Fighting Together, Losing Separately
by Chris Bowers, Wed Nov 01, 2006 at 08:04:04 PM EST
This afternoon, I took a trip up to Bucks County with Anne Dicker. As some of you may know, Anne is the Dean of Philadelphia reform Democrats, narrowly losing her bid for state legislature bid back in May (although she did defeat the party-backed candidate). We went out to Bucks County to canvass for Patrick Murphy. We did not go out for any other purpose. Not to make a media event. Not to speak at a rally. Not to make some sort of endorsement that everyone knew was coming anyway. Anne and I are both fairly large public figures in Philadelphia, and we could have driven out to Bucks to do any one of those things. But we didn't. We drove out to Bucks County to canvass.
While the writing is hard to read, the picture on the right is the post-canvass report that the two of us filed. In my opinion, everyone must do her or her part. Every member of the Democratic apparatus, no matter how high or how low, must engage in every form of activism that we ask volunteers to engage in. You can't run a successful party if you don't care about or understand the people fueling the activism of your party. Otherwise, it just leads to elitist LieberDems and urban machines that think they own their seats, and don't have to answer to the voters, the activists, or the poeple. That is a major part of the problem we have in the Democratic Party right now: an elitist, party upper-class that thinks it is smarter, better qualified, and more politically astute than the plebs who actually keep the party running. They think they are entitled to their positions, and that activists and volunteers exist simply to support their oh-so-serious genius. These people wouldn't touch canvassing, phone banking, or leafleting with a ten-foot pole, because to them that is work that should only be done on their behalf without any questions asked. They don't actually think that is work they should do themselves. To these Democrats, activists should shut up, do as they are told, and work until they drop, or otherwise be accused of driving the party off a cliff.
If you want to be a true reformer, and if you want to play an important role in the progressive, netroots, reformist movement, you just can't be someone who shares these beliefs. You have to be willing to engage in every level of activism our volunteers engage in. you have to go out and canvass. You have to phone bank. You have to leaflet, put up signs, and attend rallies. If you don't act with the people, and if you think you are above the puny actions of the people, you will never understand the people. You have to know, understand, and "get" where your most fervent supporters are coming from or else you should not be leading this party in any way, shape or form. In our new era of people-powered politics, if you have the mentality of a Democratic Lord, rather than the mentality of a Democratic activist, then you will forever be out of touch with the very people who make your position possible. All issues aside, this is the root cause of primary campaigns like Lieberman-Lamont and the Howard Dean insurgency: Democratic activists, who are the party, running up against Democratic Lords, who feel the party must be saved from its own members. This is the Democratic activist class war.
This weekend, I will be staying home, and canvassing my precinct. I do this because it is my duty as a Democratic committeeperson. I do this because I will always vote for the Democratic nominee of any primary, no matter what I think of that person. I do this because I know that the only way we can win is to fight together, right alongside one another, and equally share in the burdens of our success and failure. There are some Democrats who know this almost instinctually, like Patrick Murphy, no matter what questionable advice he may get from time to time. There are some Democrats who are truly lords of the manner, like Joe Lieberman, and his supporters. If Democrats win the House next Tuesday, many people, such as Patrick Murphy, will find themselves torn between supporting the Democratic Lords and the Democratic People. We already saw this with Ellen Tauscher earlier in the week--the Lords think they know what is best for us, and they will try to group all Democratic leaders into their aristocratic club. The struggle will be particularly hard for freshman Democrats to negotiate, since they are new, vulnerable, and are not attached to any established power structure upon their arrival. Those who will arrive in Washington because of people-powered campaigns, such as Patrick Murphy, need to remember who their friends are, and who brought them there. By now, the netroots and the people-powered, progressive movement supply far more of the monetary, media and activist support to all Democrats than any other faction of the party, and than any other collection of party combined. Further, as we make victories for all Democrats possible, we don't run away from the party to win--we run directly towards it. In other words, we fight together, for all Democrats, because we know we are in this together. In the deepest recesses of my gut, I know that Patrick Murphy understands this, and that is why so many people fight for him. The people really do fight for him.
This weekend, you need to hit the streets, and remind your local Democrats who they are really fighting for. Remind them who makes their position possible. Remind them what the Democratic Party really is--because it isn't our leaders, our stereotypes, or our talking points. By now, it has become our people. If we win this election, the credit should go 100% to activists on the ground and online. You local Democratic Party needs to be reminded of this. Let them know that we are all fighting together, and not trying to save one another from each other. Over the next six days, act in a way that they could never forget your loyalty, and so that they could never live without it. On the not-so-off chance that they do forget, be ready to remind them in as ruthless a fashion as possible.
We can't just fall in line--we must change the party. But we can't just change the party--we have to help build it back up, too. Patrick Murphy is on the netroots page.