Keep focused on the main fault line of the 2020 Elections
This joint Obama-Clinton rally in Unity, N.H. on June 27, 2008 capped a long and divided Democratic primary. The dynamics shaping up for 2020 are different, but the emphasis for many is again on forging unity against Republicans. | Alex Brandon / AP

The main fault line of the 2020 elections is between Democrats and Republicans, not between progressive and moderate Democrats. To be sure, political tremors are being felt on the Democratic side, but that’s all they are at this moment.

However, how the differences are resolved could well determine whether the political tsunami we hope for will land on Republican shores with a bang or a whimper.

The most urgent task is to defend the hard-won gains now being eroded by Trump, his far-right administration, the Republican majority in the Senate, and, more recently, the Supreme Court majority. A sizeable though minority portion of the progressive left is either sitting on their hands or paying lip service to this urgent task.

At the same time, much is being made of the differences between those who favor Medicare For All or an improved Obamacare, the Green New Deal or gradual environmental reforms, self-declared progressive Democrats or moderate Democrats running in the primaries.

What gets missed is that it’s not one or the other. But, rather one and the other.

A person in need of health care today cannot wait for Medicare For All to kick in at some undetermined point in the future. Millions of lives depend on guaranteeing health care now. But, at the same time, I see no reason why we cannot advocate for Medicare For All—including introducing legislation at the federal level as is now being done—and, given the right balance of forces, move to institute it in a state (like California), region, or locality.

Although differences over Obamacare have surfaced between the president and some sections of the Republican Party, the ACA is once again being challenged aggressively by Trump and his far-right Republican associates. When it comes to Medicare For All, which in its more advanced form does away with corporate health insurance altogether, you can be sure that private insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to preserve their profit-making prerogatives in some form or another.

Social Security and Medicare, products of the 1930s and 1960s struggles respectively, had limitations when first becoming law. It was not until years later that a new balance of class and social forces created the objective conditions for a winning strategy for more comprehensive coverage.

Appreciating the inter-connection between Obamacare and Medicare For All at this political juncture is necessary for developing a united, winning strategy for the 2020 elections.

Like health care, the challenge of climate change is one that can’t wait around for a perfect solution. It is an existential crisis, exerting itself with devastating consequences. The Green New Deal is a powerful proposal and couldn’t have come one minute too soon. It is bringing together a growing number of labor and other social movements like never before. Public opinion is strongly favoring it. It is linking massive job creation with renewable energy and other environmentally sound measures. It is helping set the stage for a people’s victory in the 2020 elections.

But the same logic operates on this front of struggle as it does on health care. Once again, the struggle to mitigate climate change and to save gains from previous years takes on an urgent necessity if human beings and life as we know it are to survive. Every inch we gain on this front must be welcomed.

Trump’s election was a historic setback in more ways than one. But his administration’s moves to reverse advances made under former President Obama and previous administrations, if successful, would be more than a setback. Climate change can neither be walked back to the “good old days” nor walked forward to the “good new days.”

The dispute between “progressive” and “moderate” Democrats is beginning to heat up. Meanwhile, Trump and company are stoking the fires of division and hate hoping to incinerate what otherwise is a difference of opinion over strategy and tactics that should remain contained, perhaps not without some sparks, but definitely remain contained and respectful among Democrats.

How to encourage unity on this front of struggle in the Democratic camp is not a simple challenge, but it is not insurmountable.

The dynamics of time, place, and circumstance apply here with the force of an axiom or truism. Using this criterion, we can come up with a realistic, though imperfect estimate of the balance of forces at this particular point. By the time of the general elections in November 2020, things will have evolved, requiring an up-to-the-moment estimate of the balance of class and social forces.

Obviously, the makeup of the electorate—its demographics, varying levels of class and social consciousness, etc.—as well as the economic and political crosscurrents in a congressional district like that of Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an avowed socialist, in New York City’s 14th Congressional District (Bronx-Queens) allows for a more progressive/left political platform that has resulted in her victory. Meanwhile, the makeup of, say, the Kentucky senatorial seat of Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell, requires a Democrat to run on a more moderate platform if s/he is to win.

Again, it’s not progressive or moderate Democrat. It’s one and the other, depending on the makeup of the congressional or senatorial seat being contested.

In this article, I tackle one of several challenges to Democratic unity. However, it should be noted that Trump’s tenure has been so outrageously and dangerously reactionary that this phenomenon and its main perpetrator exert strong pressure towards unity among Democrats at all levels. But, even under the most favorable of circumstances, unity is never a given. It’s got to be fought for constantly at every turn.


Juan Lopez
Juan Lopez

Juan Lopez is chairman of the Communist Party in northern California and statewide coordinator. He has been a labor and community activist during the nearly forty years he's lived in Oakland, where he and his wife raised three children. He was formerly a member of the Teamsters union and a shop steward.