The notion of political independence from the two parties of capitalism advocated by much of the left has been – especially during the long rise of right wing extremism – more trouble than it’s worth. The embrace of this political abstraction hindered a timely adjustment of election strategy and tactics to the new conditions of struggle that arose in the 1970s.

With the election of Reagan in 1980, the urgency of modifying the left’s strategic and tactical guidelines to changed circumstances became imperative. And yet, little changed, strategically and tactically speaking, across much of the left. It wasn’t until the rise of Trump and Trumpism, beginning in 2016, and the candidacy of Bernie Sanders in that same year that some erosion of this holy grail of left wing politics became evident.

Any explanation for this seemingly inexplicable slowness of the left to adjust its election strategy and tactics to strikingly new conditions of struggle has to begin with this observation: strategy and tactics in the electoral arena and every other arena where people and parties clash are, if anything, concrete, malleable, and suspicious of timeless political abstractions.