Jacobin is wrong: the Midterms were not a socialist wave

After the results of the US midterm elections were announced, the Democratic Party breathed a collective sigh of relief. The predicted Republican “red wave” turned into a trickle as Democrats won key races across the country, retained their Senate majority and lost the House by a smaller-than-expected margin.

The joy of the Democrats is understandable. But something strange is also happening: some on the left claim it was another kind of red wave – namely socialism. Jacobin proclaimed that “the election was one of the best the left has ever seen,” and DSA claimed the organization – and the progressive movement – had “reached victories”.

Certainly progressive ideas and electoral policies found support across the country, and it is clear that many sections of the US electorate are further left than either party. But to claim that November 8 was a victory for the left is a distortion of reality and an attempt to bolster the failed strategy of building working-class power in a capitalist party.

Victories for “left” candidates?

registered mail Jacobin, Branko Marcetic claims, “Centrists were wrong: left-wing candidates won.” Attached to the article was a picture of John Fetterman, the Pennsylvania candidate who presented Dr. beat Oz for a Senate seat.

Fetterman may have progressive views on certain issues, like legalizing cannabis, but let’s be clear: he’s not leftist, and he’s been veering rightward throughout his campaign. He chauvinistic said He will be “tough on China,” boasting that he was the only Senate candidate from Pennsylvania who has neither done business nor praised the country. He has stressed his support for the police, saying the move to defund them is “always preposterous”. And his support for fracking shows that his loyalty is to fossil capital, not people or the planet.

Even on issues where Fetterman isn’t just a centrist Democrat, the left bar is on the floor. Marcetic writes that Fetterman is “moving toward universal health coverage,” citing the politician’s support for a $15 minimum wage as a left-wing commitment. But Fetterman has moved away from supporting Medicare for All, the former litmus test for progressives, and even politicians like Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer support a $15 wage — an unacceptably low target amid historic inflation.

Fetterman isn’t the only one being forcibly pulled into the left to conform Jacobin‘s success story. Jacobin also commends Pennsylvania Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro and incoming Vermont Senator Peter Welch for trading healthcare stocks while campaigning to pass a pro-legislative bill. Branko Marcetic even claims that Tim Ryan, who veered to the right (and lost) in his race against Republican JD Vance in Ohio, “picked something from the left’s playbook.”

These politicians are not leftists and the 2022 midterm elections were not a left wave, but don’t take our word for it – just read the bourgeois press touting 8 November as a centrist victory. A New York Times The article states, “In battleground states and swing districts across the country, voters have voiced their support for moderation.” The same publication ponders how the Democratic Party can build “John Fetterman 2.0” for more victories in Pennsylvania and achieve beyond. An article in The Atlantic The title, “How Moderates Won the Midterms,” ​​emphasizes the winning strategy of “Democrats who focused on the economy, eschewed the progressive wing of the party, and appealed to traditional Republican voters.”

Apparently, neither the politicians themselves nor the Democratic Party see the Midterms as a victory for the left. So why are some on the left? Jacobin and DSA driving this narrative?

The strategy of these left sectors depends on supporting candidates in the Democratic Party and trying to move these politicians to the left. Whether pushing for a “dirty break” with the Democrats or a party realignment, success will be measured by electoral victories for nominally progressive candidates who line with the Democratic Party. According to their logic, socialism can be won through the ballot box if politicians adopt sufficiently progressive political positions.

Portraying John Fetterman, Josh Shapiro, and others as victories for the left adds justification Jacobin and the strategy of DSA. But as history has shown, this strategy is always a losing bet — even when it comes to more progressive candidates like members of the “Squad” in the House of Representatives.

More cadres = more socialism?

Leaving aside the centrist candidates, it is true that the squad has expanded its ranks. Maxwell Frost – the first Gen Z lawmaker in Congress – won his race in Florida and will be joined at the home by Greg Casar of Texas, Delia Ramirez of Illinois and Summer Lee, Pennsylvania’s first black congressman. These individuals represent progressive positions on many issues, and their election shows that progressive ideas are gaining momentum. But does more squad membership mean Congress can become a vehicle for left change?

The records of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and other squad members show that when push comes to shove, these representatives almost always align themselves with the capitalist establishment. They repeatedly vote for large military budgets and even increased police budgets, and support imperialist intervention abroad. Jamaal Bowman is a staunch ally of Israel and voted with AOC to provide more military aid to the apartheid regime. And as their unanimous vote to reappoint Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House shows, they will never fundamentally oppose the pillars of US capitalism. Meanwhile, progressive political goals, if not fully defeated, will be increasingly watered down to make them palatable to defenders of the status quo on both sides of the aisle.

Nonetheless, many on the left believe that each new member of the cadre, and even the addition of a slightly more progressive senator or two, means we are one step closer to progressive victories in areas like climate change, healthcare and poverty. The argument goes something like this: If only we had more “Democratic-Socialist” votes in Congress, we could finally pass legislation like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

As Storm Emphasized after the 2020 election, this idea that the left is beginning to win comes from “a selective perspective that equates electoral victories with ‘power-building’ and uses electoral victories as a gauge of strength.”

But this strategy misses a crucial point: these politicians channel progressive energy into a racist, imperialist, capitalist party. Once in power, they provide left-wing cover for Democratic Party policies and right-wing shifts, and end up supporting the very systems they oppose.

We’ve seen Democrats defused and co-opted the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement, with politicians who wore kente cloth two years ago and lamented George Floyd’s death now pose as pro-cop and ‘tough on crime’ position largest social uprising in the history of the country. Democrats do the same with reproductive rights and use abortion as a pawn to win elections. Democrats differ little from Republicans on imperialism and economics, save for supporting more state-interventionist approaches to social spending. And yet, Congressional “Democratic Socialists” have repeatedly worked tirelessly to win the votes for these politicians, just as AOC campaigned with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Elections can be a socialist tactic

November 8th was less of a victory for Democrats and progressives and more of a rejection of the far right and the GOP, and the records of progressives in Congress show that running as Democrats does not guarantee progressive victories – these candidates are diluting their agenda and betraying them working class at every turn.

History has shown time and time again that the reformist left’s project of building socialism within the Democratic Party is a failure. As a result, industries like Jacobin must revise their targets downward and move to the right alongside the party they claim they can reform, to the point where they claim that even pro-police politicians support fracking and co-operate Trading healthcare stocks, victories are for the left.

That doesn’t mean, however, that leftists should reject the electoral arena: elections are a powerful tool in the left’s arsenal, but not through the Democratic Party.

Socialists must organize independently of capitalist parties and vote as part of our own party with an openly socialist program. Participating in elections allows us to make our ideas known, denounce capitalist oppression and exploitation, and denounce capitalist democracy. A presence on the political stage helps us to connect with those who are looking for alternatives to this pathetic system that has nothing to offer the working class and the oppressed.

The Midterms of 2022 were not a “red wave” of socialism, and it sets our struggle back to pretend they are. We don’t win by molding blatantly unleft politicians into a left mold. We don’t win by electing these politicians, and above all we don’t win by working in a party inherently opposed to our class interests. We win by fighting independently of the two parties of capital with our own revolutionary party, uncompromising on issues of exploitation, oppression and imperialism.

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