Last I checked, South Dakota Progress is looking to play very, very nicely with the South Dakota Democratic Party.
Maybe they shouldn't. Bill Curry, a former Clinton White House advisor who has batted .333 in his own election efforts, says the Democratic Party got beat up nationwide this election year because, since the late 1970's, it has sold out to Wall Street and shut out its problem-solving progressive voices. Curry recommends liberals take charge, go their own way, and dare Democrats to follow:
They can do it but they’ll have to take a time-out from electoral politics. They must declare their independence from the Democratic Party, its ineffectual politics and its current, clueless leaders....
Democrats in Congress seem bent on mass suicide. After their landslide loss they reelected all their leaders without challenge. After the Senate confirmed two utterly unqualified Obama donors as foreign ambassadors, they caved on a budget that opened more sluices for the rich to pour money into politics and hollowed out Dodd/Frank to let Wall Street cover its bad bets with depositors’ money. In 2013 Obama said he wouldn’t “pay ransom” to pass a budget. In 2014 he did just that.
A Progressive Declaration of Independence is a risk, but it’s safer than idling about on deck as the Democrats’ ship goes down... [Bill Curry, "Let's Abandon the Democrats: Stop Blaming Fox News and Stop Hoping Elizabeth Warren Will Save Us," Salon, 2014.12.23].
Curry sounds much like William Greider, who wrote in November that the national Democratic Party has lost its soul and called for a "rump formation of dissenters" to break the spell corporate power has cast on Democrats.
Rick Weiland tried to flex independence from national Democrats and from Big Money in his Senate campaign this year. That didn't go so well, but he is still preaching that same message to South Dakota Democrats. I continue to think that's the right message for South Dakota Democrats and for anyone willing to help them.
I do not think Curry's analysis ports neatly from the national level to South Dakota. Our state Dems are not in Washington collaborating with Republicans to gild Wall Street's throne. Our state Dems aren't in Washington, period, now that Tim Johnson is out. Unlike national Democrats, South Dakota Dems responded to the midterm election by electing new leadership. South Dakota Democrats may be in as good a position to break with Washington and sound Curry's progressive populist bugle as a separate progressive group like South Dakota Progress.
But the question remains, for South Dakota Progress as well as for anyone else hoping to restore progressive fortunes in South Dakota: do we work within the machine, or do we build a new one?
Related Reading: WaPo Fix blogger Philip Bump wonders what would happen if both Republicans and Democrats cleaved into two parties.