In April of 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) was founded by a group of Democratic Party activists who rejected the policy of the official Democratic Party in the southern states, which was to exclude African-Americans from voting in Democratic primary elections and from running as Democratic candidates. The argument that was offered by the Democratic establishment in support of this policy was that the Democratic Party was a private organization, like a country club, and was entitled to make its own rules, including rules about who was qualified to be a party member.
The Freedom Democrats created an alternate version of the Democratic Party that was organized around the Party’s better traditions, and attended the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City in August 1964, asking to be recognized as the real representatives of the Mississippi voters. Their request was denied, but their presence had an impact.
The following year, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed by the US Congress. The Voting Rights Act attempted to redress the racist abuses in the voting process, and was partially successful, although the Democratic Party leadership has continued to assert the right to determine who is to be allowed to run as a Democrat, and to set its own procedures for primary elections. The favoritism embodied in these procedures has given rise to many legitimate complaints of unfairness and rigging, coming from supporters of Bernie Sanders and other candidates who did not adhere to the policies favored by the party elite and its wealthy donors.
The DNC and its preferred Biden/Harris ticket haughtily rejected the concerns of what might be called the progressive wing of the party. Extremely popular policies such as Medicare for All were dismissed out of hand. Opposition to militarism was suppressed and punished, as in the case of Tulsi Gabbard, who won two delegates during the primaries (which was two more than were won by Kamala Harris), but was excluded from the program. Meanwhile, a cavalcade of right-wing Republicans was invited to speak, including the infamous liar, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who bears personal responsibility for the grotesque debacle of the Iraq War (along with Joe Biden, who campaigned enthusiastically for it.)
It appears that the DNC was more concerned with defeating Sanders than with defeating Trump. Numerous commentators, including the populist auteur Michael Moore, warned that the DNC was once again ignoring the concerns of working people and embracing right-wing policies in hopes of wooing Republican voters away from Trump. Large portions of the Democratic base, including, in particular, young people, were less than enthusiastic about the Biden-Harris ticket and the general election, like the primaries, was marred by credible reports of irregularities, amid the general confusion of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
I would like to suggest here that there is something about the Democratic Party that is worth saving, and that is the FDR tradition. FDR based his policies on the most honorable and successful ideas in American history, including the brilliant economic strategies of Alexander Hamilton and the benevolent foreign policy precepts of John Quincy Adams. Admittedly, FDR was something of an anomaly in the generally disgraceful history of the party, but his administration profoundly changed America for the better.
It would be a tragedy if an exodus of voters from the Democratic Party fell into the waiting arms of the Libertarians or the Greens. The Libertarians are generally quite good on foreign policy; they are opposed to bullying, meddling, and the other imperial policies that have been the mainstay of the U.S. Department of State in recent decades. However, on domestic policy, they cling to their adolescent rage against any government intervention into the economy, leaving us to the tender mercies of the corporate behemoths.
The Green Party also takes some attractive positions on foreign policy, but their main role is to serve as a cat’s paw for America’s oligarchy, the so-called “1%”, in terms of providing propaganda to persuade working class Americans to lay down and accept a brutal assault on their standard of living. This takes the form of the “Green New Deal.” The name of the policy creates a false impression that this has something to do with FDR, but if you read the fine print, the picture becomes clear:
To simply substitute better energy sources in place of fossil fuels is not the answer for two main reasons. First, there are no energy sources (renewable or otherwise) capable of supplying energy as cheaply and in such abundance as fossil fuels currently yield in the time that we need them to come online… The Green Party advocates a rapid reduction in energy consumption through energy efficiency and a decisive transition away from fossil and nuclear power toward cleaner, renewable, local energy sources.
The U.S. is presently in an economic depression, albeit with pockets of frenzied monetary activity in the purely parasitical sectors of speculative finance (it is this latter activity which fools like Trump and Biden, and their followers in the media, extol as indicators of economic growth.) The only way out of this depression is to do as China is doing, and as FDR did before them: launch a complete renovation of the nation’s infrastructure. This will require a spectacular expansion of energy production and consumption, which must come primarily from nuclear fission, the safest and cleanest option available to us until fusion is developed. If, instead, we embrace the call of the Greens for a “rapid reduction in energy consumption,” not only will there be no economic recovery — there will be a hecatomb.
So to prevent disaffected Democrats, young and old, from following the pied pipers of the present third parties, or from resigning themselves to the present Democratic Party leadership’s headlong rush to the right, could we not revive the spirit of the Freedom Democratic Party? Here are a few items I would like to see on the party platform:
- A ban on any involvement by private insurers in the health care field, due to the inherent conflict of interest. We must have government-funded and -delivered healthcare without umpteen layers of parasitical middlemen, just like the more civilized nations do it.
- A return to strict adherence to international law, and the principle found in Article 2 of the United Nations Charter: Prohibition of threat or use of force in international relations — prohibits the threat or use of force and calls on all Members to respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other States. End the “Rules-Based Order” and other imperial nostrums.
- A giant reduction in military spending, and a concomitant increase in spending for all types of infrastructure, including hospital construction to meet the Hill-Burton standard of 4.5 beds per 1000 people. Also, there should be a major increase in government spending on R&D.
- The secret police agencies such as the FBI and CIA will be torn out by the root and replaced by new agencies that are completely transparent and subject to congressional oversight with no “mission creep.”
- An end to excessive classification of scientific research, and a commitment to international collaboration for the common aims of mankind, including space exploration, medical research, and the rapid progress of the nations of the global South. The US should join the Belt and Road Initiative.
- Strict campaign contribution limits for political campaigns, including for billionaire candidates contributing to their own campaigns, and an end to various forms of “dark money”.
- After a thorough-going purge of the Department of State, the newly confirmed Secretary of State should be asked to issue an apology to the rest of the world for a half-century of senseless neocon-inspired “Regime Change” wars, sanctions, and coups.