WASHINGTON – Do Democrats understand a “Spartacus moment” equates with a collective suicide compact?
Maybe. Maybe not.
But that’s how a fundraising pitch from Democratic National Committee deputy director Keith Ellison is characterizing this moment of “resistance” to the agenda of President Donald Trump.
“Last week, on a special episode of Democrats Live with civil rights icons Congressman John Lewis and Heather Booth, we were given our charge: the resistance is our ‘Spartacus moment,’” reads the email from Ellison.
After being captured by the Roman legion in about 71 B.C. some 6,000 survivors of the slave army led by Spartacus, who was killed in battle, were crucified – a slightly different ending than the 1960 movie starring Kirk Douglas, which ends with every man claiming to be the famed rebel and former gladiator.
“Donald Trump and his allies in Congress want to see us divided,” Ellison continues. “We must remain as one in this fight. … We must resist in solidarity. We’ve seen it in every rally, march, and action since January 20th, and I know we will carry that same resolve forward as we build for Resistance Summer.”
NBC News reported the strategy of the DNC leadership is to tap into the protests billed as “Resistance Summer” and turn it into cash.
But, so far, the plan has not been successful – with April’s haul representing the worst April fundraising effort in eight years, even as other Democratic committees and left-leaning groups raked in cash at unprecedented rates.
To try to turn protesters into voters, the DNC is doing something unprecedented in non-election years – funding a small army of field organizers across the country “to build the Democratic resistance.” They’ll be hired by state parties, which will compete for grants to make the hires.
“As Democrats, it’s on us to keep turning our protest into power and channel the energy of this movement into votes and victories at the polls,” Ellison’s letter continued.
While the 2018 and 2020 elections are still far off, the party has pinned its hopes for electoral redemption on the new wave of anti-Trump activism. Democrats like DNC Chair Tom Perez say they’re kept up at night worrying that the party will “lose this moment.”
Ellison recently gave up his co-chairmanship of Congressional Progressive Caucus to focus on his DNC duties, including hosting “Democrats Live.” He has big plans for the show, touting newly purchased equipment that will allow remote interviews.
“It’s all driven by the fact that there are people scattered all across this country that if you say, what are the Democrats up to, too many of them would say, ‘I don’t know,’” Ellison said. “If there’s one thing that our party must do, it is connect with our base.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been a guest, with Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to follow.
Also, apparently lost in the irony of the Spartacus allusion is the way the slave army leader has been a symbol for communists and socialists since the days of Karl Marx, who called him one of his heroes and “the most splendid fellow in the whole of ancient history” and a “great general (though no Garibaldi), noble character, real representative of the ancient proletariat.”
The German Spartacus League of 1915–18 was a forerunner of the Communist Party of Germany. A January 1919 rebellion by communists in Germany was called the Spartacist uprising.
Spartacus’s name was also used in athletics in the Soviet Union and communist states of Central and Eastern Europe. The Spartakiad was a Soviet bloc version of the Olympic Games. The name was likewise used for the mass gymnastics exhibition held every five years in Czechoslovakia. Numerous sports clubs in the Soviet and the Eastern bloc were named Spartak.