The Alt-Left Is Becoming The Democrats’ Tea Party — And They Must Be Stopped

Troubling signs indicate a deep-rooted and dangerous problem arising for the Democratic Party

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Senator Bernie Sanders (AP/Andrew Harnik)” class=”aligncenter size-full” />Senator Bernie Sanders (AP/Andrew Harnik)

Kamala Harris has been making headlines lately. According to Mic.com’s July 31st profile on her, it’s because she’s got a “Bernieland problem.” As a response to the recent buzz surrounding a potential 2020 presidential run by Harris, certain factions of the left have come out as opposed to the freshman Senator from California.

A former prosecutor, Harris is a strong supporter of many of the same progressive policies as the alt-left’s esteemed leader Bernie Sanders — a federally mandated $15 minimum wage, free college, criminal justice reform, and of course, universal healthcare. She’s also a woman of color who represents the nearly 40 million diverse citizens of her state.

Given her liberal track record, her proven ability to work across the aisle, and her rating as the second most progressive member of Congress, why wouldn’t the extreme left be rallying around her?

via ProgressivePunch.org

via ProgressivePunch.org

Perhaps it’s because the problem lies not with Harris, but with the members of the left who have co-opted progressivism to advance their agenda — at the expense of the American people. The alt-left displays an uncompromising nature that is extremely worrisome. They gaslight the electorate by taking the best part of a politician’s record and turning it into negative ammunition. Their divisiveness, calls for purity, and anti-incrementalism all play into the hands of the GOP — and it’s time to do something about it.

Follow The Money…As Long As It Goes Where I Want It To

One of the main critiques the alt-left seems to have of “establishment” members of the Democratic Party, is the idea that they are beholden to some corporate interest. Reducing corporate greed and getting money out of politics was one of Sanders’ biggest campaign promises. It was an idea that resounded with many people — and for understandable reasons.

Since the housing market crash and the following recession, the country has shown great anger towards the corporate greed that caused such chaos. Money in politics can be, without a doubt, a corrupting force — and there should be many more regulatory measures to keep this in check than currently exist.

However, the alt-left uses this very real issue as one of their greatest gaslighting tools.

Nomiki Konst, one of the people interviewed for the Mic article, succinctly summarized this viewpoint:

“The Democrats will not win until they address income inequality, no matter how they dress up their next candidate. If that candidate is in bed with Wall Street, you may as well lay a tombstone out for the Democratic Party now. Voters are smart; they can follow the money.”

As with most of the tactics we’ll discuss in this article, at face value, this seems like something we can all agree with. Democrats should all want income equality, right? It’s clear that Wall Street connections have proven to corrupt certain politicians in the past. Knowing this, the alt-left has done everything they can to try and paint Kamala Harris as one of them.

Kamala Harris is not in bed with Wall Street, as much as the alt-left would like us to believe she is.

During her first year as California Attorney General, Harris helped broker a $25 billion nationwide settlement deal with the nation’s five largest mortgage institutions for improper foreclosure practices during the housing market crash. She had pulled out of a previously proposed deal because the banks weren’t offering enough for the people of California.

As a result, California homeowners received over $18.4 million in debt mortgage relief. She forced Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase to pay out millions of dollars to cheated customers. Thanks to her, mortgage dual-tracking is also banned in the state of California.

If you follow the money, it brings you to a politician who is tough on banks, and tougher on those that take advantage of regular citizens.

Another issue often brought up by opponents of Harris was her decision not to prosecute Treasury Secretary and former Wall Street titan Steven Mnuchin’s bank, One West, during the foreclosure crisis. Despite Harris’ opposition to Mnuchin’s nomination, she has caught much flack for failing to take on his bank, as well as receiving a donation from him in 2016.

When one actually takes the time to delve into the One West case, it lacks the scheming and trickery that this sort of talking point suggests.

After being handed a recommendation to file a civil suit against One West, Harris’ office was unable to gather enough evidence to continue with prosecution. Additionally, they were only able to identify eight cases where homeowners were defrauded. Given a case of this size, this amount of evidence was very thin. To move forward with the investigation would have taken years, cost taxpayers millions to litigate, and still, could have been blocked by federal agencies — as it had the possibility to be considered out of her jurisdiction. As a result, her office decided they were unable to prosecute.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a progressive favorite, praised Harris for her defense against big banks:

California Attorney General Kamala Harris is a smart, tough, and experienced prosecutor who has consistently stood up to Wall Street. Yesterday, she announced her candidacy for the United States Senate, and I’m happy to support her campaign.

Painting broad strokes over any political candidate creates an often inaccurate picture and leaves the American people with less information than they need in the voting booth. Refusing to scratch any deeper than the very surface of issues disrespects voter intelligence. Most importantly, playing purity politics with true liberal voices doesn’t advance the progressive agenda — it halts it in its tracks.

Plot Twist: Healthcare Is Complex

In order to pass a Medicare-for-all, single payer system we will be taking on the most powerful special interests in the country: Wall Street, the insurance companies, the drug companies, the corporate media, the Republican Party and the establishment wing of the Democratic Party. — Bernie Sanders email blast, July 31st.

The push for universal, single-payer healthcare might be the most recognizable talking point of Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Once again, on the surface, it seems like something every Democrat could get behind. And, while the alt-left seems to ignore this fact, most are. For the first time, a majority of House Democrats have signed up to support Medicare-for-all legislation.

(If a majority of House Democrats support single-payer, one has to wonder exactly what Democratic establishment Sanders is rallying his supporters to go up against.)

Yes, before you ask, Kamala Harris does support single-payer. However, she’s made the unforgivable mistake of suggesting the concept isn’t completely perfect, and that we just might have to spend some time working out the details. A common view that members of the alt-left seem to hold is that since other advanced countries have single-payer healthcare plans, the only reason America hasn’t made the switch is because of establishment politicians too beholden to corporate interests.

The reality, as always, is much more complicated.

First of all, Sanders and others’ main choice for a single-payer transition revolves around Medicare-for-all. While this is politically a smart choice, as most are familiar with Medicare and recognize it as something tangible amongst a bunch of healthcare jargon, it’s probably the most challenging path when it comes to policy. Medicare is not exactly a single-payer system, with around a third of all enrollees purchasing private plans. Economically, transitioning the market onto a plan like this would cause severe upheaval, with an unprecedented shock to the system.

Additionally, current Medicare-for-all proposals would require over 70 percent of the market to switch providers. If anyone remembers the clusterf@#k that went down over this aspect of the ACA, you’ll understand why this will be a hard selling point in Congress. And, to counter the “all other developed countries have universal healthcare” spiel, it’s worth remembering that the United States spends more on the healthcare sector than any other country ever has. Making a switch like this would be much less of a magic cost saving fix and more of a complicated policy dance that would have to pass an unprecedented number of interest groups.

Not to mention, the fact that without a Democratic majority (something that will require “establishment Democrats”), single-payer doesn’t have a chance in hell of even getting a debate.

It’s not to say transitioning to universal healthcare by means of single-payer can’t be done, but — like Harris explained — we’ve got to figure out some details first. And herein lies the problem.

Members of the alt-left don’t like to discuss detailed policy issues because it strikes at a core issue of their belief system. Politics cannot be purely one ideology or another — our country is just too big for that. We cannot restructure programs and institutions in one fell swoop without causing catastrophic instability. The result of this is a necessity to compromise. And compromise requires working with other factions of political spectrums — something fringe groups like the alt-left and right tend to avoid like the plague.

Why the alt-left, who pride themselves on being “progressive,” employ such an all-or-nothing mentality is an interesting line of questioning. Perhaps it’s because the arguments they base their hardline stances on lack any real substance.

Or perhaps it’s because they’re less progressive than they’d like you to think.

A “Progressive” Gaslighting

Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wis. (Michael P King/Wisconsin State Journal, via AP)

Bernie Sanders rally in Madison, Wis. (Michael P King/Wisconsin State Journal, via AP)

Before we get much further, it’s important to distinguish between true progressivism and those that have co-opted this term in order to advance their agenda.

There are many people who would define themselves as being for progressive values — such as getting big money out of politics, dismantling systematic discrimination of minority groups, expanding healthcare, working towards economic equality, reform of the criminal justice system, etc. — but are willing to accept that this is a marathon and not a sprint. These are values to work towards, as opposed to do-or-die outcomes. There is some level of pragmatism that comes with this kind of progressivism. An understanding, if you will, that long term change is more important than short term purity.

Then there is a group of people who take the term progressive and use it to define an ideological, privileged view of the world that fails to take into consideration the multiple layers of human existence.

These people show up on Twitter to dox supporters of Kamala Harris or Cory Booker. They’re the ones who refused to back John Ossoff and yet seem to be on board with backing anti-choice Democrats. To them, Democrats must pass a litmus test that is so unbelievably contrived that the only person that can hope to succeed is Bernie Sanders.

It’s understandable that there is an inherent frustration brewing amongst certain members of the left, as we saw with the right in response to the housing market crash. There are people who are justifiably angry with the misappropriation of wealth in this country and are tired of seeing corrupt politicians promise change and fail to deliver it.

What isn’t understandable is the fact that the alt-left seems to do everything they can to halt actual change in its tracks.

(There’s an argument to be had for whether or not corporate greed is our greatest concern right now, given the democratic crisis we’ve been dealing with since November. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s act like it is.)

If the alt-left truly wants to achieve what Sanders ran his campaign on, their first and foremost objective should be to reverse the Citizen’s United ruling.

In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court ruled that political spending is protected under the first amendment, opening the floodgates for campaign spending. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to run a successful political campaign without accepting some sort of big money donation. Even Sanders took money from the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee that was raised from Wall Street firms. This is the way of politics now.

The only way to get “big money” out of politics is to overturn Citizens United. You don’t redistribute wealth or fix political corruption by refusing to support candidates that would fight to pass legislation to do just that — because they aren’t ideologically pure enough for you. This is a naive view of the world, ignorant of how necessary compromise is in a complex society.

In order to overturn Citizens United, we need a Democratic Congress and Democratic president to nominate and confirm SCOTUS Justices. This might not seem nearly as sexy as screaming about the woes of capitalism, but reality is rarely as sexy as the movies would have us believe.

Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Jon Ossoff, Hillary Clinton — these are people who would (or will) fight for this kind of legislation. The same logic can be applied to arguments about healthcare and criminal justice reforming, enacting a federally mandated living wage, and affordable college. Refusing to support candidates who will fight to improve where these issues currently stand, in hopes that some magically progressive, independently wealthy, Kentucky Democrat will show up and save us all is ignorant at best — willingly disingenuous at worst.

Hostile Takeover?

Like the Tea Party, the alt-left developed out of a need for real change. However, what began as a movement designed to empower “regular Americans” has been co-opted by radical figures who call themselves progressive, yet refuse to 1.) organize in any viable way and 2.) support the actual base of the party they are attempting to revolutionize.

Their attempts to co-opt the Democratic Party and take down real champions for change, like Harris, insinuate something sinister. When so-called Democrats shut down progressive women and people of color, with the claim that they don’t understand the need for change in this country (or that they can’t possibly create said change — as if women of color haven’t been the leaders of nearly every radical movement of the last century) they prove that they are nothing more than the left’s version of the alt-right.

As I’ve said before, you don’t burn the house down because it needs some fixing up. Any progressive should understand that those that most need shelter are going to face the most casualties in this circumstance.

It is important to have more liberal voices at the table in order to continue the debate that is necessary in order for Democratic Party to advance in the most pragmatic, progressive fashion. Take, for example, the fact that this presidential election gave us the most progressive platform the DCCC has ever put forward.

However, the alt-left’s sheer disregard for logical discourse, refusal to view situations as multifaceted and complex, underlying racist and sexist tones, and lack of any understanding of how our political system actually works prove that they are not representative of the base of the Democratic Party, and should not be treated as such.

We saw what happened with the Tea Party. We can’t let it happen to the left. It won’t create the promised revolution, and it sure as hell won’t advance the “progressive” agenda. I’d be suspicious of anyone who tells you as much.

With Donald Trump in the White House, the Democratic Party needs to be stronger than ever. Divisiveness amongst the party will only keep him and the Republican party in power. Purity tests don’t advance the progressive agenda — in fact, they usually accomplish the opposite.

Now is a time to focus on electing progressive Democrats to make sure we can combat the disasters created by the current administration. This requires all hands on deck — and includes calling out the voices that attempt to disrupt our message, regardless of what side of the political spectrum they come from.

Deconstructed // Bernie Sanders / Democrats / Journalism / Politics