My biggest frustration with the Democratic Party is its lack of opposition to the Republican Party.

Formerly fringe fascists have taken over the Republican Party. Their irrational denial of medical science has cost tens –possibly hundreds– of thousands of American lives in the past two years alone. Their irrational denial of climate science pushes us ever closer to civilization collapse. Their embrace of apocalyptic Christian fundamentalism threatens to become a self-fulfilling prophesy. Their worship of violence, power and wealth — their white supremacist, misogynistic, and queer phobic bigotries — all make the Republican Party a clear greater evil in comparison to the Democratic Party. Oh, and they tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election by force, at the behest of their idol, the repugnant white nationalist Donald Trump. So yeah… there’s that, too.

I’m a democratic socialist who is running as an independent against Democrats here in Athens. But here in Athens, even a moderate Republican candidate could not muster the votes even to win a 3-way race — that’s why Republicans don’t run here. But the situation is very different most other places. Most places besides Athens, an independent or third party leftist like me could only take votes away from a Democrat and inadvertently cause a far-right Republican to be elected. I have no intention of ever making that happen. Thus in presidential elections and many other races outside of Athens city limits, I believe leftists like me should support the most progressive Democratic candidate in the primary and then vote for whichever Dem wins the party’s nomination in the general.

But at the same time, lesser evil voting isn’t enough. Because in the long-run, not only are the Democrats opposed to even the relatively short term reforms I support (along the lines of Nordic social democracy and the New Deal liberalism of the Dems’ past), the Democrats are also incapable of defeating Republicans in the long-run.

As I write this, conservative Democrats in Congress like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema continue to block the Biden administration from carrying out any of the popular progressive policy initiatives that are the Democrats’ only chance of retaining control of Congress in 2022. Meanwhile, Biden managed to bungle the withdrawal from Afghanistan that Americans overwhelmingly demanded, turning what could have been a win into an abject failure. Finally, Trump is gearing up to run for the presidency again in 2024, and the combination of Republican voter suppression laws and a lack of enthusiasm among Democratic voters makes his victory likely.

If we thought Trump was bad as a one-term president, he’s certain to be even more beholden to his violent fascist base in a second term. Worse yet, if his attempts to subvert the 2020 election results are any indication, a second Trump term could lead to a third and the solidification of fascist control of America by Trump’s chosen successors.

I believe we must take this existential threat seriously –including at the local level– by doing everything we can to beat back Republican power. And just as the Democrats have shown they’re not up to that task nationally, they’re clearly not up to the task here in Athens. Here’s why I say that.

First, on February 1, 2017, at the very beginning of the Trump presidency, three police departments –whose unions would later endorse Trump in 2020 at the very moment he was refusing to agree to submit to a non-violent lawful transfer of power, should he lose the election– colluded with Ohio University administrators to carry out the wrongful arrest of anti-racist OU student activists who were lawfully protesting Trump’s first Muslim ban and calling on OU and Athens to become a sanctuary campus and city, respectively. The wrongful mass arrest of the Baker 70 and the illegal dispersion of hundreds more demonstrators from Baker Center — jointly carried out by the Ohio University Police Department, Athens Police Department, and Ohio State Highway Patrol — is the second largest campus mass arrest in OU’s 217-year history, only edged out by the mass arrest of 77 students on OU’s campus during the Vietnam War.

Not only did the police department of a Democrat-run city participate in this historic wrongful mass arrest and illegal dispersal of student demonstrators, the Democratic City Law Director, Lisa Eliason, saw that the Baker 70 were then prosecuted on false charges, and her office even pressured 15 of those arrested into accepting conviction via plea bargain on lesser but equally false charges before the original false charges ultimately were thrown out in court.

When OU administrators followed up on the Baker 70 arrests by imposing written policies further restricting student speech and assembly on campus (policies the Ohio ACLU immediately denounced as unconstitutional), local Democratic officeholders remained silent. Although many of the unconstitutional policies were rescinded in response to protest from students, faculty and alumni, some remain, and Democratic Athens city officials continue to give every indication that OU can continue to rely on city police and prosecutors to enforce unconstitutional suppression of student activism.

Second, the Baker 70 mass arrest is not the only example of Athens Democrats, like other Democratic officeholders in Southeast Ohio, protecting police from accountability for their racist behavior.

*To be continued — soon!

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