Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Primary System

How Changing Understandings of Democracy Create New Possibilities for the Left

Yesterday, I gave a short talk for the Platypus Society at Goldsmiths‘ in London about interactions between democracy and leftism. The following post is a transcript of that talk.

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If Deng Xiaoping could Capture China’s Communist Party, You Can Capture the Democratic Party

There is a part of the left which believes the Democratic Party is beyond hope. They think it’s too corrupt, too beholden to rich people and corporations, and that it’s a waste of time and energy to try to change it. Even in articles which express support for running progressive and democratic socialist candidates on the Democratic Party ballot line, concessions are routinely made to this faction. Jacobin recently ran an interview with Seth Ackerman, in which Ackerman advises the left to run candidates as Democrats, provided those candidates are beholden to outside activist groups. But even this piece is far too pessimistic about the prospects for penetrating the Democratic Party. Right at the start, it begins with a left-wing shibboleth–that the Democratic Party has a “conservatising force field” which necessarily assimilates into the borg all efforts to change it. This is really wrong and it’s shockingly easy to show why.

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Three Failing Movements and the One that Can Succeed

One of the key things I always like to remember about politics is that there are no political systems or political organizations which are wholly elitist or wholly populist. All regimes and all organizations are mixed. Autocracies and aristocracies still need their peoples to recognise them as legitimate and cooperate with their decisions. If they ignore legitimacy, their peoples will destroy them. Democracies still rely on elite professional civil servants, politicians, lawyers, and economists to design and implement policies that address the interests of the people and the subgroups which comprise it. If they ignore those elites, they won’t be able to govern effectively and they’ll disappoint the people they set out to help.  It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, despite this, there are always political movements which operate dogmatically from an elitist or populist standpoint, ignoring the need to find the right mix of both. I want to describe three such movements, and the alternative path we can take to avoid their mistakes.

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Don’t Fear Trump–Fear the Next Republican President

I’ve long argued that the Democratic Party needs to use its time in the wilderness to remake itself so it can pursue and deliver real benefits for poor and working class voters and be seen to do so in its campaigns. This remaking necessarily requires a period of disunity and chaos within the Democratic Party–central questions about what being a Democrat is for need to be asked, and different people will and should give different answers. Those differences should be resolved in blood-soaked primaries. But I’m increasingly concerned it’s not going to happen–too many Democrats seem to believe that the party needs to unify at all costs to present the strongest possible electoral challenge to Trump in 2018 and 2020. This is a dangerous misreading of the historical situation. The biggest threat to the United States is not the Trump presidency–it is the next Republican presidency, or perhaps the one after that. Let me explain…

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