Mourning Becomes Elections: Rhode Island’s Progressive Democrats in the Midterms

Brian Chidester and Shaun Joseph assess progressive strategy in Rhode Island.

As summer slouches into fall in these United States, most of the nation is wondering whether, come November, it will be thrown under the control of claque of racist wackadoos. Excitement! And indeed, the kind of organic excitement that you can’t get at the movies, because it can’t be reproduced in explosions or even IMAX 3D.

Still, as mentally stimulating as the prospect of Tea Party America is, it is at the same time the cause of some anxiety. From this angle, the politics of Rhode Island must seem like a refreshing oasis; its GOP is vile, no doubt, but also so superlatively disorganized that it is sure to capture not a single statewide office, and a mere handful of seats in the General Assembly. (You may need more than two hands to count them, but certainly not all your digits. Male readers can keep their shoes on in any event.) Sunk well in the deep blue “D,” Rhode Island is thus delivered in advance from the depredations of teabag rule—right?

Slow down.

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What Happened to the Progressive Democrats?

Shaun Joseph tracks the fate of the left wing of the Democratic Party.

I think the usual approach when a left-wing socialist talks about the Democratic Party is to explain that the Party is a critical part of the political defense system of American big business–in Kevin Phillips’s apt phrase, “history’s second-most enthusiastic capitalist party.” This is proved quite easily through an examination of the typically awful reactionary policies of the Democratic “mainstream” throughout the ages–pro-war, anti-labor, against oppressed people–and by noting the many influential racists and dinosaurs in the Party’s right wing.

Now I completely agree with all that, but that’s not what I’m going to write about here, or not quite. When progressives or activists gravitate toward the Democratic Party, it’s generally not because of the panache of people like Joe Lieberman or Frank Caprio–it’s because of Dennis Kucinich or David Segal. That is, when people pin their hopes on the donkey, they pin it to the left flank. Therefore, an analysis of the progressive Democrats is of particular importance to those of us who want to build a non-sectarian yet independent political left.

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