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Due Diligence and Three-Candidate Monte

11:44 pm in Uncategorized by Sebastos

After Super Tuesday (February 5th) in 2008, there were three Presidential candidates who had a serious chance of winning: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain. Who should progressives have supported? Clinton, the feminist and healthcare advocate? Obama, the community organizer and inspirational orator? Or even, thinking outside the Democratic box, the “maverick” Republican, McCain?

Which card should you pick in a game of three-card monte?

If you have to ask a question like that, you’ve already lost.

It is now painfully clear to many progressives that once the three front-runners had emerged, there were no good choices available in the 2008 Presidential race. Responses to that insight (other than sheer demoralization) have tended to focus on the stance progressives should take toward the Democratic Party. Some have favored efforts to reform it from within; others have advocated third-party challenges to replace it. My recent post “A prosthetic spine for the Democratic Party” proposes a novel way of combining these apparently incompatible options.

But the fundamental mistake in progressive politics, which allowed the corporate world to deal us a game of three-candidate monte, is only incidentally related to the Democratic Party. We are waiting until after campaigns have already achieved traction – and often, as in the case of the Obama campaign, until after we have already committed enormous financial and other resources – to do our homework on the character and likely behavior of the candidates.

Due diligence must come first. We must be proactive, not reactive, in candidate selection. Progressives have to find a way to drive the candidate-selection process from the very beginning, and take it out of the hands of the insiders, or there will not be any good choices available. Read the rest of this entry →

A Prosthetic Spine for the Democratic Party

1:41 pm in Uncategorized by Sebastos

The Democratic Party is widely recognized to be compromised and corrupted by moneyed interests. The default setting for the Democrats’ backbone is somewhere between “slimy eel” (giving lip service to progressive values while betraying them covertly) and “spineless jellyfish” (caving to the Republicans out of cowardice). The barriers to reform from within are formidable. On the other hand, third-party challenges are almost insuperably difficult. Worse yet, both approaches – the purely “inside” approach of reforming the Democratic Party, and the purely “outside” approach of running third-party candidates – weaken the progressive movement, because of the inevitable differences of opinion as to which approach is best.

This division of effort is unnecessary. We can fashion a prosthetic spine for the Democratic Party, supplying externally the courage and integrity that it lacks. We can thus combine the advantages of  internal reform and external third-party challenge, and enable their advocates, in effect, to work together simultaneously on both approaches. The hitherto marginalized Green Party could, by a certain change of tactics, play a central role in this new, combined approach – and thereby emerge as a major progressive force on the national scene.

We can learn something from the Tea Party and their attitude toward the Republican Party. They treat it strictly as a tool, and do not waste emotional energy (positive or negative) on it. Most (all?) of their candidates are run as Republicans. But they keep money and other resources (such as the effort of volunteers) under their own control, and offer such resources only to Republicans that they believe to support their principles. Thus, they avoid being co-opted by Republican insiders. Their approach is flexible and case-by-case. Sometimes they run primary challenges to Republicans they dislike; other times, they endorse and support favored Republicans. In exceptional cases, they might run their candidates as third-party or as write-ins, although I am not aware of any such cases; but even if this third-party approach is seldom used in practice, the potential is always there, and acts as an unspoken but ever-present threat to establishment Republicans who might be tempted to defy the Tea Party.

In short, the Tea Party acts as a feedback-control servomechanism, or a governor (in the engineering sense), for the Republican Party and its candidates. It has had considerable success in pushing the Republican Party to the far Right. We need to use similar methods to push the Democratic Party to the Left. Read the rest of this entry →