primary would not have been rigged against one of the most impressive grassroots campaigns in American political history.
The direction I went, versus the direction the field organizer went, now an employee of the Democratic Party, are extremely telling of a larger split of the American left. My involvement with Green Party candidate Arn Menconi is a product of my commitment to a better life for all people, and my dedication to the values of the Sanders campaign. These values have shaped me in such a way that it would not be right for me to perform any work for any Democrat or their party.
I can only speak for myself when I say that I know I made the correct decision. I can only speak personally on the fact that I believe it is in the best interest for all young progressives concerned for the wellbeing of working and middle class people, as well as the democratic process, to leave the Democratic party.
An important reminder of where my values lie was a quote from Sen. Sanders himself: “Never, ever lose your sense of outrage.” I can in good conscience say that I haven’t. My question to Democrats is simple: Have you?
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