By Michael Sainato

November 9, 2017

On November 9, Draft Bernie Founder Nick Brana, a former national political outreach coordinator for Bernie Sanders’ campaign, announced the next phase of his organization’s effort to start a viable third party on the left. Movement for a People’s Party will draw on a coalition of progressive activists, organizations, and community groups to establish a coalition toward creating a party for the people.

“Our focus is going to be building a coalition with other progressive organizations, including groups that came together at the Convergence Conference,” said Nick Brana in an interview.

At the Convergence Conference, Draft Bernie coordinated with the Progressive Independent Party, the Justice Party, and Socialist Alternative to deliver a petition of 50,000 signatures to Bernie Sanders to start a new third party. The conference was attended by 2016 Green Party Presidential Candidate Dr. Jill Stein and Seattle Socialist City Council Member Kshama Sawant.

The Green Party insisted at the conference that the Green Party provides an experienced outlet that rejects corporate money and influence. In August 2017, the Democratic Socialists of America tabled a resolution to formally support Draft Bernie, apprehensive in severing ties with the Democratic Party. Though the ideals and sentiments in this movement are similar, there still remains a lack of consensus on where to focus resources and efforts, whether into changing the Democratic Party or working against it through an independent medium.

Not all progressives are convinced pushing for a viable third party is feasible or constructive. “Our adversary would love for us to break away from the Democratic Party into a splintering third party that improves the chances of Republican victories in 2018 and beyond while also strengthening the grip of corporatists over the Democratic Party,” said Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and co-founder of the national group, in an interview. “The idea of running third-party candidates for president or for Congress, while routinely well-intentioned, is a mistake. It’s like saying we’re going to build a house by putting up the roof first. We need committed electoral work that recognizes the reality of the need to be laying foundations in localities around the country.”

Brana may not agree with Solomon’s conclusion, but he also sees splintering as part of the problem.

“We have the strength of the movement and we are the majority and a record number of people are calling for a third party now. And most Americans are progressive on the issues. But, the problem is that we are very divided, fragmented, and atomized, and so our energies have sort of diffused, where progressives are spread out across hundreds of different organizations across the country,” Brana said.  

He said that the establishment has a massive infrastructure already in place, where they can coordinate and collude to push their own agendas. “They have much better economies of scale than we do,” he said. “We have this dynamic because there’s so many progressive organizations, so many groups even, so many parties that are all doing the wrong things. And they’re all siloed from one another, they end up competing for a pool of voters and donations, and supporters, and attention, and name recognition and all of that, and volunteers.”

This competition creates an economy of scale that favors the establishment. “It creates this scenario where for every dollar that’s donated to a progressive group, basically half of that goes to just raising the next dollar and staying afloat or competing with other progressive groups, as opposed to being focused outwards. And, so that problem, the economies of scale is really key and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” he said. “Unless we do that, we may be a majority on the aggregate, but our energy is always going to stay so divided and diffuse that we’ll never really be able to challenge the establishment, and the Democrats and Republicans.”

The demand and need for a third party, Brana argued, has only been emboldened by the recent revelation exposed by former DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile that an August 2015 memorandum between the DNC and Clinton Campaign existed that essentially handed over the DNC’s operations to the Clinton Campaign during the primaries. Just weeks before Brazile released this information, DNC Chair Tom Perez overtly left out progressives in his appointments to DNC committee and at large member positions.

“There’s an entirely different history now,” Brana said. “Now that we know about this agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, and the extent of the control that it gave them over the DNC; hiring, communications, and money, and the strategy, and everything, now everything that happened during the Bernie campaign takes on an alternate history that becomes apparent.”

The corruption in both parties is driving the demand for a viable third party, while approval for the Democrat and Republican Parties are at record lows.

A few weeks ago, the AFL-CIO, a coalition of 56 labor unions representing over 13 million people, drafted a political resolution at their national convention in October to break with the lesser two evils, the Democratic Party, and engage third party solutions that challenge the corporate domination of the Democratic Party.

“That’s really significant for the union to start speaking that way,” Brana added. “And, they’re speaking directly to the Democratic Party. That resolution talks about exploring independent and third-party politics. And, on top of that, there was meetings of 50 union leaders, delegates to discuss the potential creation of a labor party. And, so that’s really a fascinating development too. With labor taking interest and actually beginning to free itself, a little bit from the thumb of the Democratic Party, that’s a tremendous development. “

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