One thing appears indisputable: at the moment, the leftist movement in the US lacks the kind of cohesion necessary to challenge the existing two-party system.
Last year, shortly after it became clear that progressive Senator Bernie Sanders would not be the Democratic nominee for president, American leftists decided they were tired of not having a voice on the national stage.
In May, the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP) and Our Revolution Los Angeles (ORLA) joined forces to form a leftist alternative to the two major political parties in the United States. United under the banner of the Movement for a People’s Party, they sought to create a “corporate-free” third party that could make waves in both local and national elections.
Nine months later, the party is in the process of a bitter dissolution, with ORLA announcing their split from MPP via a press release on Sunday, February 7. Days later, MPP responded, accusing unnamed volunteers of attempting to “tear down” the cause. The split is laying bare internal strife that includes accusations of Democratic Party infiltration and toxic leadership.
The public rift represents a major setback for the hopes of a left-wing political party in the country. One thing appears indisputable: at the moment, the leftist movement in the US lacks the kind of cohesion necessary to challenge the existing two-party system.
The People’s Convention
On August 30, days after the Republican National Convention and a little over a week after the Democratic National Convention, MPP hosted the “People’s Convention.”
The five-hour, livestreamed event brought together some of the most respected and virally popular figures in American leftism. Among them were political philosopher Dr. Cornel West, Nina Turner, a former state senator and co-chair of Sanders’ 2020 campaign, comedian and podcaster Jimmy Dore, and Nick Brana, the founder and national coordinator of MPP.
The diverse line up of convention speakers also included the actor Danny Glover, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, former Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura, author Marianne Williamson (one-time Democratic candidate for the presidential nomination) and podcaster Ryan Knight, aka @ProudSocialist on Twitter.
The event, which reportedly drew 400,000 viewers and participants, sought to address “the needs of poor and working people in a time of mounting national crises.” These needs, the movement’s leaders said, had been “erased” by the two major political parties.
The event culminated with a vote to form a new political party in 2021 that would run congressional and presidential candidates in 2022 and 2024.
Our Revolution Los Angeles disaffiliates
ORLA is a branch of Our Revolution, the progressive political organization launched in August 2016 by Sanders and some of his allies following his failed bid to win the Democratic nomination. The goal of the organization was to educate people about progressive causes and fundraise and support candidates who supported those causes. Nina Turner was among the organization’s original staff.
The Los Angeles, California branch of Our Revolution united with MPP in May as the two organizations share a common cause and ethos. Yet, less than a year later, that union has dissolved.
On February 7, 2021, ORLA put out a press release announcing the organization’s “Immediate Disaffiliation with People for a Working Democracy and Subsidiaries.” (MPP is an initiative of the Michigan-based nonprofit People for a Working Democracy.)
In the press release, ORLA states it has “unfortunately decided to part ways with MPP at this time due to differences in opinion and leadership style – including the structure, treatment of volunteers, and method of operations – that have become apparent during the past few months.”
ORLA lists more reasons for their departure, citing “troubling components of MPP’s organizational structure including non-democratically elected leadership, lack of organizational transparency, lack of member and leadership accountability, and lack of bylaws and rules.”
The press release includes claims of “a toxic and top-down hierarchical framework within MPP” and “slander and mistreatment of volunteers.” ORLA claims MPP leaders accused volunteers of being “infiltrators” who were trying to leech away members for the Democratic Party.
The release concludes, “We look forward to supporting candidates, individuals, and organizations who align with [our] purpose, and continuing to embrace the foundational principles of our organization which, above all else are, transparency, democracy, getting money out of politics, and fighting for a peaceful, dignified future for all.”
Alongside the press release, the tweet tags multiple affiliated members, including Brana, West, Turner, Dore and Knight.
Issues within MPP were already apparent the day prior to ORLA’s press release, when Knight tweeted, “I’m stepping back for now from the advisory council of the People’s Party. I believe we need a viable 3rd party in America that represents the interests of people—not corporations. But I believe it must be rooted in socialism. I wish them nothing but SOLIDARITY in their vision.”
Movement for a People’s Party responds
Hours after ORLA’s press release, MPP responded in a tweet: “We are aware of the statement released today by Our Revolution Los Angeles. We believe it is an intentional misrepresentation of what actually occurred. We’re disappointed our relationship with ORLA devolved to such an extent that it has now spilled over into the public arena.”
Days later, MPP released a fuller statement in which they addressed ORLA’s accusations about its leadership and organizational practices, while also confirming that they believed outside infiltrators were attempting to sabotage the movement. The crux of the conflict came from a group of ORLA volunteers who had petitioned MPP leadership for changes to the organization.
The statement addresses “misunderstandings” between ORLA volunteers and MPP. These issues include, “confusion over how the organization was raising and spending funds,” and “whether our community groups like Black Voters for a People’s Party, Latinos for a People’s Party, and Teachers for a People’s Party would have the chance to contribute to drafting the platform.”
MPP contends that some ORLA petitioners in the organization’s Slack groups “were constantly pushing the group to split from and attack MPP.” Allegedly, these members “had been compromised and manipulated by infiltrators with bad intentions.”
The MPP statement also discusses a “toxic” workspace for volunteers involving “personal insults, name calling, spamming, defamation, attacking moderators, abusiveness towards other volunteers, and worse.”
In summation, the statement says, “while most volunteers were genuine, the group was infiltrated and hijacked by individuals who took advantage of our open Slack and sought to damage MPP through the creation of a splinter group.”
The statement vows that MPP will continue its mission of establishing a political party to challenge the political status quo in the US.
Following its alliance with MPP, the ORLA accused its parent organization, Our Revolution National, of seeking to undermine the group. Ironically, ORLA claimed in July 2020 that ORN’s methods included “subtle threats, infiltration, and silently trying to replace the LA Chapter with one consisting of Democratic Loyalist.”
Divisions in the American Left
The split between ORLA and MPP comes after months of rancorous division within the American Left over a push to “Force The Vote” (FTV) on Medicare for All (or M4A), the universal healthcare plan backed by progressives like Sanders. Many leftists want Congress to take up a vote on M4A so that people can know where politicians stand on the issue.
In December, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez angered many of her progressive supporters with a response to a tweet that said she and the rest of “The Squad” (Reps. Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush) should withhold their votes for Rep Nancy Pelosi to retain her Speakership until a vote was held on M4A. Ocasio-Cortez replied:
“Problem w/ this idea is that there isn’t enough thought given to step 2. The Dem votes aren’t there yet, and with a razor-thin margin the Dem NOs are > margin. So you issue threats, hold your vote, and lose. Then what? If you want to know who’s opposed look @ cosponsor list”
The FTV movement has been heavily pushed by Dore, the left-wing podcaster and comedian who spoke at the People’s Convention. Dore and his fans have increasingly aimed their ire at Ocasio-Cortez, leading to frequently contentious exchanges online in tweets and videos.
As the battle has waged on, Ocasio-Cortez, who has long been a target of conservatives, has been receiving criticism from former leftist allies in recent weeks.
That has extended beyond her stance on FTV to mocking her recent statements that her experience during the coup attempt at the US Capitol on January 6 brought back traumatic memories of being sexually assaulted.
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