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Forget the “Third Way.” Democrats Must Return to the First Way — Populist Progressivism


by Josh Chernila

For more than 20 years now, I have worked endlessly to serve as a progressive thought leader. This is not a fun job. Centrist Democrats have held power this entire time, so there has been no power associated with this role. I have been forced to live as a gadfly, truth teller, and to educate people out of the trap of the 24-hour news cycle.

Over that time, the Republican party has become a corporatist, theocratic, crisis cult. It respects no point of view but its own. It constructs an hermetically sealed world of lies to protect its tribal language-scape. It has now fallen from even the pretense of decency in its largely successful power war against…me.

For my entire life, I have stood for multiculturalism, equality, freedom of conscience, universal opportunity, international diplomacy and domestic security, economic fairness, and the precept that we are a more powerful nation with every person who is allowed to reach the fulfillment of their potential and make that contribution to society.

I have found a place with Democrats. I have loved the people I have met in this party, most of whom are more progressive than our national leadership and all of whom are more open to fact, truth, and reality than the insular world of our countrymen on the right.

I take no pride, my friends, in proclaiming myself correct on this one point, which is the core of the problem, outside of which 99% of our conversation centers, but upon which 100% of our national confusion is based: the corporate takeover of American democracy, what Trump abuses as “corruption,” Bernie declaims as the top 1%, and Hillary ignored because she represented it — that corporate takeover has failed our country.

Democrats have their own self-enforced lie to overcome, as do Republicans and Conservatives of every ilk. Wall Street can no longer dominate American politics at the expense of Main Street.

Trump’s election is a blight on America and will cost us dearly for generations. Trump is antithetical to truth and his policies will serve to ensconce corporate power at the center of American politics. Without Trump, we might have turned it back. With Trump, the only way is a powerful cross-party engagement that ignores the political distractions of culture-war insanity and faces the reality that only a politics that protects the interests of the common good and the American people can prevail.

It will be the crises precipitated by the disastrous policies of Trump and the Republicans that will snap Republican voters out of the dementia that is the Conservative movement. But it must be the election of Trump that snaps Democratic leaders out of their own dementia. What good does it do us to win Wall Street and lose Main Street, my fellow Democrats? Become the party that the Reagan Democrats can come home to when Trump finally discredits the conservative movement’s worldview, or forever wander the wilderness with no power anywhere in this nation.

Come home to reality now. It’s too late to save the New Deal. Medicare is lost. Social Security, the EPA, national parks, civil justice, universal opportunity, and our role as leaders of the free world — all these things are gone. We lost them, because Republicans blamed Democrats for the most egregious of their excesses, and Democratic “Third Way” policies let them.

What next? Forget the “Third Way,” it’s time to return to the first way, the progressive way, the pathway that demands universal freedom, justice, and opportunity for every American, and leads the world by championing it for every man woman and child on the face of the globe.

As of today, the business of America is business. Republicans created that and Democrats since Bill Clinton have accepted it.

To give America back to herself, the business of America must become America again. It will be a long march back, filled with gut wrenching losses and immense pain for the abused targets of hate and the abused believers in hate as well. America voted to monetize its future rather than hold it in trust. When the pain becomes too much for all our fellow Americans, only a strong, progressive Democratic party will be able to right the ship and write universal freedom, justice and opportunity back into law; to give America back her Democracy and capitalism, her middle class, and her leadership role in the world.

This decision is ours to make today, but that vision of the nation is eternal. Hold fast and face the reality of this nation, while the forces of hate and fear swarm and destroy our greatest legacy. Then, stand prepared to reclaim what is left and rebuild from the wreckage. We can rise again, but only if we decide now what the future of our party, our nation, and our world must be.

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