Democrats or 3rd party?
Bernie Weiner has obviously thought this through to a far greater extent than i have, over at Crisis Papers.
As I see it, we have two options in dealing with this deficient, bumbling, weak-kneed crew. 1) We get rid of them, work to take over the party from the grassroots up (similar to what the Republicans did after the Goldwater debacle of '64), and eventually bring some coherence and dynamic initiatives back into the party. Or, 2) We give up on the Democrats as an embarrassing joke, and begin thinking seriously about joining with others, similarly disenchanted with the political choices offered, and found a viable third party.
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That kind of activist movement, whether coordinated or run on the fly by individuals, takes a tremendous amount of energy, courage, money, and clear-headed planning. It may require a decade or so to even begin to see demonstrable results. Can the Democratic Party afford the luxury of the decade or more it might take? Can the country handle the amount of Bush-like corruption, authoritarianism, wars, torture, moral lassitude that will transpire during that period while the foundation is being laid for a new, re-energized Democratic Party?
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I think it's not necessarily too late to make the attempt to reform the party from within. But it is late, and it will require a humongous amount of toil, sweat, and lots of tears to turn this supertanker around and then bring this party back to speed and coherence and courage. We must first make the Democrats into a true party of opposition, and then convince the American people that it's capable of governing.
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If it can't accomplished within be a refurbished, restructured Democratic Party, the thinking goes, then perhaps it's time for building a new, citizen-based party from the bottom up -- one that is less beholden to corporate and traditional power- and -financing sources, and therefore more free to speak out and act boldly in support of systematic reform and an adherence to policies and programs that make moral and political sense.
What might some of those principles be? Here are a few, which could apply as well to a renovated Democratic Party, if some of the old baggage can be jettisoned: war only out of of necessity, never a choice; more devotion to most peoples' actual needs (affordable health-care, improving public schools, infrastructure repair, clean air and water, enforcing safety regulations in mines and other workplaces, etc.) and less to giving even more tax breaks to the already wealthy and rapacious corporations; more fiscal responsibility in budgeting; paying down the humongous deficit; paying serious attention to reality (including science) and less to mere belief and political fantasy; going after terrorists without fatally compromising our morality or civil-liberties, etc.
If there were to be a new, viable third party in 2008, it's possible that this potential alliance could field candidates for President and Vice President -- assuming somebody of great character and political savvy emerges to help lead the way. But if the 2008 scenario unfolds something like what is described above, and if we've been busily building a grassroots alternative party from the ground up -- getting candidates elected on the local, district, state and congressional levels -- this new movement will be able to flex its growing political muscle by forcing the Democrats more toward a progressive agenda, all the while it prepares a future national slate of electable candidates for President and Vice-President.
. . . I have a long-term affinity for the Democratic Party, that relationship is not set in cement and I have no animus toward the establishment of third parties, though starting one up requires much more difficult work than taking over an existing institutional party. My aim always is to work toward enactment of forward-thinking, progressive legislation and policies, which can be most effectively accomplished by getting honest, dynamic, progressive candidates elected. I believe, along with many others, that a party, Democratic or otherwise, has to be serious and (eventually) electable to justify putting lots of my time, energy and money into it.
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So who would make up the core of this party? I would guess that the base of a party -- for want of a better name, let's call this entity the New Democratic Party (NDP) -- could be constructed from elements within the Progressive Democrats of America, Green Party, the Change to Win union coalition, angry Guard and military troops and veterans, peace groups, and other similar disenchanted organizations and individuals.
This new alliance might also attract a wide variety of distressed Libertarians and traditional Republicans horrified at how their party was hijacked from them by rightwing extremists. These disenchanted conservatives, unable to bring themselves to vote for Democrats, might be willing to join together with liberals on civil-liberties and sound money-management grounds -- or as a vehicle to defeat the dangerous forces that have captured their party, which would provide an opening for their more moderate conservatism to fight for power in a reconstituted Republican Party.
As you can see, this proposal is the merest outline of the possible. My main objective here is to get some discussion started about the advisability of both staying with and reforming the Democratic Party, and testing the political waters for a third-party movement. If there is genuine and widespread acceptance to either idea, then it will be time to brainstorm about how best and most effectively such a movement can be actualized.
Points to ponder.