Thursday, September 22, 2005

Be who we want (the party) to be

Shakespeare's Sister led me to this wisdom from a comment on the driftglass blog:
I'm just as critical as anyone else who complains that the Democratic Party hasn't done enough to distinguish itself from the Republicans, by and large.

This presents a number of options:

1) Despair that both parties suck and give up.
2) Despair that both parties suck, but since one sucks marginally less than the other, support it.
3) Despair that both parties suck and try to start a third party.
4) Wait until, by act of Divine Grace, some messianic candidate will appear who will fix things.
5) Work with others who feel as you do to gain control over one of the parties.

Since I started paying attention, in the mid-seventies, progressives have mostly been bouncing back and forth between choices 1, 2, 3 and 4.... while the right-wingers chose Door Number 5.

Here's the thing about these options, respectively:

1) Giving up means that your opponent has won. Not an option, given our opponent.

2) This works fine, assuming can resign yourself to electing people who suck marginally more or less than one another.

3) This is doomed to failure for a number of reasons. In a winner-take-all system, third party candidates are spoilers at best. And the voting reforms needed to change the winner-take-all nature of national politics won't happen: The bloated, inertial bodies of the Democratic & Republican party will stand together in concert to impede the way of the establishment of any 'progressive' party.

4) Messiahs get crucified. (c.f. The Dean Scream, Gary Hart, RFK, and an endless array of others ) If we’re to take our country back, it isn’t going to be because some great political giant will come along and make the Bad Men Go Away: if there isn’t sufficient ground work, even a giant can be brought down by an army of Lilliputians. To effect political change, you need a bunch of people who can give air cover and ground support to even the most exemplary of leaders. Especially them.

5) This is the strategy that worked for the right-wing loonies who blight our nation... back when they found themselves in a similar fix to the one we're in now. The media was against them. They didn't have the presidency, the house or the senate. For them, 1964 was like our 2004. You know how crazy the media made Dean seem to the Man in the Street? That was Barry Goldwater 40 years ago: "In your guts, you know he's nuts". So what did they do? They took the long view and decided that a Republican Party without much going for it was the perfect Host Organism for them. Why start from scratch when there's an organization with a national presence that one can take control of?

If I'm reading driftglass right, he's saying that if you don't like these Democrats, then it's time to raise us up a whole new crop. But to do that, we have to plant seeds, water them, fertilize them, and not just stand around waiting to see if this year the crops look better than the field we left fallow last year.

On a personal level, because I don't like a whole lot of the Democrats we've got now, I'm trying to become the kind of Democrat I want to see more of. It's an inside job.

I think we’ve got to look to each other, starting on the local level, in our communities... to build a political climate in which we rise up through the ranks... supporting each other with time and money... and increasingly occupy positions of influence and authority in order to institute the changes we desire and desperately need.

If you think that'll take time, you're absolutely right. There's no time to waste.

But if anyone has got a better alternative, I'd love to hear the plan.

In a sense, we who blog have started this process. We congratulate ourselves for our successes, but they are small and isolated at this point. Blogging is still kind of hermetic and elitist. Taking over the party is, unfortunately, neither of those things.

Somehow, we need to get from here to there. And maybe the way to do it is at really is at the schoolboard and city council level, just like the wingnuts did it.


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