Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Here is a late night rant. I'm sure it will be covered up by mid-morning. Maybe that is for the best.

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.
These activists are the equivalent of the Scottish lords in the movie Braveheart. As Mel Gibson's character (yeah, I know it isn't the best reference right now), William Wallace says at one point, there are lords who view "the people" as existing solely to support their lordship, and there are lords who view their position as existing to support "the people." Unfortunately, for the most part, we are working for the leaders of a Democratic Party who views "their" activists and "their" grassroots as existing to support "their" positions as leaders, rather than understanding their leadership positions as existing to support the people and the activists of the Democratic Party. This is why DLC types and LieberDems can trash the party at every turn and still somehow think they are helping the party. They honestly believe that they are saving Democrats from themselves. They hate the party, and they hate Democrats. In the tradition of any good aristocrat, however, they honestly believe they are saving the party by trashing it. They would never touch direct activism with a ten-foot pole. They really believe they are doing the right thing by destroying progressivism and siding with corporatism, because they believe progressives and liberals must be saved from themselves. That is, ultimately, how the upper-class and upper-middle-class narrative spun in pseudo-liberal households since 1972. That is why DLC Dems, elitist Dems, corporate Dems, and LieberDems hate us so. That is why they want Bloomberg to become President. That is why The Note hates us. That is why they took down Dean. They think they know better, and they think we don't know what is good for ourselves. This is the Kool Kidz mentality. They are the noble, center-right lords saving the left wing masses from, as they see it, our actions that will lead to total right-wing rule.

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.

Tags: 2006 elections, Activism, CA-10, Democrats, Ellen Tauscher, Ideology (all tags)



Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Canvassing go well? I think it's going to come down to the more well-off areas of Bucks County. I think working-class areas (e.g. Bristol Township) will solidly be in Patrick's camp.

by PsiFighter37 2006-11-01 08:07PM | 0 recs
That might be the justification that

some of the ne'er-do-wells in the entrenched elite that Chris is excoriating...but even that does not hold water, because, in fact, there are a literal horde of people who could do the job and do it well.

I know I could, I bet you could, and Chris could.

There is a false mystique surrounding legislation and political work that has been completely overblown.

Could you do a better job than 80% of the people in Congress?

you bet.

by RedDan 2006-11-01 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

what a nice, inspiring rant! it seems to me what you describe is another version, or maybe even the same version, of a key question our country's founders wrestled with. namely, how much do you trust the people?

i think you really nailed it. 'they' don't trust us.  what i find so maddening is they've failed in so many fundamental ways yet still think they're the only ones who know how to do Democrats.

by irene adler 2006-11-01 08:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

For 7 more days, we fight to win. We can even prove a few polls wrong if we fight like hell.

Yes, afterward, the second fight begins, against the smuglords and the (corporate)whores they rode in on.

Fight each fight. Always. And guys like Lieberman will see soon enough that if we don't defeat him this time, the target remains on his ass for the next. He doesn't have the balls for the continued fight, and he'll retire from 2012 if he survives 2006.

by KevinHayden 2006-11-01 09:08PM | 0 recs
Blogger GOTV

Right on.

I'm in Northern California right now, volunteering with Charlie Brown's campaign against John Doolittle. It's been a blast out here, but we're still short on volunteers (particularly because it didn't seem like Charlie had a shot up until recently.)

Chris has the right idea here. I'd urge more national bloggers to recommend that their readers join in and volunteer.

Ideally, it would be great if bloggers could donate some of the valuable real estate in the right column for a VOLUNTEER! badge that would redirect folks somewhere that would make it easy to find volunteering opportunities.

The blogs have had an amazing impact in several aspects of politics. This could be the next step the evolution of the blogosphere.

Bloggers - get out the volunteers (GOTV!) :)

by piersonr 2006-11-01 09:55PM | 0 recs
There is a term for those who talk but don't walk:

Studio Gangstas.

I couldn't agree more.  Even a few hours of knocking on doors or making phone calls can remind anyone what we are doing here, and where change is made; on the ground, face-to-face.  If the leaders of our Dem Party or our Progressive movement lose that, then there is no reason for them to be our leaders.

Kudos to you Chris for your work this election cycle.  From blogging from the field to Use it or Lose to Google bombing - you've done everything you have in your power and you should be proud.

by Nolan 2006-11-01 10:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

I think you folks all have a misplaced faith in politics and political solutions. The government has a legal monopoly on the use of force. What the government does is steal (i.e. tax ) money from some people and hand it to others, and threaten people with prison if any of its many laws are broken. Since politics relies on force, it's always going to be divisive and it's going to be a continual battleground.

The Founders knew that government was dangerous and imagined it could be limited. That has proven to be false.

And it's pure delusion to expect much will change if Democrats pick up a few seats in Congress next week. We can expect a continuation of the Iraq War, infringements of civil liberties, militarism, massive government spending and debt and such horrors as the vicious "war" on users of some drugs.

by mdf1960 2006-11-01 10:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

What we're really doing is taking the fox out of the henhouse.  What you're saying, If I may, sir - is that replacing one of the species with another, in the henhouse doesn't win us anything.

Allow me to illuminate the error, If I may.

The Species Canus - contains the common red fox. A wild animal that, if , like "Brownie" in charge of FEMA, or a Gay Ol' Pedophile like Mark Foley - in charge of writing child safety laws - requires quite a lot of government secrecy and ends up, showing up in quite alot of different ways.

For example, conservatives don't end up saving you money. This is because the chickens are being eaten.

The argument, in fact, could be made mathematically that the government is 25% effecient, in most cases regardless of the party in power. That is, for every dollar you spend in the government to get something done, you end up getting 25% of it going to work for you.

This is a strong libertarian argument.

Now, here in Georgia, the libertarians are being co-opted into the Republican campaign. Again, the people in charge, give away their signature.  The party isn't growing, but the so called opponent party, is. So, in Georgia, the libertarians are in fact corrupt republicans.

Now, where I come from, libertarians were real libertarians and quite frankly there were alot of them in my organization.

And they share many of your views. So, as an independent I feel obliged to help steer you in the right direction because unlike others here, I have no problem with libertarianism - my husband is a libertarian activist after all...

You see, to change from one species to another at the henhouse makes quite a difference. The species Canus, contains both the fox - and Canus Domesticatus, the trained border collie that will only mouth the chicken, but spend much more of his time manically chasing away anything that gets close. Same behavior, but in a different direction.

You may even notice that border collies will continue to work, even if you don't want them to. This is a convenient feature of many of the Democrats that are on their way to congress - they have been brought into politics by strong principles.

I grant you that they will be facing a hard culture of corruption to fight - the Bush republicans have really created a radioactive mess up there.

But, clearly, there is a difference.

Many libertarians feel there is nothing they can do. The first thing all libertarians need to do is to try to return representative democracy to the United States of America.

Only after democracy has been returned, will the next great step in the libertarian plan be possible: Instant Runoff Voting.

Give the third parties instant runoff and then the culture of corruption could never survive. America would break into several coalitions and the force of the market would remove the easy access large advertising firms and corporations have.  

That, and any legislation aimed at getting rid of ability of legislators to be anonymous when they blossom legislation from readable 50 page documents up into 10,000 page monsters that are crammed up with pork for every one.

Think for a second how inconsequential "liberalism" vs. "conservatism" is, in that regard - if you remove the fox from the henhouse you will see an immediate benefit.

That is what awaits us, I believe, as indendents who caucus with the democrats.

And, if you are willing to invest a little time to stick around, clearly these are "young dogs" that can be taught tricks.

Its actually pretty mind blowing, when you think about it, isn't it? That the Democrats have changed so much in the past few years, simply because of online donation , organization and thinks like message groups, email and blogs?

The truth is, one day libertarians may feel proud to call the Democrats home. Those libertarians who only understand marketing slogans will always cry foul wherever they are - they are alone for a reason.  But those who are truly interested in where America is going, will do anything to get there and in strongly republican areas, they will vote libertarian. But when it counts, they will vote Democrat.

by heyAnita 2006-11-02 12:09AM | 0 recs
Your worst nightmare

Heh. Have you noticed that there are fewer lengthy comments here? That's because a significant number of regulars are already involved at ground level. It's a little after 4:00 am for me. I'll go to work today, then after work I'll hit the streets (like I have been for the last ten days). The weekend is going to be much more of the same.

by Michael Bersin 2006-11-02 12:16AM | 0 recs
Re: That might be the justification that

I've thought about that same question--what is the role?  I am apprehensive about some rigid policy goals that transform the blogosphere from a free exchange of ideas to some new kind of super-interest group.  I get nervous when "authorities" in blogs dictate to the community what should be thought and you have some people defending that and saying to go read another blog if you don't like it.  Maybe blogs do function like this and I am blinded by idealism.

I am excited for the future of blogs and would like to see more regional development and state infastructure so no one blog or person can dictate policy.  I like blogs and elections and less blogs, as a whole, and issues.  Does that even make sense?

by burroughs 2006-11-01 11:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

I was at the Murphy phonebank last night (and later the Quakertown Rally). Murphy seems really comfortable and on his game.
  I met a fellow volunteer who was at the Fitzpatrick-Murphy dabate at Palisades High School a couple of weeks ago. He was holding a Murphy sign and right in the middle of the crowd- during the debate- Fitzpatrick's father came up to him.
  Mr Fitzpatrick had a 3 and half inch knife open and was threatening to slash apart  the sign the volunteer was holding "just like Murpy's people were doing to our signs".
  The volunteer told him, calmly but kind of in shock, that he had just opened a knife in a public school and that is a crime in Pennsylvania.  He told him to back off and called the police, who came a few moments later.
  The cops took Fitzpatrick aside. A few minute later a State Trooper came over and asked the volunteer what he would like the police to do. "I want him to be a man and come over and apologize." Which he subsequently did.
   The record of the incident is available at the Harrisburg Barracks of the State Police, according the volunteer.

  The local paper, the Intelligencer, was informed but won't touch it.

 P Ryan

by knuckleover 2006-11-02 01:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Holy crap!  That's not good.  Obviously the pressure of a hard campaign is tough on the guy.  I know Fitz has been involved in Buck politics for a while, and well-regarded for it, mostly.  It's got to be hard to see your child in the midst of a campaign where almost nothing is off limits, and the hype can be over-the-top...

Maybe the dad needs to not attend events where supporters of both candidates might mingle...

Also, kudos to the volunteer for keeping his head and not turning the incident into a media circus.  Lessor people would have done so...

by lutton 2006-11-02 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately
Seems to me that the Lords are the part of the wing that comprises mostly of the old wing.  The people who came up in the 70s and 80s and were largely responsible for the elitist reputation that became the democratic party.
The new Democrats are a throw back to the time when the party represented the common people and shirt sleeve politics.  
As more of the new Democrats come into the party the Lords will be dwindling down.  That elite I know better style just is not appealing to anyone and is very alienating.
Luckily a new face is emerging and will overtake the old school of the 70s style.
by vwcat 2006-11-02 03:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Frustrating.  But I think there's another key point, here, worth mentioning.  Activists often assume that everyone knows what it means to volunteer and campaign and canvas. Maybe there are a fair number of people who know how and still refuse to do the ground work,  I trust your view of what's happening.  But I think there are far, far more people who do not even know step one of where to begin--do not even know the most basic terms that would allow them to make the choice to do the kind of things we might claim people are refusing to do.  We are in the last round of a desperate fight, right now.  And so much depends on it. But the bridge between individuals and their government was intentionally broken by the Republicans a long time ago, and if we want the kind of GOTV turnout that Chris is calling for--that we are all calling for--then we will have to do more than just show up as individuals, but will also need to devise a division of labor where some of us sit down and dedicate ourselves to getting people to show up--to solving that problem.

So I agree with the basic point of the post:  everyone should try their best to get out there and do what they can.

But also want to see a new development out of this insight--the emergence of a new kind of Progressive grassroots activist wholly concerned with solving this problem of GOTV  in the final week, and wholly absorbed in creative probelm solving.  

In this respect, I want to point to kidoakland's series of diaries on the importance of what he calls "local blogging" as a first step in this direction.  But we need more steps, more people working on this in the off season--and more people recognizing the importance of this work:  in the off season.

Part of Chris' frustration--a large part of it, I think--is directed at the fact that things have moved so fast for Proressives this past week that we are really feeling the absence of this group that has solved the GOTV problem in a way that makes us confident in the final days of an election.  

So, "thanks" to everyone who is giving 210% of their energy to volunteer for a campaign.  But "thanks" also to those people who are making the choice right now to learn what they can from this round in order to improve the Dem GOTV effort next round.  Come this time 2008, I hope to see diaries praising both efforts.

by Jeffrey Feldman 2006-11-02 03:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Wow, you read my mind. (Apparently your doctoring includes psychic skills.) I started local blogging up here in Rochester, NY, because I was pissed off that the local progressive news was being reported half-assed or not at all, and people were having the wrong conversations.  Up here it's a bunch of false, GOP-framed choices. Jobs vs. taxes. Jobs vs. environment.  Etc.

A bunch of folks seemed to agree that it's wrong, which is why I guess our readership has taken off solely on word of mouth.

But the thing that I've really noticed, being in the thick of campaigns this year, is the tumbleweed-blowing lack of progressive infrastructure and support locally.  Now I'm pissed off about that, and will use the calm after this election to get structure in place to support prog candidates so they don't have to start from FRIGGING SCRATCH every time.  So it's not a bunch of dedicated, going-out-of-their-minds activists supporting them year after year, without anyone having THEIR back.

We also need to "prep the playing field" in terms of how people are discussing the issues so alt. energy, peace, justice, etc. are the conventional wisdom, so progressives in office resonate with their constituents better. - turning the tide upstate

by bythepeople 2006-11-02 07:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Yeah, that seems to be the issue.  Great comment.  GOTV is a local enterprise--or at least that's how it works right now. So this is the moment when everyone is running into the absence of a local Progressive infrastructure.

It's a big challenge, but--we'll get there.

And Rochester is turning!  My psychic powers tell me so....

by Jeffrey Feldman 2006-11-02 07:48AM | 0 recs
Jerry Meek

One of the reasons we love Jerry Meek, chair of the NC Democratic Party, is that he has been canvassing every weekend.  Every weekend.  Canvassing.  Chair of the NCDP.


Every weekend.

by Robert P 2006-11-02 04:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

The thing is, if the Democratic Lords were winning we wouldn't be doing this. Oh there are a few and maybe a sizable number who would still oppose them on principle...

...but if they were actually saving the "Democratic Party" they wouldn't have to deal with this uprising. If you can't give us victory what position are you in to dictate to us?

by MNPundit 2006-11-02 04:51AM | 0 recs
the Democratic Party

Something that has bounced around my head is the GOP usage of the derisive term the "Democrat Party" - upon researching the matter, I discovered some of them have put thought into why they use that term, and it occasionally goes beyond "Democrat just sounds worse"

For some, they don't see the party as being particularly (small d) democratic, and resent the use of the name.  

As much as I hate the term "Democrat party" - they have a point there.

What Chris is talking about here is all part of making sure that "Democratic Party" is more than just a name.  The route to success is not to ape the GOP's centralized top-down command structure.  They're good at that, because they attract drones and dictators.  Democrats resent that style and trying it is disastrous for them.

Towards the new democratic Democratic Party.

by scientician 2006-11-02 05:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

Good to hear that both you and Anne are still at it.  I definitely miss the Philly4Dean/Change days.  Can't believe it was three years ago, and already two years ago that Anne would donate LCV factsheets for me to use for the Drexel Dems.  Makes me miss Philly.

by bradlevinson 2006-11-02 05:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

I recognized those tally sheets right away; I just did some canvassing for Pat Murphy Monday night, getting my 'sea legs' for the GOTV drive on election day.  

Also, a big ovation is due to Keith Campbell, who has been spearheading the Philly for Change contingents to canvass for Pat Murphy and other local candidates in the area.  

Never one to rest, Keith has already lined up post election day events, when politics in Philly will move into the race for the city's next mayor.  There's already a meet the candidate night featured for the mid-Nov meetup.

by lutton 2006-11-02 05:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

When her husband was in office Linda Robb always did this sort of work, door knocking, phone banking, standing in front of the grocery store and hand out literature. She was never too grand for any volunteer work.

by Alice Marshall 2006-11-02 05:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

I've been a professional organizer of field campaigns. We call these people "Democratic poohbahs." The local variant shows up for the kick-off, they stick their heads into headquarters to tell you how you are doing it wrong (but only during weekdays and they don't do any work) and they claim they won the campaign at the election night party. They aren't the level Chris is talking about -- more the elite-wannabees.

One of the great pleasures of my organizing life was a rally I had a hand in for a Presidential primary. The candidate was clearly going to carry the city, so every reluctant poohbah had to show up and be seen, little as most of them probably liked the guy.  Since this was at the Pres. level, there was Secret Service, who demanded that all the "dignataries" had to be on scene two hours early. So we got them all checked in to a secured area, outside, and then it poured. And poured, and poured, and poured -- candidate was 4 hours late (!) but if they wanted to be near glory, they couldn't leave.

Love them wilted poohbahs.

by janinsanfran 2006-11-02 07:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately
...Since this was at the Pres. level, there was Secret Service, who demanded that all the "dignataries" had to be on scene two hours early. So we got them all checked in to a secured area, outside, and then it poured. And poured, and poured, and poured -- candidate was 4 hours late (!) but if they wanted to be near glory, they couldn't leave...

There are certain benefits to doing advance...
by Michael Bersin 2006-11-02 10:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately

The ability to govern, to legislate, has been pretty irrelevant to leaders in places where the Democratic Party has been weak yet campaigns are expensive. In such locales (the whole state of California for example) what has counted for advancement for the last 15 years has been the ability to raise money and skils at being a candidate. These are nothing like the skills of crafting viable social policy. Nor do they have much to do with representing majorities.

Guess I'm saying that elite preference for certain, mostly not very socially useful, attributes in leaders is a result of grassroots party weakness -- and will be remedied by grassroots party rebuilding.

by janinsanfran 2006-11-02 07:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting Together, Losing Separately
I may be too idealistic for this politics business.
I have been making calls with MoveOn. and I work there rather than in a particular Democratic organinaztion because MoveOn seems to be, uh, well, just the opposite of the organizaitonal dysfunctions  Chris laments.  
I have to wonder if every movement and organization has to have a face and a name [candidates have these things] so that people outside the organization have a mental handle for dealing with [and often, for attacking] the organization.  
I am under the impression that the Democratic party has an alliance with MoveOn but not much in the way of money, policy or other formal ties.  We work togehter because in Bushworld, we are intrinsically on the same side.  Not So?
I have been struggling to find and characterize what exactly individuals would be up to if we really lived in a democracy.  MoveOn and the Dems may not fit my dreams of democracy perfectly but they are so much closer than the alternatives.
by greensmile 2006-11-02 08:10AM | 0 recs


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