By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend
Since the victory of Joe Biden in the 2020 election, the Biden cabinet has drawn much of the media’s attention. However, if the Biden/Harris administration is going to make any real progress, the Democratic Party must build a voter base that will force the party to deliver on its promises. There are many challenges when it comes to this, one is the right-wing media infrastructure that spreads disinformation to millions. The answer is to create an alternative infrastructure to spread a social-democratic message.
There is more progressive media than there was two decades ago. The Thom Hartmann Program and XM Radio Left, Chris Hayes on MSNBC, Real Time with Bill Maher, Background Briefing and Ian Master’s daily show on KPFK and The Young Turks are good examples of this trend. These programs are professionally produced. However, it will take much more than a few progressive programs to build a consolidated message and a larger voting base.
Indeed, there is much work that needs to be done if we are going to build a force that can make a difference in the long run. It is worth remembering that the Roosevelt-to-Johnson Democratic Party had membership-based organizations like labor unions and farm organizations, as well as big city bosses, to communicate a message to their constituents and to rally voters to the polls. Party structures were also a lot stronger back then. Those who favor a social-democratic vision need to be proactive in releasing a message. They need to use information technology to work for a more social-democratic America. In an age of declining volunteerism, we need to be more involved in the Democratic Party and Working Families Party.
We also need to build more powerful service sector unions (although SEIU is already at work on this one). Workers in the retail, restaurant, healthcare, and hotel/motel sector need a social-democratic message and a reason to go to the polls. What about a united message of stronger service sector unions, a higher minimum wage, expanded healthcare, affordable housing, and affordable education? Social democrats also need to run for local office and build a modern, updated version of “sewer socialism.” Quality local public services and municipal wi-fi would be a great place to start. They should develop grassroots organizations around their candidacies, always working on deep organizing. If they are liked well enough, they can run for other offices.
It’s time for the Democratic Party and AFL/CIO to develop an intern corps of youth and retirees to send thousands into Alabama, Mississippi, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania to spread the Democratic/social-democratic message. The Democratic Party also must make the case that the Democrats bring security and the good life to Americans while the Republicans don’t care about anyone but themselves, their power and their money. The Party’s base must hear that Republicans are using you and me for their narcissistic and evil ends – they don’t care one bit about democracy!
The right-wing media infrastructure is funded by certain sectors of corporate America and by certain wealthy families who are not interested in America being democratic. The labor press needs to intensify its efforts like never before for a democratic America. Liberals and leftists need to commit resources, money, volunteers, social media acumen, and anything else in this struggle. We live in a country where the wide variety of media makes it possible for our citizens to invest their efforts into any reality that they wish to live in. We need to bring the reality of a social-democratic America to the people who need a more social-democratic America.
Sociologist Lane Kenworthy’s book Social Democratic America provides a blueprint for a social-democratic America. Richard Wolff, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang and even Kamala Harris have championed the social-democratic architecture that we need. We can’t let right-wing media and their insane tendencies (Quanon, anybody?) win. Will we succeed in this struggle? Only time will tell. If we fail, America will surely become a darker place.
Jason Sibert is the executive director of the Peace Economy Project.
Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.