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“Come With Me if You Want to Live”: What the Left Can Do

This morning on Naked Capitalism the excellent Yves Smith asked a rhetorical question: Why is there no political outlet for anger on the left these days? She invited readers to explain. Many did, with insight and gusto.

But let’s turn from why? to what then?

Some say the answer is to act locally and attain power within the Democratic Party. That’s a good, practical idea. Its danger: party loyalty undermines the use of that power. A good object lesson: Dennis Kucinich in the health insurance reform vote.

Another idea: The left becomes a conditional friend and, when necessary, a willing enemy of the Democratic Party. It chooses to work and vote for smaller parties and write-ins, coldly denying Democrats its allegiance as the lesser of evil—even at the cost of victories by greater evils.

The principle is simple and very old: If they will not love, let them fear.

Gore Vidal has said the U.S. has two wings of a single party: the party of property. But there’s a silver lining to that bleak assessment: Republicans are even more devoted to money than Democrats are. That puts Dems at a structural disadvantage. It’s their Achilles’ heel. In a pure democracy of dollars, they lose. From that simple fact follows the foundation of a strategy for the left.

The left will never be able to buy the Democratic Party fair and square. What it can do is say this to the Dems — through loud, can-you-hear-me-now actions: You have a choice. You can lose by competing with Republicans for money from malefactors of great wealth, or win by earning our votes. We’ll be watching. Have a nice day.

That would be a step in a constructive (or, if you prefer, creatively destructive) direction.

To valid, real objections of the cutting-off-your-nose genus (a.k.a. Sarah Palin!), the answer is … they’re correct. Greater evils will sometimes win as a consequence of this strategy. Leverage isn’t free. This is its price.

And the corporate dollars? They’re a formidable, protean adversary. That said, there’s enormous disaffection out there. If Lakoff is correct, it can be channeled. Plus there’s an ace in the hole: The left doesn’t need Democrats to win. It just has to demonstrate it can make them lose.

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