You are browsing the archive for Democratization.

A System-Changing Solution for the OWS Movement?

5:52 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

By

Nancy Bordier and Joseph M. Firestone

As the Occupy Wall Street movement grows, OWS members are weighing their options for obtaining redress of their grievances.

Holding and expanding the ground they occupy is an obvious priority. It draws worldwide attention to their grievances and increasing numbers. It gives them a place to meet, build relationships, discuss and debate their issues, and plan.

Foiling violent action on the part of the police and anarchists is a constant distraction, but it helps the movement develop rules of engagement for everybody. Civil disobedience and voluntary arrests is another avenue, as is direct action, like preventing the seizure of illegally foreclosed homes.

Seeking redress through the political process is even more problematic. Many OWS members believe it would be a futile exercise to try to get lawmakers who have been corrupted by special interests to pass laws in their favor. Using the ballot box to replace their elected representatives is difficult, if not impossible, now that the U.S. Supreme court has given corporations a green light to spend unlimited amounts of corporate funds to influence elections.

The nation’s two major parties, the Democrats and Republicans, are a major stumbling block to non-party candidates trying to win electoral victories over party-backed candidates. The parties’ grip on the nation’s electoral machinery, and their ability to raise huge amounts of money for their candidates from special interests, gives them decisive advantages over their adversaries at the ballot box.

Efforts to pass laws reforming this corrupt system appear equally futile. Few lawmakers would vote to overturn the laws (governing campaign finance, gerrymandering and elections) that get them elected and enable them to hold on to office.

Despite these obstacles, we think there is a way OWS members can use the political process to redress their grievances. It is by taking advantage of the Internet and a new web-based organizing platform to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that OWS members control.

The platform has agenda-setting tools that enable bloc and coalition members to collaboratively translate their grievances into legislative agendas. It also has consensus-building tools the blocs and coalitions can use to screen, nominate and run candidates for office at all levels of government who will enact their agendas.

While this platform and the website being built around it, reinventdemocracy.net, are still in development, it is possible that they will be available in time for OWS members to elect enough of their own representatives to shift control of Congress away from the 1% in 2012.

The Internet has already played a pivotal role in empowering the OWS movement to spread its tentacles — and tents, throughout the country and the world. It has enabled the movement to broadcast a global rallying cry that hurls the fury of the masses against the “1%” and their political bedfellows who have plunged the remaining “99%” into dire economic and financial straits.

Here in the U.S., unemployed college graduates are joining hands with trade unionists, war veterans, senior citizens, community organizers, dispossessed homeowners, the chronically homeless, and growing numbers of the 100 million Americans living in poverty, or in the category just above it. In early November, OWS demonstrators in Oakland, California, carried out a general strike that shut down its port, the fifth largest in the nation, and brought the city to a standstill.

We believe this movement is unstoppable. We also believe that it has the potential to shift the balance of power from the 1% to the 99% if its members join forces to combine the large scale collective action power of the Internet and the platform we describe below.

By so doing, they can collaboratively translate their grievances into legislative agendas, forestall efforts to embroil the movement in violent confrontations, and build winning voting blocs and coalitions to elect lawmakers who will enact their agendas into the law of the land.

Fixing the System

Currently, there are three major contenders for electoral victories in 2012. The Democratic and Republican parties, and a third party in formation, Americans Elect (AE).

The election prospects of the major party candidates are dimmed by the low regard in which a majority of voters hold the two parties and their elected representatives. A substantial majority of voters say they would consider voting for a third party candidate. That’s where AE comes in.

The unpopularity of the two major parties may give AE candidates the chance to be the exception to the rule that third party candidates usually lose. AE candidates could actually beat major party candidates if they attract the votes of two groups of voters.

The first is the 40% of the electorate that is not registered in either major party. The second are disaffected registered Democrats and Republicans who polls show would vote for a competitive third party candidate if he or she were running on a separate ballot line from either major party.

We view AE’s electoral prospects with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it would be highly desirable for a third party to run competitive candidates against major party candidates — provided it makes the parties and candidates more responsive to voters because they fear they might lose elections to the third party.

On the other hand, it would be undesirable for a third party run by a privately-run corporation like AE, whose board of directors writes the rules, to get into the process if it does not honor the will of the voters any more than the major parties.

[Note: Since AE declares itself a political party in documents addressed to state election authorities, we consider it a party even though it also defines itself as a "social welfare" organization.]

It would be even more undesirable if such a third party uses undemocratic means to nominate candidates, undermine other political parties and the political party system, and elect lawmakers unresponsive to their constituents’ demands that they address the inequality issues raised by the wealth and income gap between the 1% and the 99%.

Unfortunately, in our opinion, AE presents risks on all these fronts. Based on what we have learned about AE, we think it may turn out to be no more responsive to the wishes of the electorate than the two major parties. We also think its modus operandi might well erode fundamental democratic processes and the political party system itself.

With respect to redressing the grievances of OWS members, AE’s well-documented agenda appears to us more likely to favor the 1% than the 99%. The founders of AE and AE’s predecessor, Unity08, have frequently labeled their platform as a “centrist” platform, presumably situated in the middle of a political spectrum they appear to assume comprises a “left”, i.e. a Democratic platform, and a “right”, i.e. a Republican platform.

According to one AE spokesperson, AE’s “centrist” platform is apparently a fiscally conservative one:

“We need a fiscal plan developed that puts us on a path to reducing our debt and deficit while encouraging entitlement reform and cuts in defense and discretionary spending.”

If we are correctly reading between the lines of this statement, AE favors many of the same policies favored by the two major parties that have led to the wealth and income gap between the 1% and the 99%.

Needless to say, AE is within its rights to pursue whatever agenda it wishes. However, it is important to note that terms like “left”, “right” and “center” are widely viewed as having lost their authenticity as accurate descriptors of the electorate’s legislative preferences.

As linguist George Lakoff pointed out years ago, the claim that a “center” and “centrists” exist is empirically and statistically unfounded.

Pew Research Center corroborates Lakoff with research showing that the views of the electorate, and supposed “centrists”, diverge too widely to be categorized as “left”, “right” or “center”, according to a recent survey, Beyond Red and Blue.

The solution we advocate does not use these obsolete labels. It enables the electorate to build winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions around collectively-set legislative agendas that defy categorization as “left”, “right” or “center”.

These blocs and coalitions can work with political parties of their choice, but they will remain autonomous and independent of parties because they will be controlled by voters, and the needs and wants expressed in their legislative agendas will be defined by the voters that control the blocs and coalitions.

Below we describe how this solution works. In particular, we show how it compares with Americans Elect, with which it shares a number of common goals but diverges in far more important respects regarding form, substance and likely impact.

A Comparative Analysis

The system-changing solution we advocate is a web-based “bottom up” political organizing platform, the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), invented by political activist and co-author Nancy Bordier. OWS members can use the platform to join with voters of all persuasions to build self-organizing online voting blocs and electoral coalitions.

They can manage and structure their blocs and coalitions as they wish, and organize themselves in ways that prevent the emergence of organizational hierarchies that concentrate power at the top, as political parties tend to do.

They can collaboratively set transpartisan legislative agendas, which transcend the partisan ideological orientations of the major political parties, by using the IVCS agenda-setting, political organizing and consensus-building tools that will be available on reinventdemocracy.net.

They can screen, nominate and run candidates on the ballot lines of political parties of their choice, and build broad-based transpartisan electoral bases that have the voting strength needed to put their candidates in office.

This system contrasts with AmericansElect.org (AE), which we view as a “top down” solution since it is controlled by the board of directors of a single corporation. It is led by veteran Wall Street investor Peter Ackerman.

AE’s current objective is to conduct an online nominating convention to nominate a “balanced” presidential ticket for the 2012 election outside the two major parties. Based on publicly available AE documents and statements, we interpret “balanced” to mean “centrist”.

As mentioned earlier, AE appears to be targeting the 40% of voters who are not registered in the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as disaffected members of the two parties who will vote for a competitive alternative to their party’s ticket if he or she were running on a separate ballot line from either major party.

What the two solutions have in common are their goals of

– Loosening the Democratic and Republican parties’ grip on U.S. electoral processes;

– Empowering the U.S. electorate to play a much larger role in elections than the Democratic and Republican parties have previously allowed them to play;

– Enabling voters to express their political views online, compare their respective views, and screen candidates to compare candidates’ views to their own;

– Empowering voters to nominate and elect candidates who will represent the will of their constituents more closely than major party candidates have represented the will of their constituents in recent years.

The two solutions differ in just as many respects as they converge.

The IVCS solution enables voters to define any legislative agendas they wish, form as many online voting blocs and electoral coalitions as they wish, run as many candidates as they wish, for any office, and place them on the ballot line of any party they wish.

In contrast, the AE solution is attempting to draw voters into a single party, platform and nominating convention to produce a single presidential ticket, which AE plans to simultaneously place on the ballot lines in all 50 states that it states it is in the process of obtaining.

Whereas IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions can make their own rules and create non-hierarchical voting blocs and coalitions, AE’s corporate parent makes the rules and has created what appears to be a pyramid-shaped organizational hierarchy in which authority is concentrated at the top, apparently in the hands of the chairman of the board.

While IVCS blocs and coalitions can nominate any candidates they wish, AE’s bylaws and rules appear to limit voters’ nominations to those acceptable to a committee appointed by its board of directors, whose members serve at its pleasure.

Voters must nominate what AE variously defines as a “coalition ticket” and a “balanced ticket”. Article 1 of AE bylaws specify the goal of the nomination process to be that of nominating a
“coalition ticket responsive to the vast majority of citizens while remaining independent of special interests and the partisan interests of either major political party.”

According to its Pre-Convention Rules, the corporation’s “Candidate Certification Committee” determines “whether any proposed ticket is balanced” and which candidates meet meet this criterion:

[A] “ticket with two persons consisting of a Democrat and a Republican shall be deemed to be balanced. A ticket with two persons of the same political party shall be deemed to be imbalanced.” (See Section 8.0 of the bylaws.)

We see here a discrepancy. On the one hand, AE claims that the convention is the “first nonpartisan presidential nomination”. On the other hand, AE requires voters to choose candidates from the nation’s two major political parties, which are clearly partisan.

If the convention were truly “nonpartisan”, the ticket would comprise candidates that belonged to no party, since political parties are “partisan”, according to most common definitions, as are their candidates.

The bias toward a coalition Democrat and Republican presidential ticket also appears to violate AE’s core call to action, which is to “Pick a President, Not a Party”, according to a recent AE press release.

This throwback to the two major parties whose candidates AE is seeking to defeat, when combined with AE’s insistence on a “balanced ticket” comprised of a member of each party that AE is seeking to defeat, reveal what AE’s real goal might be.

We believe it is not merely to defeat major party candidates, but to replace both unpopular parties by migrating their supporters over to the Americans Elect party via a ticket comprised of at least one Democrat and one Republican.

From this perspective, AE’s underlying objective could very well be that of realigning U.S. politics around a single “centrist” party that supplants the two major parties, whose chronic electoral posturing have created a stalemate in Congress and paralyzed the federal government.

To attain this objective, AE’s spokespersons continually castigate the two major parties for being “partisan”. They claim that AE is “nonpartisan” even though its founders are on record as long-time advocates of a “centrist” agenda, and the instrument AE uses to gauge voters’ political views is biased, in our opinion, to skew results in a “centrist” direction, which is a “partisan” direction.

And even though AE says it is allowing voters to formulate the party’s platform and nominate its candidates, by expressing their views in response to an instrument containing an online survey of their views, and voting on nominees, AE’s board of directors has appointed committees to decide what the platform actually is and which candidates can be nominated.

We believe that if AE were genuinely committed to allowing voters to determine the platform, it could simply tally their responses and formulate questions corresponding to the tallies. If it were genuinely committed to allowing voters to nominate the candidates they choose, it would allow them to do so without the oversight of committees controlled by the corporation.

This potential for deviating from authenticity raises questions about the risks inherent in a political party being owned and operated by a private corporation. While AE’s corporate bylaws do give voters it qualifies the possibility of overturning AE decisions by a 2/3 vote, these allowances are virtually meaningless since few bodies ever attain a 2/3 majority. Accordingly, we find it unlikely that AE, a privately run corporation, can be held accountable by any constituency other than its board of directors.

Given this potential lack of accountability, we think it vitally important to consider the risks inherent in AE’s emergence as a political party capable of bringing about the collapse of the two major parties.

These risks are particularly relevant to the “99%” because AE’s founders, leaders and contributors appear to favor a partisan “centrist” agenda that supports the “1%” and, we suspect, are likely to do what they can to obtain from their nominating convention an agenda and candidates who will legislate in the interests of the 1% if elected.

In this light, it is well to bear in mind that the favored candidate of the founders of AE’s predecessor, Unity08, is reported to have been New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and that rumors continue to circulate that he is a prospective candidate for AE’s 2012 presidential ticket.

We list below further steps AE is taking that, in our view, may well be intended to produce a platform and ticket reflective of AE’s preferences.

While they show considerable legal ingenuity in skirting around the electoral laws that have traditionally given the two major parties unfair advantages over third party candidates, they also show a disturbing willingness to undercut traditional democratic processes.

It appears to us that they may undermine the political primary process as a whole, and pose a systemic risk of further weakening the responsiveness of the political party system to the will of the people.

Here are several examples:

1. State laws allow eligible voters to register to vote in any political party they wish, and parties do not have the power to expel any voter or prevent them from voting in a party primary.

In contrast, AE bylaws specify that any person can be “terminated from Americans Elect without prior notice by the Board”. (See sections 2.4 and 5.4 of the bylaws.)

2. AE’s online nominating convention circumvents the state-by-state primaries conducted by the two major parties without replacing them with an equally responsive alternative as far as voter-candidate interaction is concerned.

Specifically, AE asserts in its bylaws that the “secure Internet connection” that it provides voters participating in its convention is a substitute for a “physical presence” in a state. (See sections 8. and 8.1. of Americans Elect bylaws.)

Whether AE’s “Internet connection” is a desirable replacement for face-to-face caucuses and primary campaigns at the state level is a doubtful and arguable proposition.

3. Unlike government-sponsored party primaries conducted at state level in which government officials are responsible for ensuring the accurate tallying of the ballots cast, it appears that AE, a private corporation, intends to have the votes cast in its online nominating convention tallied by its own corporate employees on its own in-house computers.

If AE had instead conferred this task on a third party without ties to the organization, the accuracy of the results could have been externally verified.

4. AE’s bylaws contain a provision stipulating that its online nominating convention does not require a quorum. (See section 8.3.)

Presumably, this also means that there is no minimum number of votes that must be cast by voters in a particular state before AE can legally place its presidential ticket on its ballot lines in that state.

Whether an online nominating convention that has no quorum is a desirable and legal replacement for state-level primaries is also an arguable proposition. For it might well lead to a presidential ticket nominated by an extremely small fraction of the electorate being placed automatically and simultaneously on AE ballot lines in all 50 states.

Quite possibly AE is unconcerned by the prospect that its nominating convention and ticket are not representative or responsive to the “vast majority of citizens”, for the reason that its overriding goal may be just to place on its ballot lines the ticket its committees have teased out of its online nominating process.

Once it does so, we think it likely that large amounts of campaign financing from the 1% will be expended to make the ticket appear responsive to the “vast majority of citizens” infuriated by the conduct of the two major parties, drive AE’s newly forged electoral base to the polls to vote for AE’s ticket, and quite possibly catapult the nascent Americans Elect party and its candidates into the winner’s circle on election day.”

5. At the same time AE is loudly protesting the two major parties’ their grip on the nation’s electoral machinery, and their use of it to prevent third party candidates from winning elections, AE’s bylaws appear designed to similarly restrict competition, by preventing unwelcome external challengers who do not participate in AE’s online nominating process from challenging the process, the nominees, or the outcome.

Section 8.6 of AE bylaws state that the “exclusive means” for any candidate to get on its ballot lines is through its “internet convention”. If state laws allow a “presidential primary election vote”, these votes shall be “advisory only”.

It remains to be seen whether AE’s assertion of these unusual prerogatives will be met with legal challenges at state level when it attempts to place a ticket on its ballot lines.

What is most concerning is that these short-cuts and end-runs around democratic processes may be only the initial phase of AE’s grand realignment strategy, whose overarching goal, we suspect, is to collapse the two major parties into a single major uni-party, the Americans Elect party.

Once the corporation obtains a presidential ticket from its self-styled convention process, and places it on the ballot in all 50 states simultaneously, we expect to see unprecedented sums of special interest money expended to elect its ticket. AE candidates will join the ranks of the Democratic and Republican candidates in holding their hands out to the same special interest contributors pushing the same special interest agendas.

If AE’s ticket draws enough votes away from the two major party tickets, it could actually elect a president and vice president nominated outside the two parties. The next best outcome for AE would be that its ticket draws enough votes away from the major party candidates to prevent the election of either of them, and thereby throws the determination of the outcome of the election into the U.S. House of Representatives.

While that outcome is unpredictable, it would seriously weaken the two major parties even though it favored the fortunes of future “centrist” AE candidates whose policies might well be no different from theirs.

Going forward, we suspect that if AE’s ticket receives 5% of the vote in a respectable number of states, thereby entitling it to remain on the ballot for 2014 and 2016, it will work out the inconsistencies in its legal status and function as a full-fledged “centrist” political party running candidates for all offices at all levels of government, and not merely the presidency.

If so, based on what we have learned about AE’s past history and current trajectory, we think these candidates are likely to favor policies that benefit the 1% rather than the 99%. If such a scenario is in the offing, the IVCS solution takes on special importance, particularly to the members of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

For we think the IVCS solution, and it alone, has the potential to empower not only the OWS movement but the entire U.S. electorate to forestall a possible AE takeover of U.S. electoral and legislative processes, assuming, as we do, that such a power play and realignment around a single party may well be in the offing.

Here’s why we place such confidence in IVCS’s potential:

1. OWS members can mobilize far greater numbers of voters than AE can bring into its fold, by using IVCS tools to bring together U.S. voters of all persuasions into consensus-building processes to translate their grievances into legislative agendas.Voters using the IVCS solution have the potential to exert a far greater political impact than AE nationally and locally because AE supporters can only sit at their computers, answer AE’s questions and sit back passively while AE committees run the show. That’s because IVCS users will get more deeply involved in starting their own ongoing dialogues and debates about their own self-defined issues, setting their legislative agendas, and building and managing voting blocs and coalitions to elect their own representatives to enact their agendas.

2. The IVCS solution enables voters to counteract AE’s potential weakening of voter participation at the state level, by using IVCS tools to democratize and re-invigorate the electoral process at the grassroots.

Voting blocs and coalitions formed with IVCS tools will be able to inject a new dynamism and give-and-take into electoral politics. They will foster a healthy competition among all players, — blocs, coalitions and parties — to develop legislative agendas, negotiate common agendas with prospective candidates, and nominate and run slates of candidates that have broad popular appeal.

3. The IVCS solution will involve voters of all persuasions in developing a dynamic mix of interconnected blocs that will be constantly merging into ever larger coalitions, all seeking to develop and update common legislative agendas and forge electoral bases large enough to get their candidates elected.

4. Voters of all persuasions will use IVCS agenda-setting tools to set “transpartisan” legislative agendas that cross party lines and attract broad cross-sections of voters to their blocs and coalitions. As their numbers grow, they will be able to use IVCS consensus-building tools like the voting utility to help them make decisions.

These blocs and coalitions will spontaneously merge into a decentralized nationwide network of interconnected, interacting blocs and coalitions that supplant political parties as the driving forces of U.S. politics, even while creating alliances with democratized political parties of their choice.

5. To get their candidates on the ballot, blocs and coalitions can put them on the lines of any political party by registering sufficient numbers of their members in the party, collecting enough signatures from party members to get their candidates on the ballot, and getting out enough qualified voters to elect the candidates.

6. The IVCS solution has the potential to encourage greater numbers of candidates to run for office because they will be able to rely on the support and voting strength of IVCS-enabled voting blocs, electoral coalitions and electoral bases.

This positive dynamic will greatly reduce the influence of special interest campaign contributions in U.S. elections because these candidates will not need such contributions to get their message out. For their message will already be known to the members of the blocs and coalitions backing them, since many of them will have participated in setting the agendas and nominating the candidates in the first place.

7. Voters, and especially members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, can use the IVCS solution to usher in a “transpartisan” voter-driven era in U.S. politics that will be neither “left”, “right” nor “center”.

While there will always be “partisan” issues favored by certain “parties” of voters, IVCS provides voters unique problem-solving and consensus-building tools for reconciling differences regarding legislative priorities and collectively-setting legislative agendas.
Voters will be able to convert partisan differences into common agendas, including the partisan preferences of any political party, AE included.

IVCS consensus-building tools will enable them to build large electoral bases that permit them to outflank and outmaneuver political parties with whom they are not aligned.

Yet they can use these same tools to build winning electoral bases and coalitions with any political parties with which they wish to align around shared legislative agendas and common slates of candidates.

8. Finally, one of the most significant contributions of IVCS tools, especially the agenda-setting and political organizing tools, is that they enable voting blocs and coalitions to use their agendas as legislative mandates for which their members can hold their elected representatives accountable at the ballot box when they seek re-election.

If incumbents cannot provide tangible evidence and concrete track records showing they have exerted their best efforts to enact voters’ written legislative agendas, the voting blocs and coalitions that got them elected will defeat them when they seek re-election.

Voters will at last be able to prevent politicians from saying one thing on the campaign trail and then doing another when they are in office.

Conclusion

The members of the Occupy Wall Street movement have demonstrated an understandable reluctance to establish hierarchical structures and decision-making rules. They prefer unanimous consent over other formulas.

What we hope is that the members of the movement will recognize that the IVCS platform enables them to build non-hierarchical political organizations like the self-organizing voting blocs and coalitions described above, and use them to obtain redress of their grievances through the political process.

Their blocs and coalitions will maintain their responsiveness to their members and their fluidity because their members will be controlling them and making all the rules.

If any members disagree with the way things are going, and encounter insurmountable obstacles in their efforts to redirect the things they object to, they can exit the blocs and coalitions and start their own. They can use the same IVCS tools available to all blocs and coalitions for attracting new members.

We believe the IVCS platform is uniquely designed to empower movement members and the 99% to join forces to translate their grievances into convergent legislative agendas in the near term.

We are confident they will be able to elect enough of their own representatives to shift control of Congress away from the 1% in 2012, enact their agendas, and at the same time empower the electorate to obtain permanent control of the nation’s electoral and legislative processes and outcomes.

(Cross-posted from Correntewire.com)

How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Elections from Special Interests: Electing Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate Race

12:39 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Senate seat vacated by Ted Kennedy in 2009 with the support of the special-interest backed Tea Party movement, and large campaign contributions from the banking and financial sector. He was also helped by disaffected working class voters. Whether Brown or another candidate supported by these players runs in 2012, mainstream Massachusetts voters will face an uphill battle trying to elect a senator who will champion their interests against special interests.

The legislative track records of major party lawmakers, especially Congressional representatives, show they are closely aligned with the interests of the corporate financial interests that finance their campaigns. While Democratic and Republican Congressional electoral candidates try to make it appear that there are major differences between them, their votes on key legislative issues tend to be quite similar in reflecting the priorities of their corporate campaign contributors. So regardless of which major party’s candidates voters elect, as hamstrung voters jockey back and forth between the two parties, voters get roughly the same special interest-favoring legislation.

Not only are the major party candidates unlikely to provide voters real alternatives in 2012, but the rumored third party presidential candidate who might emerge from the special interest-backed No Labels party, and the Americans Elect online nominating convention, is likely to run on an agenda crafted by the same conservative financial interests that are bankrolling both of these organizations, as well as the Democratic and Republican parties. Although No Labels and Americans Elect claim they are focused on the so-called “center” of American politics, comprised of the nearly 40% of voters who have defected from the ranks of registered Democrats and Republicans, both appear to be pursuing a conservative fiscal agenda articulated by financial fat cats like Peter Peterson.

While these political facts of life may make it seem impossible to imagine a scenario in which Massachusetts voters could elect a senator who would champion their interests, there is one scenario that might work. If Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren decides to enter the race, as she is being encouraged to do, she just might be able to take up the cause of mainstream Massachusetts voters and defeat these special interests to win herself the Massachusetts Senate seat if she and her supporters take advantage of two untapped political levers. The first lever is the large scale collective action power of the Internet, which has been showing increasing political muscle, and the second is the online voter mobilization potential of a unique social networking platform, the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), now in development.

In two earlier posts in this series, I’ve analyzed the potential impact of IVCS on the 2012 elections in the 8th Congressional District of Virginia, and also in the coming Virginia Senate election contest that appears to be shaping up between former Senator George Allen and former Governor Tim Kaine. In this post, I’ll show how Warren’s supporters can leverage both the collective action potential of the Internet and IVCS’s unique voter-mobilization tools and services to win both primary and general elections on the Democratic line in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race. First, a brief primer on IVCS.

How It Works

IVCS enables voters to get out of a reactive mode and into the driver’s seat of U.S. elections. It is a voter-driven, political crowdsourcing platform that enables individual voters and political activists to bring virtually unlimited numbers of voters with common policy priorities into winning voting blocs and electoral coalitions that voters control. These blocs and coalitions can work within existing or new political parties to run and elect candidates to office who pledge to enact their priorities into law.

The IVCS social networking platform provides voters across the political spectrum free agenda-setting, organizing and consensus-building tools on a single website. The agenda-setting tools enable activists and voters to build personal networks with other voters who share their policy priorities. The platform’s organizing-building tools enable them to transform their networks into voting blocs and electoral coalitions hosted on the website. Its consensus-building tools enable them to build winning electoral bases of broad cross-sections of voters that run and elect candidates whom they can hold accountable for enacting their priorities into law. These electoral victories will enable U.S. voters to eliminate the ever widening gap between voters’ priorities and the legislation enacted by lawmakers who follow the dictates of their special interest campaign contributors.

Most importantly, voting blocs that use IVCS tools to build voter-controlled electoral coalitions and democratize political parties, by giving their members real decision-making power to set their agendas and select their candidates, can neutralize the influence of special interest money in elections. For they can use web-based IVCS communication tools to get their message out and get their voters to the polls without special interest money. Moreover, by involving voters across the political spectrum in analyzing, weighing and debating policy priorities, they will also be able to counter the cognitive distortions in voters’ perceptions that special interests create by spreading false information and political propaganda.

Significantly, IVCS-enabled voting blocs, coalitions and political parties can prevent the fragmentation of the U.S. electorate into losing splinter groups and parties too small to win elections, and neutralize the impact of three special interest-backed parties, assuming the rumored third major party materializes and runs candidates in the 2012 presidential election. They can use IVCS consensus-building tools to wean away mainstream voters from these special interest-backed parties by giving them decision-making influence over policy agenda setting across the board and candidate selection that none of these parties is inclined to do.

These consensus-building tools enable voting blocs to create broad-based coalitions among large cross-sections of voters around transpartisan policy agendas. They can involve virtually unlimited numbers of voters in making decisions and resolving disagreements by using the IVCS Voting Utility to vote on their agendas, which candidates to run, contested issues and proposed political alliances and coalitions.

Since problem solving in the system will be web-based and distributed, rather than centralized, blocs and bloc-run coalitions will be able to quickly increase their voting strength by using the social networking capabilities of the Internet, coupled with IVCS organizing and consensus-building tools to reach out to other voters online. Moreover, they will adapt to their political environments more quickly and effectively than formally-organized political parties organized around rigid platforms. They will spontaneously merge into a nationwide yet decentralized Internet-based web of voter-controlled political organizations. Their members will be able to interact with each other at the speed of light through the networking capabilities of the IVCS website and rapidly supersede legacy parties and special interests as the driving forces in the American political system. (For more information about IVCS, click here.)

How Warren Supporters Can Use IVCS to Elect Warren in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate Race

Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren is a nationally-known and highly-respected consumer advocate who served as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel appointed to monitor the implementation of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), which bailed out insolvent banking and financial institutions during the 2008 – 2009 financial crisis. Although Warren was widely heralded as the most able person to take the reins of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) created by Congress after the crisis to protect consumers from predatory banks and financial institutions, Congressional opposition from Republican lawmakers has prevented her from being appointed to head up the new agency, which she originally proposed.

President Obama yielded to the opposition and appointed her only to oversee the development of the bureau as his Assistant. Since the bureau will be housed in the Treasury Department, she was also named Special Advisor to Treasury Secretary Geithner, despite the fact that they are reportedly at odds on numerous fronts. Even after assuming these positions, Warren has continued to be relentlessly attacked in the corporate media, vilified by right-wing lawmakers, and castigated by banking and financial interests – at the same time that she has become an heroic figure to supporters of financial reform. In light of increasing indications that effective financial reform is on-hold in the 112th Congress, and Warren’s appointment as head of the bureau is unlikely, support is gathering behind a Warren candidacy for the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race.

If she runs, the economic and political facts of life in that state in 2012 are unlikely to have changed very much since the 2009 election of Republican Scott Brown. If anything, they have worsened. Unemployment and underemployment will still be very high; the banksters and fraudsters will remain unpunished; taxes for the wealthy will remain low and may get lower; austerity will evidently still be the order of the day; at this writing, there’s a good chance that Social Security expenditures will be cut before the Spring is out; a new wave of unemployment will be coming from state and local level austerity policies, and from a new round of foreclosures unless the state courts put a stop to them; health care costs and insurance prices will continue to rise; nothing will have been done about the unpopular “health care reform bill”; credit card interest rates will continue to be oppressive; the wars abroad are likely to continue; the “shared pain” of the trumped up fiscal crisis will not be shared by the well-off; and mainstream Americans will be somewhat, but not very much, concerned about public deficits and debts. During yet another election cycle, the economic and financial distress of working Americans will be given short shrift by politicians resorting to culture war issues to avoid talking about the real problems voters are facing. The views of a majority of voters regarding job creation, the distribution of the tax burden, and single payer health care will be ignored, or merely paid lip-service, by candidates whose real agendas reflect the wishes of their corporate campaign financiers.

So, voters will still be really angry at the Democrats for their poor performance in the last Congress, and absolutely livid at the Republicans for their performance in the present one, and their failure to do anything about any of the above — especially their failure to keep their promises about jobs. In this environment people will be angry at Scott Brown, and they’ll be none too happy with Massachusetts’s ten House Democrats. All in all, 2012 won’t be a good year for incumbents, for candidates of either of the two legacy parties, or for voters, who will be faced with choosing among a traditional Democratic or Republican candidate, or a rumored third party candidate running on a No Labels platform largely inspired by special interest fat cats like Peter Peterson.

The unique contribution of IVCS to this race (and any race, for that matter) is that it enables voters to join forces to set their own policy agendas, support announced candidates or put their own candidates on the ballot who will honor their agendas, and build electoral bases large enough to elect them to office.

We know from polls that a majority of Americans are fed up with both major parties and would like to replace most elected representatives in Congress. Any voter or political activist in Massachusetts can get the ball rolling to create a voting bloc to draft Warren by using the IVCS Policy Options Database on the IVCS website to set their individual policy agendas, and create their own personal home page on the IVCS website (which they can make public or keep private). This voter can query the IVCS Policy Priorities Database to see how many other Massachusetts voters have already selected priorities similar to theirs, contact them and invite them to the bloc.

These voters can form the nucleus of an ever expanding voting bloc hosted on the IVCS website, with its own home page, internal email and messaging tools. The organizers and members set their own rules for running the voting bloc. They can incrementally increase the size of their bloc by reaching out through their own personal online social networks to friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and members of like-minded groups of all stripes. They can invite them to join their bloc by accessing the website to set their agendas, compare them with those of the bloc as a whole, and decide to join the bloc if their priorities converge.

They should have no trouble ramping up the size of their bloc to attain decisive electoral strength, given polls showing that 60% – 80% of Americans are so dissatisfied with the Democratic and Republican parties that they want to see most incumbents in Congress defeated. They will be able to grow their bloc by leaps and bounds if they make systematic efforts to recruit new members by getting the word out that all of its members will be able to play an active role in setting the bloc’s agenda and formulating its electoral strategy. They can hold face-to-face and online “town meetings” to discuss the track record of Scott Brown, and collectively decide whether to get behind Warren and urge her to make a primary bid on the Democratic line. Assuming the bloc decides to do so, it can contact her directly to open negotiations to set a common agenda and address key strategic and logistical questions. Of course, the bloc will have to demonstrate its ability to gain the electoral strength it will need to get her elected in a primary and a general election

Needless to say, the Democratic primary for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by Scott Brown, as well as the general election, are likely to feature highly competitive races driven by the same divisive ideological and emotional issues that major candidates always use to gin up a winning electoral base on the part of supporters dispirited by their unsatisfactory legislative track records. IVCS can play a decisive role for a candidate like Warren entering the electoral fray by helping her forge a winning transpartisan electoral base that unites rather than divides the electorate.

A voting bloc that is large enough to win a primary election and possibly swing a close general election, but has an agenda that is likely to prove controversial to general election voters, could actually cost Warren votes if she committed to it. But a voting bloc that works with her to involve a broad cross-section of voters in setting a popular agenda can gain many votes for her, if she commits to the process and the agenda that emerges from it. Not only will the bloc’s members support her in getting out the vote needed to win the primary; but they can subsequently reach out across party lines, especially the lines of the unpopular Democratic and Republican parties, to involve large numbers of disaffected voters, especially those who have defected from the parties to register as Independents, in using IVCS agenda-setting, organizing and consensus-building tools. Such a unique, grassroots, pro-active involvement of voters can grow the voting bloc into a broad-based electoral coalition well beyond the ideological confines of the narrowing electoral bases of the Democratic and Republican parties.

One thing to keep in mind is that IVCS is likely to generate not just one voting bloc in the Massachusetts 2012 Senate race, but several. These blocs and coalitions can decide to run their own candidates or negotiate with candidates who have announced electoral bids. In exchange for the bloc’s support in mobilizing voters on their behalf, blocs can ask candidates to commit to bloc agendas that have already been set or to collaborate with them in creating a joint agenda. If, after these negotiations, candidates win with bloc support, the blocs will be able to hold them accountable in future elections for implementing mutually agreed upon agendas after they take office.

So, let’s assume that by late fall of 2011, IVCS is accelerating the formation of voting blocs and the mobilization of voters throughout the state. The whole roster of candidates for elective office in Massachusetts will find themselves in an unprecedentedly fluid, voter-driven political environment comprised of alternately diverging and converging IVCS-based voting blocs and electoral coalitions committed to enacting specific policy agendas set by their members. They will be rapidly growing in size. Once they have negotiated common agendas, endorsed candidates, and created coalitions and political alliances, they will be capable of mobilizing many hundreds of thousands of voters in Massachusetts and tipping the forthcoming elections in favor of the candidates they decided to support. Voters, not special interests, will be in the driver’s seat of the election.

The ability of IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions to gain traction within the constellation of candidates in the Massachusetts 2012 primary election will depend on the present and anticipated size of specific blocs, the perceived degree of competitiveness of the races being run, the degree to which candidates and blocs can agree on common agendas, the blocs’ and candidates’ capacity to build electoral coalitions that mobilize other voters, as well as the degree to which candidates may be so beholden to special interests that they refuse to commit to enacting bloc formulated agendas.

So, assuming a pro-Warren voting bloc is formed with an agenda likely to be popular among Massachusetts voters, how large would its electoral base have to be in Massachusetts in order for her and the bloc to view the bloc as an effective organizational engine to get her on the ballot for the primary election, such that she would be induced to commit to its agenda?

Answer: if the bloc were the only organization working to put Warren on the ballot of the Democratic Party, bloc members would have to collect approximately 15,000 signatures from registered Democrats in order to be fairly certain of obtaining the minimum 10,000 valid signatures required by state law. Clearly, getting her on the primary ballot would not present an insurmountable hurdle for the voting bloc to overcome, assuming it has implemented a systematic voter recruitment and mobilization strategy that taps into the collective action power of the Internet and the social networking capabilities of IVCS.

For the next hurdle, the number of votes needed to win the primary election itself is quite a bit higher. In 2008, in a primary that wasn’t hotly contested, Democratic Senate candidate John Kerry won the election with 335,923 votes out of 487,396 total votes cast. By comparison, in the 2009 special election, Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley received 310,227 votes out of 664,195 total votes cast in the Democratic primary.

The ultimately victorious Republican candidate, Scott Brown, won the Republican primary with only 145,465 votes out of 162,706 votes cast. (Once he got on the general election ballot, the donations and voter mobilization assistance he received from Tea Party funders and supporters, combined with the financial contributions he received from banks and financial institutions, enabled him to garner 1,168,178 votes, against 1,060,861 votes cast for his Democratic opponent Coakley in a state that has long been a traditional Democratic strong-hold.)

In view of the 2009 primary results in the Brown-Coakley race, in order for the voting bloc to persuade Warren to get behind the bloc’s agenda, or create a joint agenda, it would have to provide convincing evidence that it could mobilize upwards of 350,000 votes in a 2012 primary, or an average of 35,000 per Congressional District. (If more candidates enter the race, the number of votes the voting bloc needs drops, but it will still have to surpass the total garnered by any other candidate.) This 350,000 figure looks realistic considering that there’ll probably be at least 3 or 4 candidates in the Democratic race. Announced, potential, and declined candidates include Martha Coakley, the 2010 Democratic candidate, who appears disinclined to run, with likely contenders including Mike Capuano, Joseph Patrick Kennedy III, Stephen Lynch, and Ed Markey. Three of them are in Congress now and are all very well-known. But the question remains whether an IVCS-enabled voting bloc could deliver 350,000 Democratic primary votes, and whether a candidate like Warren would be sufficiently convinced that it can deliver to commit to a voting bloc’s policy agenda and run on it.

This is where a new, emerging political constituency, comprised of young Millennial voters, combined with the collective action power of the Internet, and the political crowdsourcing capabilities of IVCS, can create decisive levers for an insurgent candidate like Warren running an uphill race against major party regulars. Research on the 2008 presidential election demonstrates the margin of victory that Millennials can provide in a tightly divided race, and the effectiveness of web-based social networks in mobilizing them to become actively involved in these races.

Post-election surveys show that upwards of 125,000,000 Americans conducted their political activities during the 2008 presidential election over the Internet — almost as many people as voted in the election itself. Barack Obama’s victory in that election is credited to his campaign’s ability to use the crowdsourcing capacity of web-based social networks like Facebook and MySpace to recruit young Millennial voters born between 1980 and the early 2000s. He used his campaign’s Facebook and MySpace pages to increase his “fan” base, and then migrate his fans to his campaign website, where his political organizers had built a huge database of voter files with many different kinds of information on each voter.

They used these files and the data they contained to transmit a steady stream of personally-tailored messages to each supporter. These messages were aimed at enticing them not only to volunteer to hold events in their local communities, distribute flyers, and solicit cam paign contributions, but at constantly encouraging them to use their own personal social networks to recruit their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers to Obama’s campaign website. When it came time to get out the vote, the original database had swelled to nearly 13,000,000 voters with whom the campaign could communicate instantly via email and text messages to drive his voters to the polls. The outcome was that Millennials provided Obama 80% of his popular vote margin over McCain.

With IVCS, it is voters rather than candidates who will use the political crowdsourcing potential of web-based social networks to run winning campaigns they control on behalf of agendas they set and candidates they select. Better social networking tools than Obama’s campaign used to create his margin of victory will be available to Millennial members of IVCS-enabled voting blocs hosted on the IVCS website. It is quite likely that they will not work as actively for Obama in 2012 as they did in 2008, because his policies have given them, along with most of the American middle class, the proverbial royal screw, when it comes to jobs and prospects for their futures. In 2012, they’ll be looking for new, non-establishment, non-special interest-backed candidates to support. Elizabeth Warren may well be one of them.

Given the ubiquity of Millennials, the largest generation of voters in history, who will comprise 25% of the electorate in 2012 and 40% of the electorate in 2020, and their well-established sophistication using the web to build individual personal social networks comprised of hundreds of friends, family and co-workers, a voting bloc supporting Warren should have little difficulty building a winning electoral base. Once unemployed and uninsured, Millennials will join forces with disaffected mainstream voters to formulate policy agendas for bettering the condition of the middle class and providing full employment. They will use their social networking finesse to build a powerful web-based political constituency that can easily decide both the primary and general elections in Warren’s favor.

She is likely to commit to its policy agenda and to join forces with voting bloc members to win the Massachusetts primary and general elections because together, they can create a transpartisan electoral base that can outmaneuver and outflank the declining electoral bases of the two major parties. She and her supporters within the bloc, and whatever electoral coalitions they create can use IVCS tools and databases to continuously hone their policy agenda, and expand their electoral base to counter the fiscally conservative, special interest-backed agendas that the two parties (and possibly the third major party in formation) will be trying to foist off on a hapless public, which would be without recourse were it not for IVCS.

The game-changing nature of IVCS will further provide a paradigm-shifting reference point and perspective not only for a voting bloc supporting Warren in Massachusetts; but also for other voting blocs in other states running insurgents against major party regulars. As IVCS-enabled voting blocs take the place of traditional political parties as the reference point for political activists as well as mainstream voters, they will engender viewpoints among their members that defy contemporary dogmas and reject traditional political discourse presented to them by the corporate-controlled mainstream media outlets.

As participation in IVCS-enabled voting blocs and coalitions becomes habitual and sustained, political propaganda disseminated by special interests will be dissected and rejected. Corporate political advertising will be critically evaluated by voting bloc members, especially since their advertising messages are by necessity and design very simplistic, while the dialogues, debates and internal communications inside voting blocs will be richer, more layered, and more textured. Typical political mailings will be laughed at. Attempts to divide and distract voters with sensationalism will be viewed as cynical attempts to manipulate the perceptions of voting bloc members. Even the debates among major candidates will be viewed through the reality-based conceptual lenses being developed continuously within the voting blocs. Debates by talking points and disingenuous counterpoints will be recognized for the kabuki they are. And when the post-debate spinmeisters appear to claim victory for their candidates, their views will be quickly dismissed.

In brief, IVCS, and the alternative social/political sphere it will create, will insulate voting bloc members from the special interest-controlled sphere of mass politics and mass political persuasion. The blocs will weaken the power and influence of special interests, and undermine the value of special interest-funded advertising and marketing activities that make it so expensive to run for office.

Remember that the reason why political advertising and marketing messages are effective now is because they are targeted at specific identity groups, and designed to divide the electorate into irreconcilable camps. But when conflict-fomenting marketing and advertising confront new political constituencies that can unite to set common transpartisan agendas and voter-controlled voting blocs with winning electoral bases not under the control of special interests, they will lose their fire power. Will the marketers and advertisers be able to adapt to this new dynamic and figure out how to manipulate it? I don’t think so, because they won’t be able to keep up with the speed and versatility of voting bloc learning processes, and the continuous adaptations of voting bloc agendas and strategies to emerging political realities.

In early 2012, Massachusetts Senate candidate prospect Elizabeth Warren, together with one or more IVCS-enabled voting blocs eager to support her candidacy, will have the opportunity to reach out to each other, assuming the IVCS website is fully up and running. Given the range of choices available in the IVCS Policy Options Database, and the possibility that voters and candidates can add new options to it, it is quite likely that they can negotiate a common, mutually acceptable policy agenda. Assuming that the voting bloc has put in place an effective strategy for attaining the voting strength that it will need to elect Warren in the primary election against Democratic opponents, and the general election against all other candidates, Warren and the bloc are likely to agree to jointly announce her candidacy.

At this point, the bloc can move quickly toward building the electoral base it will need to garner the approximately 35,000 votes on average it will need in each of the Massachusetts electoral districts to win the primary. Warren’s potential for success in the primary will depend, first and foremost, on what she does. If she works within the confines of the present political system, and declines to join forces with an IVCS voting bloc to use IVCS consensus-building tools to create her own constituency around collective transpartisan agenda-setting, while one of her competitors, say Mike Capuano, the Congressman from the Massachusetts 8th, decides to commit, then the primary campaign will be very hard for her to win.

Moving on to the general election, here Warren will probably need about 1.6 million votes, or an average of 160,000 per Congressional district to win the 2012 Senate race. This assumes that roughly 3 million to 3.2 million people will turn out. It is also worth bearing in mind that there may be a third party candidate running on the No Labels ticket who will be targeting so-called “centrist” voters who have defected from the Democratic and Republican parties, and who will receive substantial backing from fiscal conservatives who think that the political stalemate created by the unpopular Democratic and Republican parties is harming the nation’s ability to solve its pressing crises. In this case, the candidates running on the Republican and No Labels ticket will draw votes from a Democratic ticket led by Obama at the top.

So even if Elizabeth Warren wins the Massachusetts Democratic primary, registered Democratic party voters may continue to decline, so disaffected are they with party performance at all levels. Their defection is likely to prevent Warren from winning on the basis of Democratic voters alone. Given her track record in attempting to regulate predatory bankers and financial institutions, she will be at a great disadvantage in competing against candidates like Scott Brown who will be heavily financed by them. So she will not be able to win the general election with only Democratic votes or with traditional Democratic funders.

But she can turn this necessity into a virtue by working with the IVCS voting bloc to forge a transpartisan electoral base. Elizabeth Warren has been a champion of the middle class for some time, and a general election campaign spear-headed by an IVCS voting bloc would enable her to involve middle class voters across the political spectrum in crafting a transpartisan agenda that addresses their economic and financial distress.

Logistically, her IVCS voting bloc would go all out to use IVCS consensus-building tools to forge a winning electoral coalition and mobilize its voters to go to the polls to ensure that Warren wins the general election in 2012. Given overwhelming voter dissatisfaction with establishment incumbents candidates, which is likely to remain unchanged by election day, and the capability of IVCS to forge electoral coalitions whose members espouse the similar policy priorities, and who are motivated to work for the electoral coalition and those they support, I think it’s very likely that an IVCS electoral coalition supporting Warren can deliver the 1.6 million votes that it will need to elect Warren and upset Scott Brown.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

How Voters Can Get Control of the 2012 Virginia Senate Race

5:38 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

The 2012 Virginia Senate race is shaping up as a contest between former Governor and Senator George F. Allen, and former Governor Tim Kaine, both establishment candidates in the legacy parties and heavily favored to win their respective nominations. They will couch their messages in terms calculated to resonate with Virginia voters. But once elected, if recent history is any guide, their legislative priorities will diverge significantly from the priorities of the voters who elect them because they will be heavily influenced by special interests that finance their campaigns.

The Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS), when fully developed, enables Virginia voters to upset their respective apple carts. In my last post, I described its potential impact on Jim Moran’s next campaign in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District, and explained how the IVCS could lead to the formation of a voting bloc or electoral coalition that could make Jim Moran, or an alternative candidate selected by the voting bloc, accountable to the voting bloc or coalition and its policy agenda. In this post, I’ll do a similar analysis of the Senate race focusing on Tim Kaine.

Tim Kaine

Tim Kaine has had a notable career as a Democratic Party centrist. As an attorney he built a very good reputation as an advocate for victims of housing bias based on race and disabilities. In 1994, after 10 years of practice, he was elected to the Richmond City Council. In 1998, the Council elected him Mayor of Richmond. In 2001, he was elected to the position of Lieutenant Governor with 925,974 votes, 50.35% of the total. This was a narrow win, but Kaine had become closely associated with the very popular Mark Warner during his term, and in 2005, with Warner’s strong support, he was elected Governor with 1,025,942 votes, 51.72% of the total, a margin of 6% over his Republican opponent Jerry Kilgore.

Kaine governed as a centrist. He balanced the budget, emphasized transportation development and funding, continued Warner’s strong support for education, emphasized conservation, signed an Executive Order banning smoking, and, in general, tried to promote balanced growth for the State. Kaine has been a strong supporter and friend of Barack Obama who named him to chair the Democratic National Committee. He was on Obama’s short list for the Vice Presidential nomination, and the president has recently indicated that he thinks Tim Kaine, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy for the US Senate, would make a fine successor to the departing Jim Webb. Since George Allen has announced his candidacy for the 2012 US Senate race in Virginia on the Republican line, it’s becoming increasingly likely that Tim Kaine will be the Democratic Party’s choice to try to hold that Senate seat for the Democrats against George Allen’s attempt to return to the Senate.

Visualizing the Potential Impact of the IVCS on Tim Kaine and the Democratic Party

In my last post analyzing the potential impact of the IVCS on Jim Moran’s upcoming re-election campaign, and also in a number of others, I’ve written about how the IVCS environment will enable its members to form initially small voting blocs around specific policy agendas and then how, through problem solving, collaboration, negotiation and compromise, aided by IVCS social networking facilities, smaller voting blocs can aggregate into ever larger ones, and finally into electoral coalitions unifying millions of people in support of a policy agenda they share. If you’re interested in these details please read the posts linked to above and also “2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests”, and then try to visualize how things might work in the US Senate race coming up in Virginia in 2012.

Start by generalizing the scenario I provided for Jim Moran’s Congressional race in the Virginia 8th to all 11 Congressional Districts in Virginia. In the Congressional scenario, I highlighted trans-partisan voting blocs that were focused on the 8th Congressional District. But the IVCS enables such voting blocs and electoral coalitions to easily organize on a cross-district basis because it is web-based and uses social networking technologies to interconnect voters with similar policy priorities irrespective of where they live. In fact, the natural mode of voting bloc organization is initially around policy options and policy agendas, not around specific election districts. So we are as likely to see cross-district, and even cross-state voting blocs emerge and organize around policy options and agendas as we are to see them focus their memberships to conform to political boundaries like local, state, and Congressional District boundaries in order to further those agendas. Given the demographics of Congressional Districts, they are likely to provide voting blocs the most fertile ground for initially flexing their political muscles. Once the voting blocs start organizing by Congressional Districts, however, they will quickly recognize that they can also mount campaigns and primary challenges to major party incumbents and favored candidates for any offices elected by state voters, whether they are local, state or federal. So, let’s visualize the situation in Virginia in a typical House and Senate election year, assuming the IVCS is in place.

First, let’s take a typical House election year. To get a candidate on the ballot and ensure a primary challenge to at least one of the major Party candidates in each District, the IVCS voting block in each of the 11 Congressional Districts would need to gather at least 1500 petition signatures from qualified voters per district, for a total of at least 16,500 signatures.

Second, let’s take a Senate race. To meet state requirements for getting a single primary candidate for the US Senate in Virginia on the primary election ballot, it would be very easy for IVCS voting bloc members to gather another 1500 in each District, that is, another 16,500, at the same time. Since Virginia requires 10,000 qualified voters total and at least 400 from each of its 11 Congressional Districts, and recommends that 15,000 – 20,000 be gathered with at least 700 from each Congressional District, the voting bloc would easily meet Virginia’s requirement for entering a candidate in a major Party primary.

This means that Tim Kaine, currently viewed as a “shoo-in” choice of the Democratic Party, assuming that he decides he will run for the US Senate, could easily face a voting bloc primary challenge in 2012 if there’s no agreement between himself and the voting bloc on a common agenda, and the bloc decides to enter its own candidate in the primary. Of course, if there is no agreement between Kaine and the voting bloc on a policy agenda, this divergence doesn’t guarantee that Kaine would lose a primary challenge to a voting bloc supported candidate. However, what would favor a voting bloc candidate’s victory in the primary is the fact that US Senate primary elections in Virginia have very low turnouts and highly motivated blocs of primary voters can determine the outcome even if their numbers are small. For example, there was a 3.45% turnout for the Jim Webb/Harris Miller Democratic Party primary race in 2004. Jim Webb won with 83,298 votes, which was 53.47 percent of the votes cast.

If Tim Kaine were expecting stiff primary opposition, the Democratic Party could mount a major effort to support him. But considering that the Senate primary race occurs months after the presidential primary in Virginia, the turnout potential for the major parties is much more similar to what it is in an off-year congressional election. Most probably, the most the Party organization would be able to produce is the turnout that occurred in the three-way hotly contested gubernatorial primary of 2009. That primary had a turnout of 6.3%, and was won by Creigh Deeds with close to 158,000 votes, very close to 50% of the approximately 319,000 votes cast.

This previous history suggests that a voting bloc candidate who would be a very safe prospect for an electoral victory in a Virginia US Senate primary would probably require no more than 200,000 votes, or an average of roughly 18,000 per Congressional District. In the 2008 general election, Democrats won 6 of the 11 Virginia Congressional Districts, and 2 of the 3 in Northern Virginia. They received over 200,000 votes in 3 of the 6, and between 140,000 and 200,000 in the other three. They also garnered between 114,000 and 150,000 in each of the 5 Congressional Districts in which they were defeated. In view of these 2008 general election vote totals, and the fair amount of Democratic strength in all Congressional Districts in most regions of the state, an average of 18,000 primary votes in each Congressional District for a Senate candidate it supports seems well within the reach of a statewide voting bloc, since it is less than 10% of the general election total, and we can expect stronger commitments among voting bloc members translating into higher percentage turnouts in primary elections than parties normally receive because IVCS forged social bonds are likely to be much stronger than political party ties.

Considering that Jim Webb won the VA Senate Democratic primary in 2004 with 83,298 votes, even a voting bloc candidate that could command only 100,000 votes, an average of roughly 9,000 per Congressional District, would present a very significant challenge to a Tim Kaine candidacy, and may well persuade him to embrace the voting bloc’s agenda in the primary. Whether or not he does that, however, the voting bloc can be expected to easily arrive at the 18,000 average votes needed per District to produce a very safe electoral margin. That’s because the number of Democratic voters and other voters of various persuasions whom the voting bloc can bring into the primary is substantial and sufficient to elect the bloc’s candidate, due to the following factors:

– Widespread dissatisfaction of voters across the political spectrum with the legislative track records of known candidates and incumbents of both parties as expressed in polls,

– Lack of responsiveness of major party candidates and incumbents to mainstream voters’ current economic and financial difficulties, as reflected in their inability to develop a job creation strategy that works, a strategy that halts foreclosures and stabilizes the real estate market, a strategy that will clean up the financial system continually victimizing Americans, and a strategy that provides good health care at a stable price that working Americans can afford.

– The IVCS-enabled voting bloc will be able to use IVCS agenda-setting tools to mobilize disaffected voters to define their policy priorities across the board, rather than being restricted to the confines of party alignments, and participate in creating a written legislative mandate for their candidate.

– The web-based consensus-building tools of the IVCS will create stronger social ties and loyalties among voting bloc supporters than the legacy Parties can create among voters contemptuous of their prior track records.

These four factors will make it possible for the IVCS-enabled bloc to create a larger electoral base of motivated voters than Kaine’s base of disaffected Democrats, and in turn lead to a higher turnout, and it will also allow the bloc to do that without recourse to large amounts of campaign money because if its use of IVCS organizing facilities. Since the requirement of 200,000 votes is less than 5% of the total votes available, it’s not a very high bar to overcome.

As with the scenario I outlined for Jim Moran’s upcoming re-election effort, if Tim Kaine earned the backing of the voting bloc in the primary in exchange for supporting its agenda, and then won the primary with the votes of the voting bloc, the bloc could keep the pressure on Kaine during the general election by putting up a “back-up” candidate on the Independent line or on the line of a third party. The bloc could shift its support to this candidate in the event Kaine reneged on his support of the bloc’s agenda during the campaign. On the other hand, if Kaine maintained his advocacy of the bloc’s agenda, then the bloc would go all out to use IVCS consensus-building tools to forge a winning electoral coalition and drive its voters to the polls to ensure that Kaine wins the general election in 2012.

The 2008 Senate race was won by Mark Warner with a total of 2.37 million votes (65% of the 3.64 million votes cast). That race had a high turnout of about 72.4% of the total number of registered voters since it was held during the 2008 presidential election. Assuming that it’s unlikely that turnout in 2012 would exceed 75% of the total number of registered voters in the Senate race, and that total votes would exceed 3.9 million, then I infer that a safe total needed by Kaine or any of his opponents to win would be about 2 million votes.

The requirement for IVCS then, is to deliver an average of 182,00 votes per Congressional District, to ensure the election of Tim Kaine, provided that he remains committed to the voting bloc’s agenda, or its alternative candidate, if he defaults on his commitment to the bloc’s agenda. If turnout is less than 75% and the growth in registered voters is less than I’ve projected, then the requirement might fall to as low as an average of 162,000, many less than the average of 215,000 who voted for Mark Warner.

Can an IVCS-enabled voting bloc build an electoral base with 2 million+ voters? I think it can, because it can use the broad repertory of IVCS web-based consensus-building tools, including an online Voting Utility, to forge a winning electoral coalition with other voting blocs, political parties, labor unions and grassroots advocacy groups. It can do this by involving Virginia voters in setting an agenda FAR MORE to their liking than anything that Tim Kaine can come up with. That agenda can be transpartisan and incorporate priorities that the Democratic Party and Kaine’s special interest campaign contributors would normally oppose, priorities like direct federal job creation, Medicare for All, etc. The voting bloc could mobilize many very angry and eligible voters who have been staying away from the polls, once they see it get a commitment from Tim Kaine to support an agenda that they participated in formulating with no special interest influence as part of the process.

To accomplish this, the voting bloc or electoral coalition most likely will have to agree on a more broadly shared agenda than those that were agreed upon for the Congressional elections and candidates. Generally speaking, the diversity of opinion in any of the 50 states may well be greater than the diversity in any one Congressional District. So, the shared policy agenda negotiated by the members of the statewide Senatorial voting bloc may well require more prolonged negotiation and turn out to be more diverse in its policy options than the shared policy agendas of Congressional District voting blocs. Members of the statewide Senatorial voting blocs will need to negotiate the policy priorities to be included in these shared agendas, and here the IVCS consensus-building tools, particularly the Voting Utility, will facilitate setting the broader shared agendas that will be required to create the broader electoral base that the bloc will need to obtain Kaine’s support for its agenda AND get him elected in an anti-incumbent era.

With skillful negotiation, and a willingness to compromise, the statewide Senatorial voting blocs will be able to bring broad cross-sections of voters into winning, broad-based electoral coalitions that override the vitriolic divisiveness engendered by the legacy parties. This will be a further development of the bottom-up democratic process that leads to voting bloc emergence, and that intensifies the sense of belonging, loyalty and commitment that people will have to the voting blocs.

Generally speaking, as these voting blocs rack up electoral victories in major party primaries throughout the country, they will begin to democratize and revitalize the major parties, by ensuring that voters control their agendas and determine who wins their elections. In the case of the Virginia Senate race, success in the 2012 Congressional and Senatorial races, coupled with outreach to party officials and membership to persuade them to align their efforts with those of IVCS-enabled voting blocs, will accelerate the democratization and revitalization of the Democratic Party of Virginia and its alignment with its historic mission of representing mainstream Americans, rather than special interests.

Conclusion

This post continues my analysis of how the IVCS will work to empower the U.S. electorate to wrest control of elections from special interests. My previous post on the IVCS and Jim Moran, outlined how things would work at the Congressional level. This post extends the analysis to the level of the election for the US Senate in Virginia.

The Democrats are in a ditch of their own making in Virginia, because of their very poor performance in Congress since the President’s election, and his own failure to ease the pain of mainstream Americans, while he created the conditions that have allowed the very well-off to further increase their wealth. Tim Kaine’s close association and friendship with Obama, and his identification as a centrist, organizational Democrat, could be a real deal-killer for many 2012 Virginia voters, in spite of the fact that Kaine was a popular Governor. That’s because of high unemployment rates, for which Obama is now blamed, and because Kaine may simply have too much baggage to carry to be successful in a conventional party campaign in an anti-incumbent era in which special interest-funded right wing fringe groups like the Tea Party have taken center stage in non-stop media wars. Moreover, even though the big money he will likely get from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and special interests may help him with political messaging ads, the ads, and the money used to pay for them, may well add to that baggage by providing tangible proof of his association with interests widely held in contempt by voters.

George Allen may well run a full-throated Tea Party campaign that will pull out hordes of conservatives, Christian fundamentalists and Tea Party regulars. In such an environment, only an IVCS-enabled voting bloc capable of building a broad-based electoral coalition around voter-set agendas and getting out the vote without the aid of big money, could pull Kaine’s irons out of the fire, in terms of setting an appealing transpartisan (but not right wing) agenda that would attract the electoral base he needs to get those 2 million+ votes.

I believe that scenarios like the ones I’ve outlined for Virginia are generalizable across the country, and that Senate candidates, whether incumbent or not, can be persuaded to commit to, and also adhere to, agendas formulated by the voting blocs, especially since the blocs will offer the prospect of delivering large numbers of committed voters at very low cost. If this is correct, it means that voters can disconnect the two major parties from their corporate and special interest bonds and make them responsible to broad-based popular needs and desires once again. My next post will continue this analysis at the presidential election level and analyze the potential impact of the IVCS on the 2012 Presidential election and its aftermath.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).

Congressman Moran and the Interactive Voter Choice System

10:00 pm in Uncategorized by letsgetitdone

In previous posts, I’ve looked at the Interactive Voter Choice System (IVCS) in from a number of different perspectives, hopefully illuminating in general terms how it would work to enable us to restore American Democracy. Specifically, I’ve written about the IVCS as: 1) a way of preventing the collapse of American Democracy; 2) the only way around all that money in politics; 3) a way of people self-organizing into voting blocs and electoral coalitions to make candidates and electoral officials accountable once again; 4) the remedy for overcoming the threat to open society; and 5) the remedy for the movement toward increasing mass behavior and perhaps totalitarianism in the United States. It’s time now to try to envision how the IVCS will impact politicians and candidates for office. In this post I want to begin by looking at the potential impact of IVCS on my Congressperson James P. (“Jim”) Moran, Jr.

Jim Moran

Jim Moran has been elected Representative of the 8th Congressional District in Virginia 11 times. He was elected for the first time in 1990, beating Stanford Parris with 51.7% of the vote to Parris’s 44.6%. That first election was the closest Congressional contest Moran has ever experienced. Since then his majorities have ranged from 56.1% of the vote to a high of 67.9% in 2008. His District has been both solidly Democratic and also solidly for Moran since that first victory.

Moran’s strategy in representing the District has been one of presenting a progressive face along with the usual accompanying rhetoric about the economy and employment, but also favoring “fiscal responsibility,” “pay-as-you-go” budgeting, and support for small business and Government contractors in the 8th District. In addition, Jim expresses support for universal health care, “free” but “fair” trade agreements and legislation that will increase US exports. He also supported the stimulus bill, the Credit Card Reform bill, TARP, and the Wall Street Reform bill during the 111th Congress. But in earlier years, he was one of the leaders of an effort to legislate harsher bankruptcy conditions, an effort that was successful in 2005. Jim has also been among the major consistent opponents of the Iraq War, and also a consistent supporter of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He also expresses strong support for comprehensive immigration reform, reinstatement of the assault weapons ban, full funding for “no child left behind,” is strongly pro-choice in his public pronouncements, and also wants to expand embryonic stem cell research.

In short, Jim Moran has a pretty progressive point of view punctuated with support for neo-liberal views on the Budget, the big banks, international trade, and aid to small business. On the other hand, he’s also one of those progressives who while stating support for progressive goals and objectives, refuses to commit to fighting strongly and publicly for them in specific contexts, and often refuses to commit to support anything concrete until the Party Leadership and since 2009, the President, have brought legislation to the final stages. At that point, he ends up supporting whatever the Leadership and the President want him to support, without any visible regard for what his constituents want.

We’ve seen this pattern manifested a number of times recently. On health care reform, Jim Moran was at one time a co-sponsor of HR 676, the Medicare for All bill. But when the Administration, working with Max Baucus, decided to take it off the table, Jim, along with other progressives, didn’t join with the 80 or so other co-sponsors in the House to object, but like most of them readily accepted the strategy of working towards getting a “public option.” As the various versions of public option policies were offered, watered down, and finally removed from the bill, there was never a move by Jim to resist the removal of any public insurance alternative from it, even though his own District was overwhelmingly in favor of Medicare for All. Instead, he just accepted the gospel that it was better to have any health care reform bill (however far from “perfect” it was) than to have no bill at all.

In the case of Jim’s opposition to the Iraq War, his efforts were mainly verbal, his voting patterns followed the Leadership of the Party. When TARP was passed, he was again a good soldier, and he, along with other Democrats did nothing to prevent the payment of outrageously large bonuses, by organizations taking TARP funds, to their employees.

When, in early 2009, the big banks needed the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) to change the “mark-to-market” accounting rule so that they could avoid recognizing their toxic real estate on their books, Jim did not object to the pressure Congress placed on FASB to change that vital rule. This one failure alone led to the banks being able to escape resolution, declare profits that are not real, and pay those outrageous bonuses based on those non-existent profits, while remaining in a position to influence the political system in favor of Wall Street and against Main Street, and to continue speculating in the derivatives market rather than lending money to small business.

Jim also sat by, along with other House Democrats, when the Administration let its stimulus bill be savaged by Republicans and blue dog Democrats, until it, in the end, provided only 1/3 of the stimulus needed to get out of the recession. He also stood by when the Credit Card Reform Act failed to limit the interest rates banks could charge to consumers, and voted for the 9 month implementation period, which allowed banks to reformulate their Credit Card businesses to charge uniformly higher interest rates to strapped consumers, allowing the banks to make as much as 28% profit on the interest charged to some consumers against their own cost of money.

When the new “finreg” legislation was being formulated, Jim Moran supported the Leadership and has stated his belief that the bill finally passed will prevent a repeat of “too big to fail.” Most economists however, believe that this is dreamland and that the bill does no such thing. Jim has also supported the Leadership in the recent “compromise,” extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, and lately he has been agreeing with the “deficit hawks” that Social Security has a problem that must be resolved by “strengthening it,” while refusing to commit to doing so by eliminating the payroll tax cap, even though his District certainly prefers this alternative to any cuts in the program, or raising the retirement age.

In short, there are many things Jim Moran has supported that don’t represent the people of his very progressive district. In this respect, he is not very different from most Congresspeople, both Democratic and Republican. As a variety of surveys have consistently shown, Congressional approval levels are very low, and the primary advantages incumbents have over challengers is often in campaign financing, and also in the widespread belief that the other Party alternative to one’s Congressperson, is just as bad or worse.

The IVCS

The IVCS is a web-based Information Technology/social media environment now in development that will enable people to create a network of voter-driven political organizations around shared policy priorities to eliminate the gap between voters’ priorities and the legislation enacted by their elected representatives, and counter the influence of money in politics, including the cognitive distortions created by using big money to frame debates and constantly introduce distractions from key issues. The collective action power of the Internet combined with specific capabilities of the IVCS will make the creation of such organizations feasible. When fully developed, IVCS will provide voters free policy agenda-setting, organizing, problem solving and consensus-building tools to:

– Define their own policy options and prioritize them to create policy agendas,

– Social network with others who have similar agendas to their own,

– Collaborate and solve problems with others to create collective policy agendas, voting blocs, and electoral coalitions that can work within existing parties or build new political parties, and

– Hold elected representatives accountable by monitoring and evaluating how well their performance matches the policy agendas of the voting blocs that have elected them to office.

The result of using IVCS will be voting blocs of various sizes and influence, formed by voters across the political spectrum. People will use the system to formulate common policy agendas, and then create self-organizing transpartisan voting blocs, electoral coalitions, and political parties around those agendas. They can use the system’s search/data mining tools to locate other voters whose policy agendas are most like their own, and join with them.

To organize voting blocs that develop cohesiveness and staying power, people will have to negotiate out their differences to join together. But negotiating common agendas, and crafting winning electoral strategies from the bottom-up, gives voters a lot more power than being hamstrung by the two major parties. The system will support such negotiations, and create the potential for so many policy agendas and voting bloc coalitions to form, that it is virtually certain that new and powerful blocs, electoral coalitions, and even political parties, will emerge, grow rapidly, and begin to acquire national influence.

Voting blocs will make decisions and resolve conflicts either by consensus or by using the IVCS Voting Utility. They can also use the Utility to vote on proposed political alliances and coalitions. Since voting bloc members can always “vote with their feet,” by forming new blocs or joining other already existing blocs, and since new voting blocs will always be coming into existence, the dynamic environment created by the IVCS will always be biased toward bottom-up organization, problem solving, and influence, rather than top-down control. Since problem solving in the system will be web-based and distributed, rather than centralized, blocs will be able to quickly increase their size by using the system to reach out to other voters online and adapt to their environments better than traditional voting blocs. They will also be able to transcend the awkward stages of initial growth, and rapidly develop into new political organizations that can successfully challenge the legacy parties and the special interests as the driving force in the American political system.

Since it will cost little more than time to organize and get one’s messages out by using the IVCS, it will eliminate the need for voting blocs, political parties, and candidates to rely on contributions and special interest campaigns to get support. They’ll be able to spread their message using the facilities of the IVCS alone. The system will de-fang the Citizens United decision, and the influence of special interests more generally, because mass media-based propaganda campaigns will conflict with, and be critically evaluated by IVCS-based interactions and messaging within informal social networks and voting blocs.

Visualizing the Impact of the IVCS on Jim Moran and the Democratic Party

The IVCS will lead to the introduction of new, organized political forces in Virginia’s 8th Congressional District. One or more voting blocs and electoral coalitions may very well emerge with many thousands of voters participating in the process of formulating a policy agenda they will want Jim Moran to do his utmost to enact. The big challenge is to develop a large enough bloc of voters to convince Congressman Moran that if he does not pledge to exert his best efforts to enact their agenda the bloc will run a winning candidate against him in primary and general election. The IVCS environment makes it possible for them to pose such a threat because it has the capacity to enable voters to assemble very large political coalitions by successively aggregating and synthesizing policy options in round-after-round of negotiations, until they form a large enough voting bloc/electoral coalition to be able to influence Jim Moran to change his behavior. What do we mean by that?

Well, right now, Jim seems to be stating certain positions he is supporting in relatively vague terms, engaging with other Congresspeople, lobbyists, the leadership, and the White House, and arriving at final votes that have only a pretty loose relationship, at best, with the positions he runs on. Meanwhile, he raises a sizable campaign war chest, which allows him to “spin” how he’s voted to persuade constituents that he’s been as faithful to the positions he has articulated as it was possible to be given his circumstances. In addition, his office is very good at constituent services, and when you put all these elements together with the fact that the 8th Congressional District is a safe District for Democrats he becomes pretty much unassailable, while avoiding any tight coupling between his actions as a Representative, and the public positions he takes on issues.

So, being able to influence Jim Moran comes down to being able to more tightly couple his actions to his stated goals and objectives, and that, in turn, comes down to getting Jim to commit to a specific policy agenda, comprised of policy options that he promises to support by introducing these options in legislation, and fighting for them by refusing to vote for anything else except those options, and by informing other Congresspeople that if they want him to vote for their bills, they must craft legislation that is in line with his agenda. In other words, the problem is to create a large enough voting bloc that Jim Moran’s flexibility to do anything but represent the specific policy agenda he’s agreed to support is severely restricted.

So, the next question is, how does the IVCS enable voters in his district to build a voting bloc large enough to induce Moran not only to pledge to enact their agenda but to actually exert his best efforts to get it passed into law. The first step is to figure out how many votes are needed to put a candidate on a primary ballot. In the Virginia 8th Congressional District, only 1,000 valid signatures on a petition are needed to enter the Democratic Primary for Congress. The State recommends that candidates get 1,500 signatures to leave plenty of room for invalid ones, however. Of course, having a voting bloc that is large enough to get a candidate on the primary ballot, would probably not be enough to persuade Jim Moran to commit to a voting bloc agenda, since the Congressman has faced primary challenges before and has always won handily.

The next step is to estimate how many votes will be needed to win the primary. Again, the number is relatively low since very few people vote in primary elections in Virginia’s 8th. For example, in the 2008 primary, Jim Moran beat Matthew Famiglietti with 11,792 votes to his opponent’s 1,764. In the 2008 Republican primary, J. Patrick Murray won with 7136 to 6654 for his opponent Matthew B. Perry. The most closely fought primary in recent years was the 2004 Democratic contest won by Jim Moran with 24,121 to 17,067 for Andrew Rosenberg. The 41,000 some odd votes cast in that primary, represented 10.35% of registered voters.

In view of this previous record, one can make a pretty good guess that a voting bloc/electoral coalition that can generate 40,000 votes in the open Democratic primary would most likely be more than enough to defeat Jim Moran for the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2012. Even if the bloc had 25,000 votes, the Congressman would have to give it a respectful hearing if they briefed him on their agenda prior to the Democratic Party primary in 2012, because that vote is more than he’s achieved in any previous primary. This would be particularly true if the voting bloc took the prior step of seeing to it that a candidate of their choosing had entered the primary and already committed to the policy agenda of the group.

How difficult would it be to get 40,000 primary voters to climb on the voting bloc’s bandwagon? Not very difficult. Multiple polls show that upwards of 80% of U.S. voters are so disgusted with their Congressional representatives’ performance that they would like to see them defeated. The organizers of the voting bloc could take advantage of numerous IVCS tools and services to create a transpartisan electoral base of this size that brings together voters across the political spectrum who want to eliminate the gap between Moran’s campaign promises and his votes on legislation in Congress. (See 2012: How U.S. Voters Can Wrest Control of Congress from Special Interests.)

They can use the same tools and services to increase the numerical size of their electoral base to ensure that it is large enough, based on prior turnout, in the range from 140,000 – 200,000 votes. (See Part V of the preceding reference, entitled “How Voting Blocs Can Expand Their Electoral Bases by Increasing Their Membership and Building Electoral Coalitions with Existing Parties, New Parties, Labor Unions and Other Membership-Based Groups.”)

Assuming that an IVCS voting bloc with an electoral base of 40,000 primary voters suffices to get Moran’s attention and commitment to enact its agenda, the voting bloc could then agree not to support Moran in the primary. After he wins, it would then have to face the next hurdle, which is to ensure that Moran maintains his commitment to the bloc’s agenda during the general election campaign.

One way to do that would be to put the primary candidate the bloc had planned to run against Moran in the Democratic primary on a third party primary line and elect that candidate in the primary so that he/she would be a back-up candidate that the bloc could support in the general election, if Moran defaulted in maintaining his support for the bloc’s agenda during that campaign. A second, though less desirable, because more difficult, option would be to conduct a write-in campaign in favor of the candidate during the general election.

If after winning the primary and the general election with the support of the IVCS voting bloc, Congressman Moran backed off his support of the agreed upon agenda, and decided instead to march in lockstep with the leadership and the President, while trying to spin what he had done, then the voting bloc, with its written agenda in hand and a point-by-point comparison with Moran’s legislative track record, would retaliate by beating him in the Democratic Primary of 2014. This would demonstrate that a voting bloc’s continued support is contingent on observing its mandate, and that it has the electoral clout to hold representatives accountable for failure to exert their best efforts to enact it into law.

Let’s say that a scenario like the one I’ve sketched out works to get a commitment from Jim Moran to support the voting bloc’s agenda so that it moves to the general election in support of his candidacy. Then what are the implications for the regular Democratic Party machinery and its interactions with voting bloc members? After all, the voting bloc with its 40,000+ committed voters was assembled through a new system of political processes running parallel to and outside of the pre-existing local Democratic Party Structure supporting Jim Moran’s campaign efforts.

In the 2008 campaign, partly with the assistance of the Democratic Party organization, almost 223,000 people voted for Jim Moran. Even if one assumes that most of the bloc’s 40,000 voters come from the group of former Moran voters, it’s clear that to win in the general election, Jim would also need many more than the 40,000 votes received in the primaries. As I said above, however, the voting bloc seeking to corral Moran into adopting its agenda and sticking to it, will have a broad repertory of IVCS consensus-building tools that it can use to build winning electoral coalitions with other voting blocs, political parties, labor unions and grassroots advocacy groups. So, during the election campaign it should be able to increase its size to the required range of 140,000 – 200,000 committed voting bloc members.

Once the voting bloc demonstrates its capacity to determine the outcome of both the primary and general elections for the 8th Congressional Districts, it will have the leverage it needs to open negotiations with local Democratic Party officials, if it chooses to do so. Its first step would be to invite party officials to engage registered party members in using IVCS agenda-setting, organizing and consensus-building tools to set their individual policy agendas and use them to set the party’s legislative agenda.

This would perhaps be the most significant institutional aspect of the impact of a successful IVCS voting bloc/electoral coalition effort to get a commitment to a policy agenda from Jim Moran. It would lead to the democratization of local party operations and put voters in control of the party instead of the party being in control of the voters. It could also lead to a very large-scale injection of voting bloc activists into the local Democratic Party that would most probably lead to its revitalization, and to further growth of the voting bloc’s electoral base, while leaving the bloc free to form transpartisan alliances outside the Party, when that’s necessary to forward the voting bloc’s policy agenda.

This expansion of the voting bloc’s network of voters to party members might bring about negotiated modifications of the bloc’s policy agenda. Such an evolution would be both desirable and democratic. The bottom-up character of IVCS participation would introduce a remarkable countervailing force to the Democratic Party’s natural tendency to follow Michel’s “Iron Law of Oligarchy.” It would weaken the present alarming tendency of Party members to follow Party leadership blindly, even when it clearly departs from the Democratic Party’s principles and values.

Conclusion

How generalizable is the picture I’ve presented to other Congressional Districts across the country? Can the Democratic Party be taken over by voting bloc activists, and revitalized across the country, in a very short time using the IVCS? On the positive side of this question is the fact that many Congressional Districts require only a small percentage of registered voters signing a petition to enter a Party primary. Also, most primaries have very low participation ratios, so a small percentage of Party voters can select the Party nominee. This suggests that a quick takeover of one or both of the major parties is possible and even practical, provided large voting blocs can self-organize in a short time so that Congressional District-based voting blocs/coalitions can be created with 40,000 or more members relatively easily. We’ve seen social media phenomena go viral on many occasions now, so I think the potential for this is there. But whether it can be done on a large scale, Congressional District by Congressional District, will remain a question mark until the IVCS is implemented.

Finally, you’ll notice that I’ve written this from the point of view of working within the Democratic Party for change. This isn’t because I’m intrinsically opposed to third Parties, or feel loyal to a Party that has quite clearly abandoned its historical mission. In fact, I’ve been very interested in third Party possibilities for some time, now. However, on reflection about the situation in my own District, I’ve come to believe that Party primaries are easier to enter and win, than elections that attempt to challenge the major Parties from outside. And, I also think that, with the help of the IVCS, we can reduce the influence of money in elections and prevent newly elected primary and general election winners from being bought by corporate special interests and wealthy individuals through campaign contributions. So, in short, I think it will be easier to enter major Party primaries and to democratize them, then it will be to win with a third party strategy, and I don’t see any principles being compromised in doing that since, in either case, it’s about sticking to the policy agendas of the IVCS voting blocs, and making sure that candidates, officeholders, and political parties are accountable to these voting blocs and their agendas.

(Cross-posted at All Life Is Problem Solving and Fiscal Sustainability).