The two wings of the progressive populist movement?

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In a recent Burning the Midnight Oil (well, recent outside of the day-by-day time-scale of a hot primary fight), I thought a little bit about why progressive & populist is stronger than either alone.

Populism without progressivism risks pandering to the least common denominator of the prejudices and ignorances of a majority. And all too often, a populism built on ignorance becomes nothing more than a smokescreen for the beneficiaries of the status quo to hide behind.

Progressivism without populism risks leaving the majority behind, so that when the unintended (and unforseeable) consequences of reform are experienced, it becomes the point of leverage for the forces of reaction trying to undo the reform.

And thinking about the complementarity between progressivism and populism, where the two together are more than the sum of their parts, in combination with phrases I commonly repeat, it got me thinking about a different kind of potential complementarity.

The phrases I have in mind are “the Corporate wing of the Democratic Party” and “the Moderate Wing of the Corporate Party”, which of course both refer to the same corporatist wing of the Democratic party.

Well, if the Corporate party can have two wings, the radical reactionary wing exercising near total dominance in the Republican party, and the moderate wing holding a strong position within the Democratic Party …

… could a progressive populist movement be built that enjoys the same freedom of movement that comes from having two different wings along a similar plan?

That would be, one wing built inside the Democratic Party, to do contest when necessary with the Corporate wing …

… and one built outside the Democratic Party, as an independent grass roots movement.

I’m thinking that there are a lot of strategic advantages to that strategy … provided, however, that the strategy is workable. Some things are easier done than said … but this, obviously, is not one of them.

How the two wings of the Corporate Party came into existence is fairly straightforward … a system in which political power was more or less for sale led, as only one of many side-effects, into those with money buying more ways for political power to be for sale. And then under an entrenched two-party system, it made sense for different corporations to buy their way into insider relationships with both side of the ruling duoparty.

That nearly “natural” outcome is what raises the strategic appeal of a two-wing strategy for a progressive populist movement. Fighting for power within one half of the ruling duoparty requires an ability to claim party loyalty. And, whenever the Moderate Wing of the Corporate Party is engaged in an intra-party fight with the Radical Reactionary Wing of the Corporate Party, the Moderate Wing appeals to the rest of the Democratic party to support their side in the name of “party loyalty” or “party unity”.

But then, whenever there is a broad Corporate Party consensus, then the Moderate Wing of the Corporate Party claims that nothing can be accomplished without getting some support from some elements of the other half of the ruling duoparty, and so a “bipartisan compromise” is put forward which represents “give and take”, in which the Moderate Wing of the Corporate Party gives up something of value to others in the Democratic Party and takes what they want.

How would a two-wing progressive populist movement be able to resist this one-two combination?

Well, what is the core difference between the two wings? The Party Wing of the progressive populist movement would consist of those who believe in working for reform from within the ruling duoparty … accepting the compromises with the Moderate Wing Wing of the Corporate Party that this will often entail. And the Independent Wing of the progressive populist movement would consist of those who reject compromise with any wing of the Corporate Party.

Now, the benefit of a working strategic alliance to the Party Wing is clear: in a close fight, one of their candidates could appeal to  the Independent Wing for an added measure of electoral support. And an ability to draw on support from outside the Democratic Party gives the Party Wing added clout within the Democratic Party.

The flip side is where it would seem to fall down … what can the Party Wing offer to the Independent Wing? What quid pro quo can be offered, given that their strategic position would not put them in a position to return the favor and offer electoral support to a candidate from the Independent Wing running against a Corporate Democrat.

However, there is something: electoral reform. Our system is rigged to maintain the duoparty status quo. However, clearly that rigging at present benefits the Republican Party more than it benefits the Democratic Party, since on balance the electorate lies to the right of the population as a whole. So a case can be made within the Democratic party in favor of loosening that rigging of the system, in the hopes of attracting a broader range of the population to the polls.

And a vote for someone fighting for electoral reform is something that someone in the Independent Wing can justify even if the person fighting for electoral reform is a Democrat, tainted by association with the Moderate wing of the Corporate Party.

A particular appeal of this strategy if that if the electoral reform include Instant Run-off Voting, it both increases the ability of the Independent Wing to recruit members, and the clout of the Party Wing within the Democratic Party.

gosh, that’s awfully dry for a front page diary … not even any pictures. Better go find some entertainment.


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    • BruceMcF on August 10, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    … OK, I confess, its just to give me something to cast the Yijing on.

  1. The Party wing would sell out the Independent wing at the first opportunity! Backstabbing, infighting and intrigue, secret deals and betrayals as each ‘leadership group’ jockeys for position and power….sounds like fun!

    Oh no, I’m not jaded!

    Other than that….a great idea actually. But the Independent wing would need to hold a slight margin of power to avoid too much corruption, which seems to be endemic in DC. Maybe the Unions could be in the independent wing with their money and voting blocks to keep em honest.

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