#DemInvade Will Not Work [Opinion]

I had written last week about how there was need for a #Demexit, a split from the Democratic Party which will give rise to a new serious force in American politics. As I went to share it with a friend a couple days later, I found that a site pretending to be Yahoo! had republished it. I didn’t catch onto that at first, so I checked later to see if anyone else had, and though I didn’t find news sites republishing, I did find two Reddit threads on my article, one which had some actual comments.

It was in this thread, which I wanted to read since I never get comments on my stories here, of a term I had not seen before: #DemInvade. The idea is much older than myself, but the name is rather new. What is this idea? Essentially, #DemInvade is political entryism, an idea which has been tried all over and never worked with the Democrats. In fact, Trotskyists are well known in leftist circles for using entryism in a very destructive manner, flooding small organizations with members and trying to take over; trying to force it to break apart if that fails.

In 1968, the Socialist Party of America began to shatter with the Schactmanite wing taking over, a story I have heard many times over the years. Max Schactman was a Trotskyist leader who began his political career on the far left of the political spectrum and progressively moved his way rightward leaving splits in his wake. David McReynolds, who later ran for president in 1980 as the first openly homosexual candidate for the U.S. presidency, was among those in the center of the party, including others such as Norman Thomas, who had recruited Schactman into the Socialist Party of America, a move he later regretted, and the Schactmanites began flooding in, eventually taking over. In 1968, they managed to prevent a presidential campaign from happening, opting to endorse the Democratic Party’s candidate, and managed to ensure the SPA was the only socialist party in America to not denounce the the Vietnam War. The party ultimately supported the war in a resolution by Michael Harrington in the next two to three years.

Eugene Debs speaking

From the disaster of 1968, the party split into three groups over the next four years: the original, firmly under the control of Schactman by 1972, changed its name to Social Democrats USA in that year and eventually voted to end itself after the death of a key member in 2005. It was refounded in 2008, never acknowledging that it had ever formally ceased to exist. With the change in names, many members who had left after the 1968 convention, including McReynolds, formed the Socialist Party USA as a continuation of the politics of the old SPA. Yet others went on to form the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, which has tried since to enter the Democratic Party and steer it to the left.

Right here we see two serious problems with entreeism. First, though the Schactmanites managed to seize the power of the Socialist Party of America, they could not keep its old members by and large. They left in disgust. The same fate would likely befall any “successful” #DemInvasion: the old neoliberals running the party now would flee and form a new party or join the Republican Party. Second, the DSA has been trying this for ages, rather than move left, the party has significantly moved to the right over the past decades. I keep hearing reports that DSA is on the cusp of changing their decades-old strategy of working with the Democratic Party and I hope they do so soon.

The possibility of any success with #DemInvade is seriously brought into question when you stop and consider the 2016 primary. The establishment didn’t just barely win the nomination, they lost it but outright committed electoral fraud to stay in power. Counterpunch laid this out in vivid detail. This is not a case where you can just invade and take over peacefully. A peaceful transition of power has been rejected and you would literally have to start cracking skulls to successfully take over the Democratic Party no matter your numbers. They will not follow democratic rule; their entire purpose is to prevent a party from arising that is like what you want to make the Democratic Party into. The nonviolent approach is organizing around them.

Barack Obama speaking at the Democratic National Convention

Since the election, the stress has been on distracting from why they lost and where any attention is given, they focus on saying that Hillary ran too far to the left. They will put big money into “proving” this claim.

For ages, the Democratic Party has been the graveyard of political movements. During Bush’s presidency there was a thriving anti-war movement in America that died on the day Barack Obama took office. His wars didn’t need to be protested because the Democratic Party had co-opted the anti-war organizations and brought them to heel. It has happened across the decades, not only recently.

In 1924, the Socialist Party of America broke from its tradition of running presidential candidates to join the bandwagon of third parties endorsing the Progressive Party candidate, Robert LaFollette. While the Progressive Party managed to get 17 percent of the vote in a strong showing, it folded into the Democratic Party soon after, to see various opposition to the twin parties of capitalism lose huge swaths of support. Were these lost numbers responsible for the New Deal? No. FDR was just like other Democratic politicians up to that point and introduced the New Deal solely because capitalism was in crisis and needed to be saved from itself, not because there was a movement from within the party.

It is a frustrating battle to displace a major party, yes. Of course the rules are in place to protect the major parties and to attempt to prevent the rise of a third party challenger. However, we have a president in power with abysmal favorability ratings, along with a Congress of the same party that is the same, and yet, as ABC’s D.C. affiliate reported, the Democrats are even less popular. If there ever was a time to heave off the Democratic Party into the trash heap of time, this is it, and you risk squandering that opportunity by thinking you can reform a party that refuses to be reformed.

If you want to see real change happen, you should be looking into the Socialist Party USA, Green Party, or working to create a new one altogether.

Correction: This article originally stated that David McReynolds had recruited Max Schactman into the party alone and suggested the split in the Socialist Party of America was near instantaneous in 1968. It also incorrectly framed Schactman’s takeover to be complete in 1968 when it was not until 1972. I reached out to David McReynolds to verify these facts at 9:32 PM but did not receive a response until 12:45 AM, after the story was published.

[Featured Image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]