Can a European Model Help Us Counter the Corrupt Two Party System?

Whether we admit it or not, the political revolution promoted by Bernie Sanders campaign for President has fallen short of its goal electorally, leaving many of us bereft of hope and direction. The fact that the primary was almost certainly stolen by the corrupt machine of the Democratic party, magnifies the sense of drift and compounds the seemingly endless success of the elites in frustrating even our most modest demands for a more just society. However electoral losses are temporary, and we must now find other outlets for our energies that do not depend upon the paradigm of a national two party system. This in turn leads to the question of where we should look for inspiration in our struggle to escape a binary choice between equally unacceptable options.

Spanish Demonstration

The Spanish Model

One potential answer is in the populist movements in Europe that are fighting back against the austerity measures pushed by neoliberal politicians on both the right and the left. Of these, perhaps the most striking example is the Spanish leftist coalition Unidos Podemos (United We Can), an offshoot of the movement of Los Indignados (The Indignant). The latter came into being during the depth of the economic crisis in 2011. This populist groundswell united common people of both conservative and left leaning persuasions in over 21,000 demonstrations nationwide against the policies of the then ruling Socialist party in its response to the housing and debt crisis that had also cratered the Greek and Portuguese economies. As reported in Common Dreams,

Spain's Podemos party, which in recent years rose to prominence on a defiant anti-austerity platform, has overtaken one of the nation's two leading political powerhouses and is threatening to unseat the conservative establishment in Sunday's general election.

Polls on Monday suggest that the populist party successfully has shattered the era of two-party dominance, besting the Socialist Party (PSOE) 25 to 21.2 percent, while the ruling conservative Popular Party (PP) still leads with 30.7 percent.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/06/22/new-vision-europe-rising-pod...

Even though their parliamentary systems have major differences with the US form of electoral politics, there are lessons that we can learn from our European comrades that could help us break the stranglehold that the American two party system has on our political and economic lives.

Commonality in Our Struggles

Above all, the common factor we share with the Europeans is the betrayal of the 99% by it’s traditional allies. In the US we have the complete sellout of the people by DLC/Third Way Democrats from Bill Clinton through Barack Obama, to the illegitimate candidacy of HRC. If permitted she will finish the job with policies that will destroy Social Security, Medicare, and what little is left of the social safety net for the poor, while continuing and expanding our involvement in endless foreign wars.

Meanwhile the French have been sold out by the Socialist President and his government with the so called “labor reform law” which would strip French workers of decades worth of labor protections, pension gains, and work week and vacation benefits. The rape of the Greek economy was accomplished with austerity measures that reduced pensions and social benefits for the general population in favor of banksters and bond holders. These largely German and IMF led measures, although forced on the Greek government, were implemented by Syriza a coalition government led by Alexis Tsipras and elected specifically to oppose them. The Spanish housing and debt crisis was the result of trusting the Socialists whose austerity measures led directly to the response of the Podema movement. The list goes on, but the point is that whomever the established traditional allies are, they cannot be trusted to stand up to the elites and reject their neoliberal economic policies.

Establishment of a US Third Party

There is no doubt that the movement that Bernie has inspired has tapped into a deep level of anger and frustration at the hollowing out of the middle class and the rigging of the economy for the benefit of the 1%. This same economic frustration is felt on the right as well, especially among the young, and is really the driving force behind the anti-immigrant sentiment which has led to the rise of right wing demagogues. It partially explains the success of Trump, and most recently the Brexit vote that stunned the world. Inasmuch as there is a political component to addressing these issues, the ideas expressed by Sanders can give a staying power to the movement, and this does not depend on his candidacy for President alone. He can continue to inspire and lead the opposition to this rigged economy from his Senate seat or even by leaving the Congress to lead a new party.

Third parties in the US have a poor record of success historically, and many still argue that to achieve progressive goals we must reform the Democratic party from the inside. IMO this is impossible because the parties are simply too corrupt. The Spanish example of Podema however gives us hope. While born of the Indignados uprising, they only constituted themselves as a political party in 2014 and immediately obtained 20% of the vote nationwide. If the polling results are born out in today’s election, they will have become the second largest force in the parliament in just two years. They may even be in a position to form a government themselves, and they will have smashed the two party system in Spain definitively. If they can do it we can do it too.

European vs US Anti-austerity Tactics

First of all, the US lacks the massive demonstrations that continue to occur in France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere. But Bernie has shown the ability to mobilize tens of thousands at his rallies and these same people could indeed march in protests across the country until the pols begin to listen to us. For this reason the demonstrations in Philly will be a key test and may lead to many more expressions of protest going forward. Thousands of people in the streets will also be more effective in influencing policy than any changes to the party platform or internal DNC rule changes, which have little chance of occurring in any event.

Secondly, a political party needs boots on the ground, which means we desperately need a resurgence of the labor union movement in this country. In France, for example, it is the Communist Party backed union, the CGT, that has taken the lead in the strikes and demonstrations against the labor reform law. In the US, the success of the $15 an hour minimum wage campaign thus far, is a result of taking protests to the streets by incorporating classic union picketing tactics. It is up to each of us to support our brothers and sisters in forming and strengthening unions on the picket line until the weapon of a general strike that shuts down.

The third component is that of economic boycott. While the decline in middle class purchasing power and the financialization of assets has changed the structure of our economy, it remains a fact that 70% of the output is dependent on consumer spending. This is a tremendous weapon that needs to be used as a bludgeon against large corporations, especially those of the MSM. Hitting them in the pocketbook is a much more effective tactic than any other in getting their attention by refusing to buy their products and affecting their all important profits.

Finally we all need to become active in classic volunteer activities that support the electoral component of a new party. This includes door knocking and financial contributions, phone banking and fund raising. And of course we need people to step up and run for office for this new peoples party. The key is concrete political activism, and not merely signing petitions or sitting behind a keyboard and blogging, as important as that is in disseminating information.

This essay is not meant to deliver definitive answers in the struggle to recover our democracy. It also does not address the many problems of the European movements. But it can hopefully contribute to the dialogue about where the political revolution is headed. Thank you for reading.

Share
up
0 users have voted.

Comments

Given James Comey's past record, I am convinced he will bring a devastating case to DOJ and demand an indictment.
When that happens, and what Obama decides to do with it, will likely determine our course of action.
I'm still hoping to vote for Bernie, ready to vote for Jill, and preparing to leave the Democratic party at the most effective moment.

up
0 users have voted.

chuck utzman

TULSI 2020

CaptainPoptart's picture

Meanwhile I am willing and able to put my money where my mouth is. Will not only vote for Jill, but also contribute and volunteer as I did for Bernie. Activism is a key takeaway from this post.

up
0 users have voted.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. - e.e.cummings

Lookout's picture

less than a minute from Telesur Published on Jun 25, 2016

Are you tired of the two-party system in the U.S.? So are many people in Spain. But a united coalition of leftists parties may be able to put an end to this system. Together they could displace Spain's long-established socialist party, when voters head to the polls tomorrow.

up
0 users have voted.

“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

CaptainPoptart's picture

Telesur has been reporting exit polls with lower turnout than the December election. Looks like the Conservatives may maintain control of the government, but Podemos is a rising force and one to be reckoned with.

up
0 users have voted.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. - e.e.cummings

CaptainPoptart's picture

With 90 percent of the vote counted, the right-wing PP has 137 seats, PSOE 85, Unidos Podemos 71 and Ciudadanos [right wing] 32

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Unidos-Podemos-Breaks-Up-Two-Party...

If these numbers hold up no party holds the absolute majority and either a third round of elections is held or the PSOE supports the PP to form a government. Bad news for the left and Podemos, but they gained a few seats and the PSOE lost 5 or 6 and continues its decline. People are finally beginning to understand that the Socialists are no longer their friends.

up
0 users have voted.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. - e.e.cummings

ngant17's picture

The main problem is the USA is ranked the lowest in the world for election integrity. As reported in Brad Blog and elsewhere.

Spain is not high on the list, but it's still better than the US.

http://www.fairvote.org/american_elections_ranked_worst_among_older_demo...

The social democracies in northern Europe, i.e. Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, they are tops on the list.

It's putting the cart before the horse to think we can fix the elections by simply ending a 2-party system. Once elections were conducted honestly, the 2-party system would die out on its own and other political parties would fill in the void.

up
0 users have voted.
CaptainPoptart's picture

If the machines weren't rigged Bernie would be the nominee and we wouldn't be having this particular discussion. I will be casting my ballot for Jill Stein, but have no faith that it will be counted. Lack of voter participation is the flip side of this coin, so it's not just an issue of rigged elections, but also one of people giving up on the electoral process.

up
0 users have voted.

I'd rather learn from one bird how to sing than teach ten thousand stars how not to dance. - e.e.cummings