Transformative Strategies and Electoral Politics

Transformative Strategies and Electoral Politics

By John Lawrence 


The popularity of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 and again in 2020 demonstrated the appeal of progressive ideas among the electorate. The success of numerous young candidates who are now in Congress showed it was possible to even win elections. This has inspired John Lawrence to dream big. He asks, can the Left build a progressive party which could defeat the corporate oligarchs and start to build an egalitarian democratic society? He will tell us how he thinks it can be done. 


Fragmentation is the Achilles Heel of an oppressed majority, he says. The capitalist class dominates the majority working class in large part because the working class does not have the institutional capacity to democratically plan, coordinate, and act in unison. In the U.S., the corporate-dominated two-party system in the U.S. has effectively prevented a working-class party from forming. 


In an essay in Jacobin entitled “A Blueprint for a New Party”, Seth Ackerman laid out a strategy for building a mass working-class party that can organize inside or outside of the Democratic Party. 


In this talk based on a paper published in Socialism and Democracy, John Lawrence will argue that the U.S. Left should start planning the organization of such a “party” now. Taking lessons from progressive electoral activism since the 2016 Sanders campaign, the Left should plan big and imagine scaling electoral activism and fundraising to actually compete with corporate parties. Polling data indicates that a well-organized working class in which everyone votes has the potential to overcome the rigged electoral system and vie for power with the capitalist class. To win, the “party” will need to organize a comprehensive fight for our democratic rights. Moreover the “party” will need to model an innovative internal mass participatory democracy. To inspire mass participation, the “party” platform will have to be both bold, envisioning a transformational, environmentally sustainable political economy grounded in democratic egalitarian principles, and specific; the nuts and bolts of the platform need to be understandable and doable. Now, is the time to plan BIG! 


This webinar is part of a weekly series featuring thought provoking speakers on a variety of social issues. The Center for Global Justice is devoted to research and learning for a better world. We offer these webinars every Monday at 1pm. Tune in at You can also view past programs there.