Disillusionment with politics as usual pushes some even farther left


Former Democrat and campaign organizer Andrew Cole found himself disillusioned by the amount of money spent on politics.

Sarah Blaskey, Clarion Staff Writer

Maybe it was the failure of the recall efforts to save the people of Wisconsin. Maybe it was the trillions of dollars of cuts that Obama proposed in response to the debt ceiling crisis after agreeing to continued tax breaks for the wealthy. Or maybe it is the country’s continued wars and occupations despite two-and-a-half years of a Democrat in the White House.

Whatever the reason, much of America’s left is in a state of frustration and disillusionment with the supposed ‘party of the people.’ Many have begun their search for a healthier political alternative to the Democrats.

One of these people was the “defected Democrat” and campaign organizer, Andrew Cole.

Cole has always had a passion for politics and activism, but didn’t have an outlet for action until his freshman year of college in 2004 when he worked on the John Kerry presidential campaign.  At the time, he thought Kerry’s election would end the Iraq War.

“I wasn’t thinking critically about what the Dems actually stood for,” Cole said. “I was just like, ‘the Democrats were not George W. Bush. The Democrats were not Republicans. So I’m going to elect them.’ I thought eventually we could vote a better society into existence.”

Upon graduating from college, Cole got a job as a full-time campaign organizer for the Democratic Party. He wanted to use his position to pull the party to the left.

The second to last campaign Cole ever worked on was a state level election in Virginia. The woman who was running was a passionate and progressive activist of whom Cole spoke fondly. She didn’t stand a chance of winning in the Republican district where she lived. Still, a group of high-powered consultants from the Democratic Party convinced her to run.

“They kind of stroked her ego—said we think you can win this,” Cole said. “But I realized right away, these people actually think she is a joke.”

Consultants go to various districts and find somebody to run for office, regardless of chance for success. From the pool of campaign money that is collected, win or lose, the consultants pay themselves exorbitant salaries. On top of that, it is only the wealthy that can afford to fund campaigns and therefore only the wealthy get a voice in politics.

“I was realizing more and more that the rich basically controlled what the Democrats do,” Cole said.

Due to these frustrations, low wages and poor working conditions Cole quit his job in the middle of his next campaign. In a state of political defeat and burnout, Cole moved to Madison to be near family and find a job that had nothing to do with politics.

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone who had anything to say politically,” Cole said. “I was done with activism. I just wanted to be left alone.”

Cole maintained this attitude for about a year. Then, he was politically inspired once again by the mass protests that erupted at the State Capitol in February.

Cole spent every moment he could at the demonstrations. When the budget finally passed, Cole began a new search for political organization. His reflex was to volunteer for the recalls, but he rejected the thought almost immediately.

“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t really want anything to do with this. I remember what this is like,’” Cole said. “I thought, is there anyone out there that is doing something good?– Something real?”

He found his answer just a few weeks later at the Save Our Schools rally when he noticed a literature table for the International Socialist Organization. The display included critiques of the same party policies that Cole had witnessed first-hand.

“It had never even occurred to me that there are socialists in Madison,” Cole said. “This is a very left of center city. There are people on the far left here who are actually organized—who are actually doing things.”

In the weeks that followed, Cole transformed his frustrations into a radical new set of politics. His focus went from reformism to revolution, and his disillusionment in the Democrats transformed into a passion for building an alternative Left, free of corporate control.

The Democrats will never offer that alternative. Despite their progressive rhetoric they have never been, and will never be, the party of the people because of their allegiance to the corporate world.

So to all of you lefties and ex-Democrats looking for a solution to your political frustrations, Cole offers this last bit of sound advice: get organized!

“It’s not good enough to be frustrated on your own and angry on your own and just turn apathetic,” Cole said. “You need to find other people who are reaching the same conclusions as you. Figure out what you can do together. Because that is the only way anything is going to get done.”

For more information about the International Socialist Organization on campus go to www.socialistworker.org or like “MATC Socialists” on Facebook.