What’s a “real” Democrat?
RANDY CREDICO'S letter to SocialistWorker.org ("A radical in the Democratic Party")
is deserving of a response, both to give credit where it is due and to offer some corrections.
First, Credico deserves kudos for the energy and tenacity of the campaign he ran. Julian Guerrero's article, "Causing Trouble for Cuomo," to which Credico was responding, was too dismissive of his campaign insofar as it questioned how "seriously" he took his role. I think Guerrero would probably agree that while Credico played the role of provocateur and joker on the campaign trail, he did so with tenacity and seriousness, and as a seasoned activist.
Credico seems to share principled concerns around anti-Zionism, anti-racism and anti-corruption with the Green Party campaign of Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones for New York governor and lieutenant governor, which I support, and Guerrero does, too. Credico deserves credit in making a principled decision to support the Hawkins/Jones campaign, even though he ran in the Democratic primary. This is in sharp contrast to Teachout, who has failed to make an endorsement, presumably out of fear for her future in the Democratic Party machine. (Notably, her running mate Tim Wu had no such concerns, and has already endorsed Cuomo.)
Furthermore, Credico's complaints about the media blackout of the left and progressive campaigns are absolutely on point, and an issue which the Hawkins/Jones campaign confronts daily. This is most obvious in our campaign's attempt to open access to the televised debates, which is currently limited to the millionaires running on the Republican and Democratic tickets.
HOWEVER, CREDICO leaves himself open to questioning with his exaggerated condemnation of the article--not least because the comparison between Socialist Worker and the New York Times is laughable, but also because he may be showing what it means to be "a radical in the Democratic Party."
Guerrero's analysis does excellent job of demonstrating how the Teachout campaign showed both the opening for left politics, but also how her role as a politician within the Democratic Party fundamentally curtailed the character of her critique--not least in her pandering to Zionism. While Credico may believe his candidacy can prove something different, the whole history of the Democratic Party shows precisely why--as the world's "second-most enthusiastic capitalist party," in the words of Kevin Phillips--it can never be an electoral vehicle for working people.
Much of Credico's campaign materials shared with Teachout the conceit that they were the "Real Democrats." But the idea that candidates running within the Democratic Party, with a principled commitment to fighting for the working class--and it is doubtful that Teachout, unlike Credico, can claims such credentials--are anything more than marginal protest candidates is an illusion.
Since Credico raises his name, let's be clear: Eugene Debs was a revolutionary socialist. He ran a campaign independent of the major capitalist parties, and he was relentlessly critical of the Democrats as well as the Republicans. As a leader of the working class movement, he can be credited with winning progressive reforms from the ruling class, not that "real" Republican Teddy Roosevelt. Similarly, the existence of a mass Communist Party and the burgeoning strike wave and trade union movement of the 1930s forced progressive reforms from that "real" Democrat Franklin Roosevelt.
In that vein, the Real Democrats of this moment are the imperial President Barack Obama and his partner in neoliberalism, Andrew Cuomo. They follow in a long history of "Real" Democrats, including Hillary and Bill Clinton, Chuck Schumer and so on down the line.
Our role now is to help build the stepping-stones, however small, toward a rebirth of a 21st century version of these earlier mass working class parties. As Guerrero wrote:
The potential for a campaign to get working people one step closer to political independence is clearly visible. One goal of the Hawkins-Jones ticket is to create space for the formation of a new political bloc representative of social justice movements fed up with the Democrats. This won't be accomplished in one single campaign, but combined with other left-wing independent initiatives across the country...we are seeing signs of success.
We welcome Credico's endorsement of the Hawkins/Jones campaign. And I would urge him to take his efforts the next step down this road--away from any claim of being a "real Democrat" and toward being a "real" inheritor of Comrade Debs.
Aaron Amaral, member, Queens Campaign Committee for Hawkins/ Jones, New York City