Sunday, June 08, 2008

Partisan

I'm writing this post very late because I've been pretty busy today: did the weekly grocery shopping, called friends and family, cleaned out the garage, staged the last of the boxes from our move so I can unpack them, made a great dinner of fish baked over fennel with a spicy tomato sauce, and dropped off the change of address for my voter registration. I did not change my party affiliation and remain a Democrat.

Given my views of the behavior of the party (antithetical to everything the party is supposed to stand for), why do I remain a Democrat? There are a number of reasons.

First and foremost is power. The point of a political party is to amass and maintain power. That is a feature, not a bug, and is something we should be thankful for when the power is in our hands and wary of when it belongs to our opponents. The structure of the national government is partisan. All states also govern themselves this way as do most cities and municipalities. Those that are officially "non-partisan" are simply not owning up to their partisan allegiances, such as my own city, San Diego. At the national level, the system of seniority and the allocation of committee positions is based on the relative strength of a party, and only two parties have enough national organization to effectively participate in that environment. In a system of large power blocks, to be Independent or in a minority party is to be isolated and vulnerable.

Before people start caterwauling about the evils of power and the hegemonic control of the two major parties, just shut up. The point of politics is power - to gain access to and receive the benefit from public goods. Parties allow agendas to be established, policies to be drafted, programs to be created and laws to be defended. They are institutions that permit power to persist over time and during periods of turmoil or electoral defeat. This is why people don't actually want to have movements as ends in themselves; a movement is a way to capture the apparatus of an established party and leverage its organizational structure for votes, money and labor. The two party system is not, in my opinion and after reading way too many studies of party systems in my grad school days, inherently better or worse than parliamentary systems. In most cases, even in parliamentary systems, you will usually find two very dominant parties, usually center-left and center-right, and the extremes break away but form coalitions with one of the two major parties. Without parties in modern mass democracy, there is no way to reliably develop long-term platforms and objectives.

This gets to may second point which is, as lame as the Democrats have been since about Reagan, the party has vastly more power than any other 3rd party and certainly more than any movement. It is cost-prohibitive to try to recreate this structure. It is foolish to abandon it, unless to another comparably situated institution, which in this case would mean the Republicans. As a matter of historical fact, most Democratic attrition of the last 50 years has been to the Republicans as Southern white Democrats lost power in the party due to the tectonic realignment to defend civil rights. To retain their power, they shifted to a party that is not so fussy about treating entire classes of people like shit and brought their support networks with them. That shift was finalized in the 90s as the last hold outs jumped onto the Gingrich bandwagon.

Thus, the problem is not with Democratic rank and file or even with the party as such, but with the current leadership, which is not acting in the interests of increasing party power vis-a-vis the Republicans and with the Obamacan coup, which is trying to capture the party apparatus for its own purposes. Given the sewer of patronage and corruption that is Chicago politics, I think I see exactly what this faction wants in terms of power. My goal is to stop both of these problems, and I think the best location to do this is within the party itself. Impossible? Perhaps, but failure is certain only if I don't try.

Another reason not to abandon the party is because movement conservatism has captured the Republican Party. It may no longer be growing the way it did since Reagan, but they need to be beaten down and only the Democratic Party has a comparably sized and distributed organization to do this. Thus, the problem is how to oust the current regime before they cede too much power to the Republicans.

Finally, it's my cantankerous refusal to go sit on the sidelines and shut up, pushed out of my life-long party by Johnnie-come-lately hacks like Markos and Arianna.

What did Hillary's speech focus on? Getting power and retaining power in order to do right by her constituents. It really can be boiled down to that. One of the deep problems with the Stevensonian wing of the party is its deep, almost pathological aversion to explicitly wielding power. It's dirty. It's corrupting. It's pandering. It's buying people off when you should act for the sake of principle. It's favoritism and particularity. (Who knew that the election would come down to a practical example of the dialectical problem posed by Marx in On the Jewish Question? Oy!) There is an illusion among the technocrats, even those who make the right noises about being "fighting Dems" that you can somehow govern without ruling, that you can escape the demands of power and have only agreement, rules, abstract principles and guides, predictable outcomes and, above all else, unity in the statehouse. This is the bloodless vision presented by all of our losing presidential candidates since LBJ. To be partisan is to pick sides and fight for advantage in pursuit of a goal. Voluntary relinquishing of that power, which is what we have watched Pelosi and Reid do time and again, is simply stupid. Pretense that you are above all this infighting and grabbing for power, that you can bring people together through the force and wisdom of your ideas is as false today as it was when Stevenson ran - false that power can be retained that way, false that the person speaking isn't madly grabbing for power.

So I chose to remain in my party and be a gadfly, returning fundraising letters with diatribes, nagging my Congress critters, making my dissatisfaction known, and being involved in thwarting the current corrupt regime. Also, when the present gang of idiots falls, there has to be a substantial group ready and waiting to step in.

At the same time, I see nothing wrong with moving to Independent status to record dissatisfaction with the party. That also removes from the party what it most needs from rank-and-file - the money, the votes and the volunteers. It is simply not what I'm going to do.

The Democratic Party leadership is acting in ways that damage the ability of the party to expand its power. In the end, all personalities aside, that is what matters. They appear to enjoy engaging in Republican tactics against their own members while getting screwed over by the Republicans on matters that affect ordinary people's lives.

It's time for Democratic partisans to come to the defense of their party.

Anglachel

Update: Umm, spellcheck has been run. Sorry for the earlier typos...

24 comments:

riverdaughter said...

You have a valid point and I would certainly not talk you out of it. I wrestled with the issue myself for a few days. I was the one who was always trying to get my wishy=washy BFF ro give up his independent status and choose a political philosophy and means to achieve it through a party apparatus.
But in the end, I gave up my membership in the Democratic party for one simple reason and like the Bush v Gore decision, it may not extend beyond this primary season: I wanted to protect myself from psychological warfare.
It is much easier to corral people into violating their principles if they feel some loyalty to the club. So, I dissociate myself from the club in order to protect myself from coercion. I consider myself a Democrat but I am not a Dean Democrat. I am presently a Democrat in Exile. If the election turns out like I expect it will, I will think about rejoining. But I did my bit as a party member during the primary. I campaigned for the real Democrat, Hillary Clinton, and I persuaded others to re-register so they could do the same. Now that we are headed into the GE, I can be free and open to persuasion from other candidates and do not feel tied to Obama. I can't be guilted into voting for him. He has to appeal to me.
It is the strategy that works for me.

donnadarko said...

when the present gang of idiots falls, there has to be a substantial group ready and waiting to step in

Democratic partisans plan ahead.

femB4dem said...

As long as you let the power brokers know they can't count on your vote I think this is a fine strategy. I chose the other route, becoming a declared Independent, simply because no one who knows me would believe I mean business against the Democrats without the proof of some kind of dramatic action. Yes, I have been that strong and open of a Democrat. Because I do hope to convince friends, family, acquaintences, perfect strangers, and anyone in between to see the truth about Obama and the party and not support either in this election, I can no longer remain a member of my once beloved party. I salute you, though, for fighting the good fight from within. Best of luck!

The Red Queen said...

What is that line in Princess Bride "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell something".

Politics is power, anyone who tries to avoid that fact is a snakeoil salesman.

I am letting the party know that for the first time in 100 years, my family is not voting straight Dem. I won't vote for our current Gov. because of her Obama support. She'll be in a tight race this year (in 2004, the WA gov race was compared to FL 2000. The same people are running this time)

I'm not joining a 3rd party, but I also can't vote Republican and I can't not vote. So I'll vote Green when the choice is between an Obamabot and a Rethuglikan. I'd rather that us defectors pull the party back to the left instead of to the right.

semidi said...

Anglachel, the Democratic Party will not change because there is no incentive for it to do so.

As long as there are only two major teams to play on, the Democratic Party is smug in its belief that liberals like me will keep on screaming and yelling about the party's many betrayals of progressive values -- between casting ballots for Democratic candidates.

There is no point in staying in the Democratic Party, no matter how much more powerful it is than a party like the Greens, when you have no power in it. And frankly, I'm tired of being taken for granted by a party that would rather elect anti-choice, anti-gun control, pro-death penalty "Democrats" a la Dean's 50 State Strategy than act as an opposition party to the GOP.

I'd rather spend my time supporting a party that is much more in line with my values, like the Green Party, than banging my head on the wall that the Democratic Party erected to keep liberals out.

The Democratic Party can only continue to abuse us and remain more powerful than third parties if we allow it to do so. I'm done giving my consent.

HenryFTP said...

It would appear that one of the key underlying motivations of the bitter power struggle between the Clintons and the Party Leadership during the campaign is the dysfunctional resentment of the Party Leadership of how effective Bill and Hillary Clinton have been in winning and wielding power. In particular, the Party Leadership seems obsessed with appeasing the corporate media Opinion Elite (which of course faithfully reflect the opinions of the corporate power elite itself), while the Clintons have rarely hesitated to do battle with the corporate media -- and have emerged stronger than ever, to the barely-concealed fury of the Party Leadership.

Anglachel has wonderfully articulated the misgiving so many of us have had about our Party Leadership since the historic midterm election triumph of 2006. In my view, they were correct not to overreach and commence impeachment proceedings, because Hell would freeze over before 17 Republican senators voted for conviction in a Senate trial, and the consequences of trying and failing to remove Bush and Cheney would cede far more power back to the Republicans than abstaining from trying. But the essential corollary to that would have been to exercise power in areas where the Republicans could not use their whip to block us -- and the Democratic majority has an absolute power over the purse. Pelosi, Reid et al. have marginalized themselves by refusing to use that leverage to damage the Republicans where it hurts. We can argue back and forth about how much that leverage should have been used in attaching conditions to the funding of the war in Iraq, but I find it bewildering that they haven't used it in the far easier and politically symbolic contexts of refusing to fund the Office of the Vice President and various functions of the Department of Justice until cooperation is obtained with Congressional subpoenas. A scalpel deftly applied would have been far more effective than a meatax, but our Leadership seems to think it can't handle anything sharp.

As amazing as it may seem, Obama appeals to these very same people when he says he's going to transcend partisan politics, because to them he's going to bring back the good old days of cozy Democratic congressional hegemony in peaceful mutually back-scratching coexistence with tame Republicans. They don't seem to have noticed that most of those Republicans have either retired, are dead, or have been run off the reservation (e.g. Linc Chafee).

So I wholeheartedly agree with Anglachel, because I have no interest in long term marginalization. And the right place to start is by electing better Democrats to Congress. There are loads out there, like Darcy Burner in Washington, Tom Allen in Maine, Judy Feder in Virginia, and they'll all need our help as Obama will be commandeering a lot of resource for his own campaign.

No matter the outcome of the presidential election, sending more authentic Democrats to Congress will be an essential step in making the Democratic Party an effective force in American politics once again. It's why I hope Hillary Clinton will stay in the Senate where her leadership will be more effective than ever it could be as second banana in an Obama administration.

mystic4hill said...

As always, you’ve made some excellent points here that challenge me to look more closely at why, after 35 years of being a loyal, voting-the-party Democratic, I chose to change my status to “Decline To State” (as it’s called in California). Did I give up my power as a voting party member? Have I abdicated responsibility for helping to affect the direction the Democratic Party, thereby effecting change? Will I just sit on the sidelines watching the Democratic Party continue to self-destruct? Where exactly do my loyalties lie?

It isn’t about creating a third party, at least not at the moment, and not for me. I think, as an Independent in this election year, I may have more power than I would as a Democrat. My former party decided that I’m a demographic that no longer appeals to them - over 50, white, female, working class, and Jewish. I’m not necessary to them any more, or so Donna Brazile tells me.

But as an Independent, they want me, they want my vote - at least that’s my perception right now. I imagine both sides will begin to woo me with phone calls and letters and protestations of how they are the better party.

As a Democrat, I was ignored. As an Independent, they’ll fight for my vote, and I think that might give me a louder voice. And when the Democratic Party shows me that they’re worthy of my membership again, I’ll come back.

In the meantime, I can still participate in, as you said, “returning fundraising letters with diatribes, nagging my Congress critters, making my dissatisfaction known, and being involved in thwarting the current corrupt regime.”

Common Sense Gram said...

You are one smart cookie! I haven't changed my registration, and your line of thinking helps clarify my thoughts. It is, after all, my party, as it is my mom's and was my Nana's. I will be waiting in the wings for a return to sanity and principles.
That is not to say I will condone the DNC's actions by playing 'follow the leader' I have to draw the line. I will not reward what has been done. The DNC will most assuredly NOT be getting my vote come Nov if they don't reverse course in August.
We had three candidates running for Phil English's spot her in NW PA. The only one who would give me an answer on their pick for Pres is the one who got my vote and ultimately won the primary. She will have my vote come Nov.
I will be researching the down ticket Dems Very Very carefully and voting for those who have shown they can think!

herb the verb said...

For those most interested in making sure the johnny-come-latelys (opportunistic Democrats In Name Only) and Obamacans* do not rules us for the next dozen years, the only effective tactic is to prevent them from gaining complete and unchallenged control of the Democratic party structure, or Total Obamacan Control (TOC). The party structure will exist (as you say) regardless of who wins the internal battle and the winner will set the agenda.

This battle is closer than many people realize. Clinton Democrats and traditional Democrats can't let themselves roll over or be rolled over or become demoralized. That is exactly what the DINO and Obamacan forces want and the reason for the hue and cry over WWTSBQ which has now morphed into now Why Won't TSB's Stupid Supporters Quit. They realize (even if we don't) that Hillary Clinton and the traditional party faction represents THE MAJORITY of the party, and not the more noisy, media-promoted DINO/Obamacan faction.

The hard work now is on the local level, making sure kool-aid drinkers do not climb the ladder and anger must be translated into local action. Also, the fight has to continue on the upper echelon level, where Clinton and her internal party supporters operate. Those people need our encouragement and support in their efforts to thwart TOC. I believe Clinton's most effective position at this point is as Senate Majority leader. I don't know if that is possible but surely Reid at this point is only as powerful as Obama and Clinton together let him be, and if Clinton makes this her price to step away from VP with no hard feelings, I think it will happen.

*A term I use to describe those who preach "Unity", traditional Democratic principles be damned as secondary to promotion of Obama as a personality rather than as a Democrat. The Chicago Pols he brings with him who are interested mainly in the $$$ are thrown in that group as well.

Ellen said...

Anglachel, your thoughts are much appreciated, here and in previous posts.

Like you, I have decided not to walk away from the Democrat party. My forefathers and foremothers have invested too much into this party. And so have I.

Reading around the blogworld, listening to proposals to fix the primaries so this debacle dose not happen again, I am struck that the most obvious solution has not been discussed (or I have missed it), that is to allow only registered Democrats to vote for their nominee.

Democrats overwhelmingly supported Hillary.

Registered Democrats choosing would reduce the power of party's Officials. Control will shift from a lopsided favoring of the insider's who can game the system with calendars and "rules" to the rank and file.

I cannot support the Obama wing of the Democrat party. I have yet to determine the best means of denying him my support. But I am grateful for this race for it has striped the scales from my eyes to see what I previously missed about my party and the people who control it, as well as some of our elected representatives.

Thank you for your wonderful contributions to my life.

D.I.E. for Reform said...

Hi Anglachel: Thank you for your comments about partisanship and the truth about politics.

I am wondering, however, how those, like you, who apparently would like to see the party "reform" its ways, are going to do that? Since power is so centralized, what power does a "mere" voter (relatively ignored voter) have to change things?

We have had a clear example, during this primary season of the DNC's exercise of centralized power to skew the "will of the people."

Between the power of the power brokers to protect their power and the skills of marketing, just how do you plan on changing the Democratic party, other than, as you note "be a gadfly, returning fundraising letters with diatribes, nagging my Congress critters, making my dissatisfaction known, and being involved in thwarting the current corrupt regime"?

Hmmmm... I respect those actions, but I don't see how that will change anything. As you note, the leadership of the party has just done to Democrats what the Republicans did to Democrats in 2000. How ironic? And how exemplary of just where the Democratic party is these days.

I do not think the party can be changed from within. Power has been aggregated in ways that cannot be easily broken from inside.

The only real opportunity right now to leverage the party power brokers, for instance, for reform of the primary process, is to declare independence (which means, "no automatic allegiance") and pressure for reform.

For me, as I have said at my blog, serious primary reform before the convention might bring me back to the "marriage." Now, nothing is automatic for me, because I was disrespected in a way that can be defined as voter abuse. Sure, the Democrats are a private club, but if they don't respect their constituents, they can't expect allegiance. That would be comparable to a co-dependent abusive marital relationship.

So, I am a Democrat In Exile for Reform (DIE4Reform). Want my automatic allegiance? Make. Reforms. Now.

Quite frankly, I think the only sound that power brokers listen to is the sound of the loss of power... that sound is the sound of people leaving the party.

It's called a "trial separation."

As for whether the Republicans are a viable alternative? That remains to be seen. I don't know, and I am not sure, anyone can predict exactly how the McCain candidacy will play out or what the Republicans are going to look like this time around. We know about their past, but we don't know, for sure, what they are going to look like this time around. Fact is, other than policies, the DNC, this time around, and for a while now, looks more like the RNC than ever. Disenfranchising voters, voter suppression, voter intimidation -- all tolerated in the name of "unity."

The moral high ground is gone for the Democrats unless they make serious moves to reform before the convention. They no longer can criticize or complain about what happened in 2000. They no longer have the high moral ground on voter suppression by Republicans. I could go on and on... but I will wrap this up. There is much to play out still, and I am open to rejoining the party, but it will get none of my money and none of my direct support unless it makes serious moves to reforming the primary process.

Finally, if Obama acts like he had a mandate from the voters, and does not clearly recognize the messiness of his "nomination" and use his bully pulpit for reform, he will not get my support. He may get my vote, but not my support.

pm317 said...

I and my husband changed our registration to unaffiliated on May 31. What happened at RBC was too much to sit idly by. We also did not want to stay silent until November but use whatever power we have to protest while it is happening. Since we live in MD, I can be guilt free by not voting for McCain. But I feel that I owe it to other people who are making that hard choice on my behalf in other states, that I (we) will be voting for McCain as a protest vote -- that will be two extra votes Obama has to get from somewhere else. I learnt it from Obama that I too can be an independent voting for a republican for a day in November. Chicken coming home to roost!

campskunk said...

hard choice, but i'm still a democrat. after 1968, a lot of us spent varying amounts of time in the wilderness, but... here we are again.

what decided it for me was thinking about all the struggles we have been through, and looking at the current crop of idiots. obama and his supporters don't know what struggle is. they have never in their lives worked hard enough to run me out of my party, and i'll be godamned if i'm going to give it to them for free.

this will be over soon. we'll get our party back in 147 days, sort of like you get your stolen car back - the grill caved in, engine missing, and wheels and tires gone. they'll all evaporate after blowing the election, leaving the REAL democrats to clean up the mess. and i'm a real democrat.

clean up crew positions available - just like 1968. and 1972. and 1980. and 1984. and 1988. and 2000. and 2004. did i miss any?

marirebel said...

Having and maintaining power to what end? We live in a plutocracy where the interests of the elite few and corporations rule both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Our candidates are chosen by the MSM and its corporate and elite allies. So what have we gotten from the Democrats lately? Funding of the Iraq War. Confirmation of anti-feminist Supreme Court Judges Alito and Robertson. Telecom immunity . . . in the works. What the Democratic Party claims as its ideals and what it does are very different. I am disappointed that power given to the Democratic Party right now does not better translate into policies that benefit the majority of people in this Country--mothers needing childcare and healthcare in order to support their families, students needing funding (not loans) to complete their education, people needing jobs that pay a living wage and a cessation to exporting jobs overseas in a feeding frenzy to the bottom, and all of us needing peace . . . . Perhaps this disconnect will be resolved (for the worse) as the Party moves under Obama toward Whole Foods Nation, and more explicitly adopts the white, masculinist values of its claimed new young, urban/suburban base.

Horselover Fat said...

After Project Obama crashes and burns next November, the "Hunt for the Guilty" will be followed by the "Punishment of the Innocent."

The “Blame Clinton” game is already underway, judging by the Ann Telnaes cartoon I was emailed this morning.

Hillary’s voters are not her chattels to deliver, but nevertheless the Village believes otherwise, that they should follow her requests to vote Obama.

To the extent that Clinton supporters are seen to be voting third party, or casting write-in HRC votes, HRC will be blamed. I say it is better just to go ahead, bite the bullet, vote McCain. That way, it is Pelosi and Reid who get held accountable for choosing the candidate less appealing than the Republican guy.

HST said if you give voters a choice between a Republican and someone who acts like a Republican, they will always pick the real Republican. I will follow that dictum.

I want to be clear where my concern about PUMA lies. HRC is a sitting senator, who needs a good working relationship with the Powers That Be. PUMA, I fear, has the potential to damage that, to the extent that HRC might be thought associated with its activities.

nihil obstet said...

I have refused to work for the Democratic Party this year for the first time in my life. I still work for individual Democratic candidates, but not for the party (and I tell them why at every opportunity).

The Party leaders have defined the Party as a brand, and themselves as rather contentless brand managers. It's like the actual policies don't matter. Our local and state party platforms get rewritten to reflect the views of the candidates. Resolutions passed at the precinct level are rewritten to suppress the actual resolution -- this year, a resolution to support HR 676 (universal Medicare) was rewritten by committee to the even-McCain-can-agree statement that we want "affordable healthcare". We may want "more and better Democrats", but we have a party organization that wants "more don't-rock-the-boat Democrats".

For years, the fundraising callers said the Democrats in Congress were just helpless because they didn't have a majority, but if I'd give more money, we'd get the majority and then I'd see action. For the past 18 months, they've been saying the Democrats in Congress are just helpless because they don't have a veto-proof majority, but if I give more money. . . . At about which time I verbally unload.

Democratic politics (in both senses) should be about the say of the citizens -- we should have politics, not just elections. Right now, it's about rounding up the necessary resources for some individuals to obtain power.

hells kitchen said...

I am not voting for Obama, but I'm not leaving the party, either.

The issue of which has more power, being inside the party or outside is a conundrum. By retaining my Democratic registration, I have the ability to vote in primaries and I think I have the same power as those switching their registrations by being clear to the party where I stand. If they want to continue drinking the Jones cocktail and think that anyone who still calls herself a Democrat will cave and vote for Obama, then they're in for a rude awakening in November.

Michael said...

My fear is that the fall of the current "gang of idiots" may not be enough to lead to change. Defeat will be rationalized away by:
a) blaming Hillary and her supporters and,
b) blaming the voters (i.e., same reasons as were offered as to why Obama could not win certain Democratic Party demographics).

After all, the party went from one defeat to the next for the past 30 years or so (the Clinton years being the sole exception, and now the party seems determined to blame its misfortunes on that singularly effective Democrat), and it seems like the same gang of idiots is still very much in power, even if names are different.

I have a slight disagreement with your take on the two-party system. The US system of government was based on the assumption that the three branches of government would be independent, stove-piped entities, and as such would be capable of effectively checking each other. It precedes the party system. However, once you introduce the two-party system (and it is two-party not be design, but as an externality of our winner-take-all, single-member-district electoral system), no institution of US government works as intended. If party loyalty trumps loyalty to one's branch of government (and it does, at least when the GOP is concerned), the system breaks down. The outcome is the gradual expansion of executive power. The Electoral College, likewise, is a different institution for being dominated by the two parties, since the electors are no longer independent actors but rather party loyalists. And so on down the line.

Now, your point is well taken. This is the only system we've got so we need to work within it rather than drop out and sit on the sidelines in righteous indignation. Nevertheless, its flaws and limitations need to be recognized.

Chinaberry Turtle said...

I think the two opposing strategies explained by both Anglachel and riverdaughter (comment #1) are equally valid. I've left the Democratic party, and I've done so for reasons similar to riverdaughter.

For me, it's not to deal with issues now in the run-up to the GE (as it is for riverdaughter), but to deal w/ the inevitable aftermath. As we all know, when Obama loses in November, Hillary and her supporters will be blamed.

Personally, I WANT to be blamed; I WANT to be told that I am responsible for Obama's loss in November. This will give me both satisfaction and (more importantly) power.

How?

My response will be: "yes, Obama lost because of me. The lesson for you is that in 2012 if sexism is again used against a female candidate, I will be responsible for making you lose again. If you want me back in the Democratic fold you just have to do two things: quit running campaigns founded upon (1) woman-hatred and (2) derision toward working class folk."

When Obama loses in November and Dean sees the mass number of defectors who have left the party, the fact of the matter is that we WILL have caused Obama to lose by our defection. They're gonna throw this at us as a curse, but I'm gonna embrace it as my rallying cry. If they want us back in the party, they're gonna have to change their ways.

At the same time, I am glad that there will be operatives inside the Democratic party who themselves have this realization. In sum, I think it's good if about 1/2 of us follow riverdaughter's strategy (which includes me), and the other 1/2 follows Anglachel's strategy.

Michael said...

In response to Chinaberry Turtle's commments, if the take-away narrative in the aftermath of GE loss is that Hillary supporters are to blame, the results are unlikely to be good. It may reinforce the argument that the Democratic Party needs to jettison certain groups of voters and focus on "new voters" instead. This will of course be a self-serving argument for the folks propagating it (Obama-orbiting party hacks who will by November control the sinews of the organization) but I think we can assume they will not want to relinquish their cushy jobs and admit they are responsible for fracturing the party. This would leave us an even greater siege mentality among the party elite. Even now it seems like winning in November is secondary to retaining power within the party organization.

Although I am leaning toward Anglachel's prescription, I can see the logic behind Riverdaughter's argument too (particularly the psychological warfare aspect of it). But I think the question really is, what practical recommendations can be offered to those of us that wish to remain Democrats but want to unseat the current party oligarchy and at the same time reduce the current level of intra-party polarization?

jangles said...

I too am remaining within the Democratic Party. You outlined some excellent political systems points about power and political parties who serve the functions of aggregating interests, educating people, transmitting the political culture, organizing resources to gain and wield power. In a society that has achieved the modernity of our society and wields power over such a huge geography and complex social structure, the modern political party is essential---we may complain about them but we need them. That political reality and the history of third party efforts keeps me a Dem. The Clintons as Dems keep me engaged. But I know I am going to pursue an activist agenda to prevent the Chicago Combine from taking over. I am now attending my local precinct meetings (hard to actually find out about that at first). I will become indispensable to them. I am going to agitate for nationwide and closed primary elections---primaries because the voter still stands as the guardian angel of political reality and nothing else comes close. Closed primaries because we need to build party coherence; not a playground for gaming the system. Also, I am convinced that one of the reasons no 3rd party effort is successful is because if I am an Independent or a Green and I can vote in Republican or Democratic primaries, I don't have to take on the tasks of party building---and if people outside the two main parties have to organize and build in order to vote in primaries in the long run they will become strong and they will make the Rep/Dem more accountable to their own party members.

Horselover Fat said...

I hate putting in a second post, but want to say I agree Michael, not CBT.

People do not react well to bullying, to blackmail, to extortion. Getting confrontational will not, I think, work out well. JMHO. YMMV.

Anglachel said...

My thanks to everyone who commented. With almost 60 posts, it was difficult to winnow it down to just this number. The thread does remain open for additional commenters.

Reading over the comments, I think Chinaberry Turtle articulates the key idea - no one approach can be 100% effective. I don't take lightly the decision to remain in the party, and it is a "for now" option. Even in staying, it is to make clear my opposition to the violence done to democracy as such. No votes, no money, no effort from me, and a truckload of trouble.

Going Independent is a fine move, in my opinion. I would love to get my hands on the drop-off in party registration numbers. Hmm, I'll have to go peruse the CA Sec. of State's site and look for info. My only concern with leaving the party is because of the Whole Foods Nation wankers who seem to think that they are the only true Democrats, even when massive numbers of them can't be bothered to join the party. They are not worthy of the party of FDR, LBJ and WJC.

While I understand the the voting strategy, I can't advocate voting for McCain. He really is a psycho, conservative Republican who will do very bad things when in office. If there was a Democratic Congress with cojones, I would not worry so much, but I'm not eager to give the Rethugs any claim on a "mandate".

No matter what the individual choice, this is a dangerous election. All results are repugnant.

Successful third parties form when an older party fizzles out, and is usually created from a substantial part of the previous party. In the US, the classic case is the Whigs who collapsed under the weight of abolitionism and from those ashes rose the Republicans. Taking a long look, I'm not sure that the class split in the Democrats can be mended because the elites are unwilling to make concessions (vs. election time pandering) to the rather practical middle. This is a psychological and cultural problem, not a political one. It may very well be that the party splits, in which case you will see money on one side and votes on the other.

The Whole Foods Nation faction woudl love to make use of the working class the way that the Republicans make use of certain groups of evangelicals, as pawns and tools, riled up by a ballot measure or jerked along by a Supreme Court ruling. This ain't going to happen for a whol bunch of reasons, and we can see the results in this year's primary.

So, multiple points of pressure, do not get pulled into single issue voting, beware of McCain and the Republicans (who will fuck you over even faster than the Obamacans), and get organized. The way to take back the party is to be a participant in the state party and ensure that the Obamacan gravy train does not get entrenched in your state. BLogging alone will not alter the balance of power.

Anglacehl

Cathy said...

Let me advance a practical suggestion. (By the way, I belong to PUMA wing. But that has been a long time coming and fueled in part by watching how officials treat demo volunteers.)

We should combine our efforts to protect those elected officials who stood by Hillary. (The crazier PUMA folks among us will support primary campaigns against her opponents. By the way, I disagree that PUMA hurts Hillary. There is a point of being too nice to these $%^ an she's skirting it.)

For example, despite his heroic stand on gay marriage, I never really fell into Gavin Newsome's camp. But that changed after he showed up for a fundraiser for her in SF that occurred BEFORE her major wins in Ohio, Penn. and Texas. He was a lonely figure at that event.

Frankly I worry more for the first term congresspeople who wrote letters supporting her. Those will be the first folks in Obama's sights post November.

That goes double and triple for her African American supporters like Mayor McNulty and Stephanie Tubbs.

Ultimately the party is people. That's why everyone's refusal to donate/volunteer probably matters more than the de-registering. But the party doesn't move forward unless we have elected officials dependent on our votes.