During the Second World War, British army Captain David Stirling founded the Special Air Service (SAS), a special forces group, and gave it the motto: “Who dares, wins.”
It has been a consistent argument by certain wings of the Democratic Party that any group that wants to win elections must learn certain “truths” about politics, which include a lack of daring. These include such claims of the need to be “moderate” with political demands, and that we should make our peace with power and learn that things are just the way they are. Some have even said that any showing of passion, emotion or humanity is illogical. According to this ideology, most voters are in the center and want reasonable policies. In that case, it should be all the more satisfying that numerous elections have shown us what people want is very different than what these party ideologues say they want.
In a series of local and state elections, numerous progressive and radical candidates were able to successfully win office. Justin Fairfax became the second African-American elected to the statewide office in Virginia, despite being left off Democratic Party flyers due to his progressive views.
Danica Roem became the first openly transgender person elected to Virginia’s state legislature. Lee Carter, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, defeating the Republican House Majority Whip.
Eleven other candidates from socialist and working class parties won local and state elections across the country as well, including queer Muslim Liliana Bakhtiari, Our Revolution candidate Will Mbah and more.
What I think is most interesting, however, is the success of Philadelphia District Attorney candidate Larry Krasner. Krasner has been continuously slandered as “ultra-progressive” and “unelectable” by both the police union and Pennsylvania’s state Democratic Party, but he was able to win his election by 40 percentage points over his Republican opponent. Krasner is an oddity as a result.
Most politicians have proposed the same tired solutions to the same problems; more calls for law and order, a stronger police presence in everyday life, less civil liberties for all, the continued presence of the death penalty, the list could go all day. District attorney candidates have been no different; everyone from legal scholar John Pfaff to French philosopher Michel Foucault have argued that prosecutors have been, and still are, major players in mass incarceration. Some, such as the numerous libertarian pundits and candidates, have argued that private prisons may be a good way to save money on prison costs; this has been disastrous in practice.
Krasner is an oddity because his proposals actually make sense. He has been a supporter of Black Lives Matter and the American Civil Liberties Union, and in an interview with the Intercept, stated that he thinks people are finally realizing “that the criminal justice system systemically picks on poor people, and those people, at least in Philadelphia, are overwhelmingly black and brown people.” Krasner wants to end stop-and-frisk policies, and has said that he will refuse to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with deporting immigrants, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with the continuation of what he calls the “War on Drugs mentality.”
He has said that he wants to use his position to help begin ending mass incarceration, saying that “when you have more people in jail than any country in the world, that’s a problem. When you have more people of color in jail than South Africa had during apartheid, that’s a problem. When you have the most incarcerated city of the 10 largest cities in the United States, that’s a problem. When you have more people doing life sentences whose homicides were committed as juveniles than any state in the country and any country in the world, that’s a problem.”
Furthermore, he has already shown that he wants to carry this agenda out even before the election, having sued the Philadelphia police department 75 times.
This has gotten a lot of push-back, to the surprise of almost no one.
Numerous police union members formed an anti-Krasner Facebook group, where they attempted to prank call him by calling a law firm with a similar name, but no connection. Many local Democrats have accused him of being “anti-police,” and are skeptical about supporting his future endeavours. Despite all this, I think that this victory says something very important about how we can get humanistic change in this country, and that is why we have to be bold.
The socialist and working class parties which are now taking root in local elections were able to do so by presenting their ideas in simple, yet intelligent ways. They held open lectures on anything from feminism to the labor movement, and were receptive to questions and gave concise explanations. They have media outlets to get news, history and analysis out into the world, such as online journals like Jacobin, Current Affairs and The Intercept. Most importantly, they ran candidates challenging the authority of the Democratic Party in order to deliver change on the local level.
In regards to Keene, the only way we will be able to deliver change that benefits the majority of people is if we organize, whether with Democratic Party support or not. Keene has already passed a resolution to not work with ICE on deportations, so we know that this is a battle that can be fought from the bottom up.
When it comes to politics, who dares, wins. We need not the moderation of fools, but a political coalition built to defeat the structures which dehumanize and oppress people. Only then can we overturn the irrationalities of the market system and the dictatorship of old, rich tyrants.
Colin Meehan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org