Monday, March 20, 2006

Replace or reform? I say reform.

Regardless of who is currently in charge of the infrastructure of the Democratic Party, the fact is that there exists a strong brand and a strong political infrastructure. I would be interested in reading about the collapse of the Federalist Party and the Whig party, but since the 1860 electoral victory of President Lincoln, no third party has ever entered the scene on a national scale and been successful. We came close in 1912, but it never had the long term committment necessary.

The effort to create the missing infrastructure has been started several times, and the movement is completely splintered on how to do it effectively so it has always failed. The last really successful effort in this area was the Black Panthers, under the guidence of Aaron Dixon. They got things done, but they did not engage in electoral politics. By thinking of a third party or replacement party effort, you are acknowledging that electoral politics needs our attention as much as issue-based politics. The current efforts of the Libertarians and Greens are bound to fail. They always have, and although the Libs have a national effort ongoing to get them engaged and successful in electoral challenges, I don't expect it to succeed. The Greens are divided among themselves worse than the Democrats are. And the 'Progressive Party' is made up of people who got sick of being silenced within the Dems and left to form their own party that they dream about being equal to the Vermont Progressive Party, which is current the most successful third party in existence in the US. Their main problem is that they are based in high density urban areas instead of rural areas which proved to be the successful breeding ground for the current Progs in VT and for the Farmer/Labor Party that exists in Minnesota as the leftovers of the original Farmer's Alliance, Populist movement and progressive movement of the late 1800's. I've been doing a LOT of reading about political parties and our history.

Most of the available party labels have been sequestered by others, but could be rehashed. Examples: Reform Party from '92 and '96, Independence Party is a possibility because that's what gave Jesse the Governor's mansion in Minnessota, the Eagle party is an effort on Wikicities to develop a platform that gets no attention or help. My vote for something new would be either Progressive Party or Independence Party. But then you get to the rules of the House and Senate. Unless the Democratic Party is completely wiped off the face of the map, which is not going to happen, any third party members that take a numerical majority away from the D's helps the R's keep control over the committee structure and what comes out for a vote. We are not a coalition-based pariliment. The rules of Congress are designed around a two party system, and neither of the two parties are open to changing those rules.

The local party organizations follow the same pattern. Anyone using a label other than their own is not only not welcome, but actively driven out. One of our local elected officials gets no time on our agenda because in 2000 he expressed support for Nader's right to run. The only way that we're going to be able to change that is by having progressive members of the E-board that show up to a Program Committee meeting and bring Peter up as a motion and vote down the people who want to keep him away from the microphone. The only other thing that we can do is provide him with a way to talk to the Progressive Caucus, which we have done and will continue to do.

So, the barriers to replacing the Dems from the outside have been tried and have yet to be successful. The barriers to reforming the Dems from the inside boil down to time and continuous pressure, which is ongoing.

Howard Dean looked at these choices in early 2005. And he jumped into the belly of the beast to do his best to reform from the inside. It's hurting him and those of us who followed his lead. But it's working, slowly. And the best way to prevent his corruption and the corruption of those who followed him is to continue to stand on our own principles and looking to the long term. Do we have the time available before the end to spend doing this? I don't know. But I honestly think it has a better chance of succeeding than the replacement scheme.

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