Washblog

Destructive Rhetoric

No wonder participation in our Democracy is low?  Look at the mainstream rhetoric kicked around.  People who care to participate get put down with worn clichés.

Why does there always have to be so much confusion regarding primary elections in Washington state?

Regardless of the turmoil, free association triumphed last week.

I was one of the Democratic committee members that voted for the caucus process to allocate delegates for presidential nominee.  And I did so with a firm commitment towards a better democracy.

As an active Democrat I am dismayed by the myths regarding political participation in 2007.  Criticisms of political organization sound more fitting for the year 1907.  Our elected leadership are derided as "party bosses", the rank & file as "elite" while party functions are smeared as "smoked filled back rooms".

These destructive clichés mischaracterize contemporary political association while ignoring the real problems.

If the grassroots of a party are elite then what do you call those who can afford a $2,500+ a plate fundraiser?  Or how about the real back room operators that can fund a ballot initiative?  

Active Democrats are volunteers who don't have lobbyists, consultants, television advertising and other aspects of the professional campaign industry to do their bidding. Party faithful have only sought out others with shared values to make an impact through hard work and commitment.  These folks don't deserve to be scorned as "hacks".

Last year, the punching bag was the Pick-A-Party primary.  This flawed system, and those who support it, deserve the knocks.  However, in the topsy-turvy rhetoric that dominates Washington State politics; those who derided the Pick-A-Party are now howling for it.  With the presidential primary voters will have to pick a party!  Even though it doesn't feature multiple  offices, it's basically the blue or red exclusive party ballot that antagonized most voters last September.

The Democratic party decision to hold caucuses was hardly the whim of so-called bosses.  Several county and district party organizations passed pro-primary resolutions and there was open debate.  At the convention in Bellingham, the majority of the 161 elected members of the central committee ratified the caucus system.  These people represented local party organizations from communities all over the state,

While Democrats have resolved the issue of how to allocate delegates, Republicans continue to drift.  The party that touts less government spending and private initiative is seriously considering the Pick-A-Party presidential primary - a state funded and administered program.   In fact, since 2004 the state GOP has firmly supported socialized nominations.  This abandonment of ideals is another example of the crisis within Republicanism.

There is a wide field of qualified Democratic presidential candidates.  Like the 2004 caucus, competition will drive involvement.  And the caucus system is rooted in the culture of participation.  Citizens who share similar values come together to nominate candidates for public office.  Run by volunteers, this process is open and occurs in well-lit and safe venues that host public gatherings.   Delegates are allocated proportionally so most attendees, especially the most organized, can come out as winners.

Motivated participants can work their way to county and state conventions.  There's a fair chance of attending the national convention.  In the process, many people catch the participation bug to continue activism in their communities.

Like 2004, the spring '08 caucuses will be a real exercise in democratic participation.  These local events will fill with citizens eager to nominate candidates for president.   We're in an age of apathy and we should not assault this process of civic engagement.

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1. I disagree with some of your characterizations of how the process works. some of the characterizations sound pretty happy-happy, not too connected with what I see as the reality of participation.

So, we disagree.  I could go point by point, but, I doubt it would change your mind as the characterizations I disagree I've seen debated quite a bit on washblog ... and in bars and drom rooms when I was 18 in '78 in Holyoke MA or in Boston MA.

2. I REALLY disagree with your title.

IF I don't buy your happy-happy characterizations, THEN I engage in 'destructive rhetoric'.

As far as I am concerned, your arguement is:

IF everyone in the Dem party listened to YOU, and IF everyone in the Dem party ONLY spoke in a manner you approve of,
THEN we'd win forever.

we don't win cuz we engage in destructive rhetoric, which appears to be anything but your happy happy speak.

so, who is engaging in destructive rhetoric?

rmm.  

http://www.liemail.com/BambooGrassroots.html

by rmdSeaBos on Sat May 05, 2007 at 11:43:23 AM PST

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  • Sincere & Active by knovoselic, 05/05/2007 02:30:19 PM PST (none / 0)
    • careful by wrog, 05/06/2007 02:20:39 PM PST (none / 0)
  I still believe a Feb 5 non-binding primary would provide an opportunity for much greater participation in the caucus process, if we moved the precinct caucuses to April 5th.

Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Sat May 05, 2007 at 03:07:17 PM PST

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I am sorry that we didn't have a chance to discus this at length before the CC meeting last
Saturday. I have always appreciated the thoughtful consideration you always give to the
fundamental issues of Democracy.

But first I want to say this about party "Bosses"
and "Party elites".  The fact is that party
leaders have abused their positions in past years
to manipulate the results. I won't go into the
sorted details of each incident now, but if you
want the whole story give me a call.
I am also very sorry to say, that the rules that
we adopted in Bellingham, give county chairs
unprecedented power at their "discretion" to
decide how many delegates some precincts will
receive.  Another issue is that we have about
700 "winner-take-all" precincts with only one delegate. Precincts in our state are a terrible political division, that very widely depending on which county you live. This creates some very bad distortions which do not result in a fair reflection of Presidential Preference of the caucus attendees.

You said that "However, in the topsy-turvy rhetoric that dominates Washington State politics; those who derided the Pick-A-Party are now howling for it.  With the presidential primary voters will have to pick a party!". The converse is also true, the party has complained about the regular primary, but when the state gives the party the primary that it wants, the party response "no-way".

You said that "Run by volunteers, this process is open and occurs in well-lit and safe venues that host public gatherings." In 2004, 30 caucuses were held in private homes. The fact that the caucuses are run by volunteers, who will have their own favorite among the candidates, is a great weakness. Washington is by far the largest state to use the caucus system. For those people who think that the race will be undecided after Feb 5. -Be careful what you wish for. Our caucus system would not hold up well to the close scrutiny that would come from a close, hard fought, high stakes competition.  

You said that "Motivated participants can work their way to county and state conventions.  There's a fair chance of attending the national convention.  In the process, many people catch the participation bug to continue activism in their communities."  This would have still been the case with the Post Primary Caucus System that we were advocating. This is the system used by most states.

Finally, there is one thing that has bothered me very much about the debate. The argument that the caucuses are more participatory and that party activist should be the ones to make the choice, not causal voters. This is in direct contradiction to DNC rules.
PARTICIPATION
A.    Participation in the delegate selection process shall be open to all voters who wish to participate as Democrats.
1.    Democratic voters shall be those persons who publicly declare their Party preference and have that preference publicly recorded.
State that use the caucus/convention system do so because the state won't hold primary elections that comply with party rules. State's like Colorado and Kansas have gone back to the caucuses because the state de-funded their primaries. Idaho democrats switched to caucuses for 2008 because they wanted to make their choice on Feb 5 before the election is over.

Causes gave us Hub