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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-14-11 08:40 AM
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Occupy the Republican Party?

Occupy the Republican Party?

By Jonathan Bernstein


If youre a Democrat generally happy with Obamas policy preferences but upset about Afghanistan, in most cases the highest leverage thing you can do is to push your local congressional candidates on the issue, especially if theres a contested primary, but in many cases even if there isnt. Members really do listen to their constituents. But theyre far more likely to listen the most to those who are active participants in their own party.

And its not just positions on this issues. Its also true that candidates are interested in party intensity on issues look at Republicans and abortion, where at least last I checked there was a sizable segment of pro-choice GOP voters, but virtually all of the intensity is on the other side, and with it virtually all GOP politicians. Democratic politicians including potential 2012 presidential candidates for that matter, but very much including House and Senate candidates are right now choosing whether to emphasize climate change or the filibuster or jobs bills or taxes or the public option on abortion or civil liberties or Afghanistan or, well, whatever else is out there. And what they emphasize will be, more often than not, what theyll try to do when theyre in office.

So again, the real advice that Id give to people who want to affect policy is to get involved in their party. Dont just be a voter; be a voter plus in some way, whether its with donations or volunteer time, whether its with a formal party organization or a campaign or a party-aligned interest group.

Its tricky, because the US political system is at the same time impressively permeable (so that you can get involved and relatively quickly gain some influence) while, at the same time, the US is so unfathomably large that theres of course no way for one person to be able to see that influence reflected in national policy-making. Still, it is possible to get a different person chosen to run for Congress in some cases, and it is possible to help push an existing Member to care more about some specific issue. And since individual Members of Congress (especially Senators, but even Members of the House) can really make a difference on ultimate policy, those sorts of choices really do matter.

So, yes, Occupy: Occupy the political parties. Occupy the campaigns of party politicians. Occupy organized groups aligned with the parties, or start your own. I would never tell people not to take the sorts of direct action that the Occupy people have been doing; thats part of the system too. But if youre looking for something else or something next, pushing a political party in your direct, one candidate at a time, is a high-leverage choice. Even if its not the President of the United States.
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