by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The 1968 presidential contest was between Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey. “The New Left,” as they were called at the time, proclaimed the two major parties were merely the right and left wings of the capitalist system. On Election Day, members of “The New Left” either refused to vote or voted for the Peace and Freedom Party. The Peace and Freedom Party only had ballot status in 14 states and Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver was a presidential candidate. Cleaver was technically ineligible to run because he wasn’t 35 years old at the time.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic Party’s nomination for president. Clinton’s primary challenger, Democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders, endorsed her, but Sanders had a difficult time getting his diehard supporters to do the same. Diehard Sanders supporters had a motto, “Bernie or Bust.” One diehard Sanders supporter told a reporter, “I fear Hillary more than I fear Trump. If Trump wins, he’s in for four years. If Hillary wins, she’s in there for eight. That’s not how we stop the corporate parties.”
In response to this rebellion, Sanders told his supporters the movement has to grow inside the Democratic Party, not outside of it. Sanders also insisted the movement’s credibility will be damaged by walking out.
Donald Trump’s campaign managed to win five states that were Democratic strongholds. (Hillary Clinton didn’t even bother to campaign in those states.) According to the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, fewer than 80 percent of those that voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary voted for Clinton against Trump. It turned out 12 percent of Sanders supporters actually voted for Trump, another 8 percent voted for a third party, and the rest didn’t vote at all. Those votes were significant losses for Clinton in the five blue states that turned red. (2016 Pennsylvania vote count…Clinton: 47.85 percent; 2,926,441—Trump: (48.58 percent; 2,970,733)
In 2016 Sanders was unable to hand over his Democratic socialist movement to Hillary Clinton and in 2020 Sanders is struggling to hand it over to Democratic Presidential nominee Joe Biden. Sanders’ movement wasn’t discredited in 2016 but if 12 percent of his supporters vote for Trump again, the movement will be. This predicament led the former leaders of the 1960s “New Left” movement to write: An Open Letter to the New New Left from the Old New Left. The “Old New Left” wrote, “We are gravely concerned that some (Bernie Supporters), including the leadership of the Democratic Socialists of America, refuse to support Biden, whom they see as a representative of Wall Street… Some of us think “endorsing” Joe Biden is a step too far; but we who now write this open letter all know we must work hard to elect him. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment.”
But the “New New Left” has no tolerance for the “Old New Left’s” newfound pragmatism.
The editor of the Jacobin Magazine (which offers socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture) declared he was voting for the Green Party candidate, and took issue with the “Old New Left” haranguing young socialist. The editor insisted the only hope for the planet’s future was Democratic Socialism and dismissed the authoritarianism of President Trump by stating if Trump had both the will and capacity to crush his opponents in the style of Hitler, Franco, or Mussolini, he would have done so by now.
After the editor of the Jacobin’s response, the “Old New Left” probably wondered, who’s more dangerous; the “New New Left” or the Alt-Right.