On August 30th right on the heels of the DNC and the RNC, the first ever People’s Convention was streamed across multiple streaming services, in the hopes of spreading the mission of forming a third, major political party in the United States.
Speakers included: former Ohio State Senator and former Co-chair to Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign, Nina Turner; Harvard professor and famously known for his discussions on race in the U.S., Dr. Cornel West; Former presidential candidate, spiritual leader, and activist Marianne Williamson; and a whole slew of activists, journalists, scientists, creatives and people from all walks of life.
Their mission? To form a progressive, major political party that rivals the Republican and Democratic parties while creating and supporting policies by the people and for the people, which include policies that so many other developed countries support for the well-being of their people: Single payer health care, free public college, money out of politics, an infrastructure jobs program, a $15 minimum wage, financial regulations, and more.
The convention was hosted by Nick Brana, the former National Political Outreach Coordinator with Bernie Sanders presidential campaign and now the current National director with the Movement for a People’s Party.
In the opening statement, Brana points out that, just by the evening of August 29th the movement for a people’s party had already surpassed 100,000 members—10,000 of those members just joining within the last week prior to the People’s Party Convention.
So why are so many United States citizens so quick to join? As Brana states, due to the pandemic an overwhelming of crises are “converging”: a health crisis; a sharp rise in unemployment and, subsequently, a loss of employer-based healthcare; The protests erupting across the country in response to George Floyd’s death and demanding systemic change to our unjust systems; and a housing crisis that he compares “worse” and “unparalleled” to the Great Depression. Bana argues these crises have not been met by either of our current two parties with the energy and the policies that these crises demand to be dealt with.
But is it enough? While there have been plenty of third parties in the United States, the most well-known being the Green Party and the libertarians, none have ever been successful in gaining enough support to contend with the Democrats or the Republicans.
“What happens is third parties act as a gadfly,” said Sean Wilentz, director of the American Studies program at Princeton University, in an article published by PBS News. “There’ll be an issue that’s being neglected or that is being purposely excluded from national debate because neither party wants to face the political debate because neither party wants to face the political criticism that it would bring.”
As recently as 2004’s presidential race, Ralph Nader, an independent candidate, made significant strides in the election. The member of the Green Party amassed over 2 million votes, coming in third behind Al Gore and George W. Bush. Unfortunately, the Democrats blamed Nader for causing Gore’s defeat, arguing Nader took votes away from Gore.
So, will history repeat itself again in 2020? Among progressives there seems to be a strong divide with 2020’s presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Many progressives have argued that if Democrats want their vote, they’re going to have to do better than just being a bit better than the Republicans. At the top of many progressives’ needs is a party more actively fighting for policies that support Universal Healthcare, the Green New Deal, and criminal reforms.
On the other end of the progressive’s aisle are those who still support Joe Biden, not because they support his policies, some of which progressives have argued pander to Wall Street and big corporations, but because either 1) getting Trump out of office is their number one concern, and/or 2) voting in a Democrat gives at least the slight opportunity that more progressive policies might be passed under a Democrat, whereas if Trump were re-elected again there would be no hope to see many progressive policies passed.
Is this going to lead to a Dem-exit situation? While many progressives have largely given up on the Democratic Party, other members have not. In fact, within the Democratic Party is already a faction of progressives attempting to move the party more left, rather than forming another party to contend with the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Take for example those who call themselves Justice Democrats—a group of Democrats who refuse large donor money and believe politics needs to once again be refocused on the working class. Notable members include Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ihan Omar, Pramila Jayapal, and the most recent additions recently elected Jamaal Bowman and Corey Bush.
But, of course, Nina Turner said it best: “I Support the movement and I am very clear that there are some progressives who want to ‘#DemExit’ but there are some progressives who believe, ‘it’s my party, I can cry if I want to and I’m going to stay inside and push’.
“I support both of those forces because I think at the end of the day, even though they might be going down slightly different roads, they are parallel, and the end point is the same. That’s why I’m speaking at this convention: that yearning that some have to form another party, and also I do recognize and support those who say that they’re gonna stay inside the Democratic Party and give’em hell and keep pushing them to the left. Both of those forces are needed. I consider those yin and yang.”