Modern political rhetoric describes a politics akin to the hellscape of the First World War: trenches on the left and right house partisans, while between the two lies a vast no-man’s land wherein no one can survive more than the shortest newscycle.
The lines are drawn, in the words of pundits, between the “Liberals” and the “Conservatives,” where the dominant force attempts to subdue the other with artillery and those boots on the ground, failing while taking heavy losses.
This characterization is false. The Democrats and Republicans are far more similar than different and have been for decades.
After the ascendancy of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, social-democratic policy appeared untenable. The Democrats adopted the so called “Third Way,” also known as Neoliberalism, which combined free-market economics and a skimpy safety net.
When in power, economic growth, not equity, was pursued, and much of the income growth went to the wealthy.
Many Democrats pay lip-service to the working class while pushing policy-gutting benefits for the poor and deregulating financial markets.
Neoliberal foreign policy, supposedly designed to usher in an era of world peace, is the unilateral murder of suspected terrorists, the arming of authoritarian militias and the bombing of civilians in proxy wars across the globe.
NAFTA destroyed the livelihoods of millions of workers and Obama’s Trans Pacific Partnership would have likely harmed many more.
A desire for political relevance drove the Democrats to the right. Democrats and Republicans push the same policies (eternal war, dangerous trade policy, austerity) to achieve the same ends (wealthy military contractors, richer Wall Street Investors, tax cuts for so-called “job creators”), but do so with different rhetoric.
When the Democrats and the Republicans are so similar, who stands to oppose the inherent violence in neoliberal and neoconservative policy? The answer: the revitalized left.
Senator Sanders energized the Left in his bid for the Presidency, and progressive activism has intensified accordingly. The Left are students, LGBTQ+ folks, women, people of color, working folk and anyone else who wants a progressive, egalitarian society.
The Left is anyone who recognizes that corruption, war and rampant inequality are not bugs within our system but features enriching those in power. The Left is a movement for the people.
Many progressives have become distraught in the past months, and this is precisely why a dynamic Left is needed. Only by building a coalition of the many can the Left challenge the power of the few.
Most folks want change but are skeptical of attempts to revolt against the ruling classes. A unified Left is enough to rouse them to action.
What can be done at Augustana? First, stop calling Democrats “the Left.” Doing so marginalizes the real Left by denying its existence.
Organizing a Leftist club at Augustana would prove to skeptics the power of students to organize for progress, and that club should fight for the oppressed wherever they are found.
Only through unity can there be change, and change is needed more now than ever.
Finally, do not give up hope.
Together, Augustana can help create a better egalitarian world, all we need is a lone spark to light the fires of revolution.