Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA)

The Danger of Progressives’ Infighting

What will it take to unite and win elections in 2018 and 2020?

Last Saturday, Congressman Jared Huffman (D-CA) gave a keynote speech at an all-day event, staged at the College of Marin, “Rock the Congress: Uniting Progressives to Win in 2018.”

A gathering of activist groups, including Indivisible, MoveOn, and Swing Left, among two dozen other organizations, coalesced around the message: “Our dire political situation demands that Progressives unite, collaborate, and campaign together.”

The stakes are staggering. Climate change and environmental devastation, appointment of Supreme Court justices, voter suppression, and white supremacy are among issues hanging in the balance. Huffman said of Trump, “We’re not forgetting or forgiving his multiple impeachable offenses.”

But what will it take for Progressives to unite and win elections in 2018 and 2020?

Earlier last week, The Hill tweeted, “Clinton blames Sanders for ‘paving the way’ for Trump’s ‘Crooked Hillary’ attack in new book.” Huffman responded, tweeting, “Please Hillary, don’t go there.”

Huffman told Politico:

“Maybe at the worst possible time, as we are fighting some of the most high-stakes policy and institutional battles we may ever see, at a time when we’re trying to bring the party together so we can all move the party forward — stronger, stronger together.”

During the Q & A segment following Huffman’s keynote Saturday, I asked him to speak to the matter of “intramural bickering” within the Democratic Party. He scanned the audience and said, “Look, there are Bernie and Hillary supporters here today, all working together. It’s time to look ahead, not backwards.”

But are leaders in Sanders’ and Clinton’s camps able to bury the hatchet and retrain their focus on the battle ahead?

Becky Bond, former senior advisor to the Bernie Sanders campaign, spoke earlier in the day at “Rock the Congress.” During Bond’s talk, I looked at her Twitter account.

13 hours before her speech at the “Uniting Progressives” event, Bond had been engaged in a confrontation with Adam Parkhomenko, advisor to Hillary Clinton.

If leaders of Bernie’s and Hillary’s campaigns can’t stop feuding, how can we expect rank and file supporters to bridge our differences, unite and win? I tweeted to Bond:

And I introduced myself to Becky in the courtyard at lunchtime. I asked her about her tangle with Parkhomenko. She said her jab at Parkhomenko was her one tweet aimed at a Clinton staffer; a point she reiterated in a tweet the following day. (I have no relation to @NancyLevineRE)

Parkhomenko also responded with tweets on the thread. He agreed “it all needs to end” — but he still blamed the Bernie folks “that started this.”

What’s wrong with this picture? Both Bond and Parkhomenko are fighting the way kids do on a playground: blaming, defending, and “being right” are paramount. This sort of squabbling is the domain of youngsters. Parents routinely intervene in kids’ scraps to settle differences.

But the danger posed by Democrats’ infighting is far more lethal than schoolyard bruises. There is no parent nor referee who will swoop in to save us from ourselves.

Bond said over lunch Saturday, “Of course we will have differences and disagreements.” She’s right — of course we will. But Bond, Parkhomenko, and all Progressive leaders must find sufficient common ground so that bitter divisiveness doesn’t undermine efforts to unify and win elections in 2018 and 2020. We need to aim fewer slings and arrows at each other, and shift the focus to defeating our common enemy: Trump and Republicans in Congress.

Our Progressive leaders should emulate Huffman’s maturity and embrace his message: Let’s move on, let’s look forward, not backwards. Our dire political situation depends on it — perhaps so, too, does our survival.




Author, The Tao of Pug book series (Penguin/Skyhorse). Freelance writer, Sports Illustrated, Salon, AlterNet, etc.

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Nancy Levine

Nancy Levine

Author, The Tao of Pug book series (Penguin/Skyhorse). Freelance writer, Sports Illustrated, Salon, AlterNet, etc.

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