July 4, 2001
I can't really count this as a "rebuttal," since
aside from clearing up some apparent reading comprehension
issues (or, to be fair, perhaps they were writing clarity
issues—we'll flip a coin and split the difference), I agree
with you entirely.
In fact, your article "The
Cynic's Approach," is an excellent reinforcement
to my original message in the "Blueprint
for Taking Back the Democratic Party." You're advocating,
in slightly different terms, very much what I was attempting
to advocate. And I hope that anyone who might have been
put off by the unapologetically populist tone of my article
is able to identify solidly with yours.
But let's get those reading comprehension/writing clarity
issues cleared up first.
I sort of thought I covered the Green Party in "Part
Two: Is it Worth Saving," with the following: "And
it's certainly more pleasant to be in substantial agreement
with the great majority of your party colleagues, because
you all fall in the same narrow band of the ideological spectrum
and share many of the same priorities and opinions. Much more
pleasant than spending hours and hours deadlocked at a Party
caucus where a dozen different subgroups and opinions are
duking it out."
In other words, I'm not advocating that the Democratic
Party turn into an ideologically homogenized entity. You're
quite right, that's not only a death wish, but it's contrary
to the great traditions of the Democratic Party, which has
been able to successfully incorporate ideas from the most
visionary socialist thinkers to the Boll Weevil Democrats
into our platforms.
Birdman states: "To play in the political big leagues
these days requires a party with name recognition, a large
population base, and unfortunately a hefty pile of money."
It's never in my memory (and I've been active in the Party
for more than 40 years) required anything else. None of those
elements is antithetical to the truly populist Democratic
Party of my vision. We simply need millions of smaller and
medium size donors, as opposed to (or maybe in addition to)
dozens of massive corporate bribes.
The beauty of this, of course, is that in developing the
vast base of citizen support needed to produce the necessary
cash, we both strengthen and affirm their stake in our Party's
success, and increase the necessary name recognition for our
Party, our issues, and our proposed representatives. It's
a win-win situation.
When I speak of "populist" I'm referring to "populist"
in precisely the sense you mean, birdman, when you refer to
"the growing minority community... the educated suburban
population that's started to feel that the Republicans are
controlled by fetus-freaks and gun nuts (nice phrasing,
that—may I steal it sometime?)... the aging population...
the expanding Hispanic community..." and so on. We're
on the same page of the hymnal, apparently. I refer to it
as "populists" taking back the Party, you seem to
have a slightly different semantic twist thereupon. I think
the net result will please us both. (If we can pull it off.)
I don't recall referring to "activists" or "activism,"
much less ideological activists. You referred specifically
to the Greens using the term, but I won't interpret that as
an imputation that I am a Green Party ideological activist
since I certainly hope I made it clear that my personal
perspective is considerably broader. (Did I? Feedback much
appreciated, Democratic Underground readers and friends...
maybe I blew this one...)
However, it would be fair to conclude that my article (manifesto?)
was a call for activism—political activism, based on
that very same populist broadening of the Party's base that
we both advocate.
While I have great respect for people whose ideological passion
and creativity might lead them to "demonstrate in
Seattle dressed in turtle suits," I'm not advocating
that as a method of reclaiming the Democratic Party's dominant
role in American politics. The activism I propose—studying
Party platforms and constitutions, participating in local
Party committees, building participation in the Party through
communicating at the grass roots level—is of another order
altogether. A pragmatic activism, informed, perhaps, by an
ideological commitment to what has always been the center
of the Party's philosophy: That America's government should
be controlled by all Americans, to the social and economic
benefit of all Americans.
It's as simple as that.
I don't advocate "cleansing" anyone from the Democratic
Party. Not even the bought-and-paid-for servants of the corporate
interests and the "salesmen" to whom you so aptly
refer. They are welcome to participate in the Party, and to
place their competing interests in the stew of ideas and strategies
from which we distill our Party's policy and actions. Rather,
I advocate that we balance these interests—okay, I'll be honest—that
we overwhelm these interests by returning to the Party
its role as champion of America's working people, America's
small businesses, America's urban dwellers, America's recent
immigrants, America's minorities, America's farmers, America's
elderly, and a few other tiny little special interests like
that. I'm betting that they will more than balance the greed
and expediency of the big money and their unprincipled whores.
If there is an ideological bent to the Blueprint, that is
it, in a nutshell: That we must turn on the vast numbers of
voters who have been turned off by the six-of-one, half-dozen-of-the-other
corporate-driven agendas controlling both Parties (but especially
our Democratic Party.) That we must use massive numbers and,
yes, active participation to counter the power of business
bucks and regain control of our Party and our government.
That this will be done by defining our Party's platform and
agenda based on our interests and our well-being,
rather than allowing slick PR and corporate hucksters to define
it for us.
My personal ideological and philosophical viewpoints
on all the issues you specify isn't relevant to this greater
goal—which is why I carefully avoided articulating any views
on affirmative action, "parental notification,"
dressing up as a turtle, or any of the other issues that you
raise. You are correct, we must have the pragmatism to horsetrade,
to give-and-take in the fetid trenches of legislative action.
Nor can we allow ourselves to be sidetracked by the right
wing's viciously successful (up until now) tactics of obsessive
focus on linking essentially irrelevant detail with a sacred
ideological gold standard.
You're also right, birdman, when you state: "...big
tents win. Small ones lose." The Democratic Party's
tent is in danger of shrinking to an expensive rented pavilion
keeping the harsh rains of economic reality off the preferred
stockholders of the corporate American government. Now is
the time for each and every one of us to head straight out
to our local Party committee and begin the process of sewing
our own uniquely-colored patch onto the edge of that tent.
Enough patches from enough American Democrats, and we'll
be able to keep all Americans economically and socially
secure—AND in charge of our own Party and our own government.