Photo by Nikolas Gannon via Unsplash

๐ŸŒฑ Subverting U.S. Progressive Power: The Democratic Way

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

๐Ÿค“ Bite-Sized Knurd: Since Citizens United in 2010, billionaires and capitalist interests have used their wealth to squash the rising progressive movement in the U.S. and tilt political power to capitalist interests. With so much at stake this year, we can be clear-eyed by using our values as a compass.

In Case You Missed It: 2024's Global Context: An Interconnected Right-Wing

๐ŸŽง Listen to today's newsletter:

11824 Subverting Progressive Politics

Bridging Values not Dividing Factions

Iโ€™ll say it again, October 7th was an earth-shattering event. What itโ€™ll actually mean for our future, remains to be seen. Weโ€™ll have to wait for time to tell us how events will ripple and shape. What is clear is that the Democratic Partyโ€™s fissures came bursting into the streets once again when a younger, progressive faction demanded human rights for all (including Palestinians), while the more establishment wing of the party remains on their 90โ€™s talking points.

This is of course an overgeneralization. Itโ€™s a perspective based on my lived reality as a Millennial, having lived in a red state now living in a blue state, and in the perspective of my intersecting identities. Itโ€™s also not an opinion that everyone shares. And thatโ€™s the exact point I want to make. The reality is that looking at our politics in a binary is how we got here.

Our politics are played out like a horse race, a Muhammad Ali match, or those Sunday events Taylor Swift attends. This obscures the real harm that elected officials create every single day and makes it harder for us to hold them accountable. Instead of looking at โ€œthe leftโ€ as factions to be divided, we can look at it in terms of values.

  • What values do people who voted Democrat have in common? (At this point, pro-choice is a minimum, right?!)
  • What values are being said by a candidate compared to what they are actually doing? (whoโ€™s really walking the walk)
  • Do elected officials talk the same behind closed doors? (Are they still advocating for justice when their donors come knocking?)
  • Whoโ€™s paying for a candidate's million-dollar advertising campaign?

We can shift our compass towards values. Not to add division, but to build towards commonalities and true progressive change. Values have a strong way of revealing whatโ€™s underneath, especially in an era when many actors are claiming values that they do not actually hold. We see the GOP do it constantly, but our media does it, our corporations do it, and the Democratic party does it constantly.

When there is a vacuum of values, we see a rise in fear and distrust in places that used to be united. One recent example is how bad actors are trying to put a wedge in the Jewish and Black coalition because they falsely equate Palestinian solidarity as the same as antisemitism.

The larger division we should be exploring is the division between those who believe in a liberated, sustainable society for all and those who want to keep and hoard wealth. When we truly look at values, we strip away skin color, political affiliation, sexuality, etc., and illuminate what unites us.

Subverting the Vote: The Democratic Way

Letโ€™s take a fresh look at the values of the Democratic Party based on how they treat elections.

Democracy is a flourishing of ideas, right?

Well, it doesnโ€™t seem like the Democratic Party leadership got the memo. Itโ€™s not new for incumbents and party leadership to hold too much influence over elections and the candidates who get an edge over others. However, with the influx of cash into the political system after Citizens United in 2010, the aggressive tactics to suppress progressive, grassroots, and diverse candidates have reached a fever pitch. Capitalist interests have been able to leverage their wealth to win blue seats and suppress progressive policies. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership has been happy to welcome them in as long as their big checks clear.

While I understand that some of this is coming from a knee-jerk reaction to not wanting a hard-left version of MAGA to gain strength in the Democratic Party, I donโ€™t think asking for the rich to pay taxes is that radical. It actually feels pretty practical. Sadly, it feels like Establishment Democrats feel itโ€™s an existential threat. The fear of losing control and letting the people decide elections is not party-specific. Democratic leaders are showing exactly who theyโ€™ll align themselves with to destroy the progressive wing of the party. The Fox News hysteria has worked on more than Republicans it seems.

The evidence is astounding, widespread, and pretty out in the open. According to federal disclosures, a network of consulting firms was paid more than $12 million by super PACs with ties to corporations or billionaires to uplift corporate candidates and discredit progressive ones in the 2022 midterms. Their key tactic is dumping the airwaves with TV ads filled with attack messaging or outright disinformation to suppress the progressive vote.

This is not an isolated incident. The money is coming in from all angles. In Oregonโ€™s 5th district, the moderate candidate was boosted by a Big Pharma-backed PAC. A boy playing with this crypto, Sam Bankman-Fried, was heavily involved in funding candidates who would pass โ€œsoftโ€ tech reform to avoid real regulations. Of course, the oil industry has its hands all over corporate Democrats. Widely popular progressive, Nina Turner, was barely defeated by a last-minute $2 million ad buy (thatโ€™s a lot of ads in Ohio!) from one oil exec billionaire who hates the Green New Deal.

The AIPAC in the Room

I could keep sharing more examples. Believe me, I found so many, different examples. But the biggest elephant in the room is the amount of funding and aggressive tactics that are coming from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, also known as AIPAC.

โ€œI was told by a prominent Jewish businessman that โ€˜Weโ€™re coming at you with everything we got, you need to disavow the Squad, and if I didnโ€™t do it, they were coming for me. And that also the Palestinian community didnโ€™t have rights that were more important than the state of Israel.โ€ - Nina Turner, progressive candidate in Ohio

Since October 7th, a majority of Democratic voters have been sympathetic to Palestine and critical of Israel. So when AIPAC spends $100 million plus to kick out Democrats who act based on the reality of Israel's right-wing extremist government, they are subverting Democratic voters. And they are blatantly racist about their support! So not only is AIPAC's intention to wipe out progressive ideas in the Democratic party, but they are also subverting Black, brown, women, and queer candidates. Naturally, the GOP billionaires are loving the turmoil and stoking the flames with millions in cash!

What we have to realize is that all of this dark money is connected. AIPAC shakes hands with a GOP billionaire, while a Democratic consulting firm runs TV ads attacking the first Black woman candidate in a state election. Bernie Sandersโ€™s longtime top aide Jeff Weaver wrote last month:

The goal of (their) war is to make elected progressives extinct and to extinguish the agenda of higher wages, affordable health care, criminal justice reform, addressing climate change, and putting more economic and political power in the hands of everyday people of all races.

The party leadership is so afraid of losing its power in a two-party system that they fear the progressives to their left over the fascists to their right. This kind of rampant corruption in the party that elected Barack Obama is disheartening, to say the least. It only feeds on the distrust and belief that the government can't support its people.

At this point, how can we possibly believe anyone if everyoneโ€™s trying to play a game?!

I think, we practice our politics through our values and find those that also donโ€™t want to play the game anymore.

Take the Fork on the Left Towards Humanity

I wish that the nakedness of their actions by both the GOP and the super PAC Dems is enough for voters. Frankly, we also need to do some work to strengthen the progressive movement. People need a place to turn to as the world grows more uncertain. They need a place to channel their energy, to make meaning of this uncertainty, and to be supported through the ongoing transformations of our planet and society.

As fascism rises and economic insecurities rise, GOP voters are feeling scared and uncertain in a changing world that many donโ€™t feel ready for. Democrats hold similar fears. Economic anxiety, the climate crisis, and other โ€œpolitical issuesโ€ affect our lives deeply. It would be unusual to not have fears around a changing world. But it's important to remember that even if we diagnose the issues differently, we have the same fears about having enough for our basic needs and creating a good life for ourselves.

Democratic leaders are bad at defeating Republicans in competitive races, bad at passing meaningful legislation, bad at coming up with a coherent message, and โ€” according to new polling data โ€” bad at convincing most voters to like their party.โ€œ

The current Democratic Party leadership has not risen to the challenges of our times. Instead, they have cozied up with wealth to remain in control of a fragmenting democracy. Our world will only get more uncertain as the climate crisis accelerates and elites use every means necessary to distract us from this reality. It is our responsibility to support each other in a healthy and empathetic way so that we can move humanity forward and creatively address the challenges of our time.

To restore the fissures of the party and move towards a progressive future with liberation for all and sustainability for our planet and people, we must listen, understand each other, and build bridges to our common values. Next week, we will close out our series about the 2024 election with what we can do this year to create the change we deserve.

getting to the roots header copy.png
  • ๐Ÿ“š Gaza is Starving - The humanitarian crisis in Gaza due to the unrelenting bombardment and invasion by Israel is unprecedented in our lifetimes. Famine scholars say that this degree of food deprivation in warfare has not been seen in generations.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - The U.S. can change their approach to protect more people. Keep calling your elected officials and demand a deescalation, ceasefire, and provisions on Israeli aid.
  • ๐Ÿ“š Democrats Keep Winning Special Elections - Are we on the precipice of flipping the house? The Republican majority is so precarious that a string of special elections might tie up the chamber.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - These big wings track with 2018, 2020, and 2022. When the mediaโ€™s doom loop is loud, we can find hope when looking at whatโ€™s on the ground. The truth is progressive policies are popular when we show up.
  • ๐Ÿ“š The People of Solano County vs. Tech-Billionaire Dystopia - Afrofuturist fiction come to life, but not in a good way! Octavia Butlerโ€™s sci-fi novels predicted a โ€œnew city of the futureโ€ for billionaires to wall themselves away in. Well, tech elite are building theirs in Solano County, CA and people are not happy.
    • ๐Ÿค“ The Root ๐ŸŒฑ - This is a naked attempt for tech billionaires and the wealthy to try to shield themselves from the climate crisis and other social disruptions that they caused. Let us be clear about what is underneath these seemingly philanthropic decisions.

Enjoying our newsletter? Help our 100% reader-supported work and get access to exclusive content and VIP access to events.


My theory of change explained. The roles we can play in creating lasting social change.#socialchange #socialjustice

โ™ฌ original sound - Sam @ Roots of Change - Sam @ Roots of Change
๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ—ณ Democracy๐Ÿ—ผ๐Ÿ—ž: Newsletter๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘งโ€๐Ÿ‘ฆ for activists & heart-first humans ๐ŸŒฑ

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist whoโ€™s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the ๐ŸŒฑ roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists ๐Ÿฅต to avoid burnout and ๐Ÿ“š tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that ๐ŸŒ empower โœŠ๐Ÿฝ social change.

Learn more about the Roots of Change Agency.