Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I have a few things I need to do, and I think I am writing this post in order to procrastinate. Still, I thought it would be interesting to actually list the pragmatic rules that I feel progressive must follow in order to build a progressive governing coalition.
  • 1. The Democratic Party is the primary vessel of the progressive coalition. It is impossible to enact real change without an electoral apparatus within your movement. In a two-party system, it is thus necessary to adopt one of the two parties as the electoral vessel of your coalition.

  • 2. Within the coalition, intra-party democracy must always be adhered to. All party nominees must be determined by an elective primary open to all registered members of the party in the relevant district. The winner of the primary must always be supported by all members of the party apparatus, and all rank and file members should vote for the nominee (especially those who voted in the primary).

  • 3. Party elections should be fair and open to all members of the party, and no one should ever be forced or muscled off of a ballot for a party office or nomination for public office.

  • 4. There are no litmus tests to join the coalition. No one has to read or sign off on any document stating support for a particular policy. If someone wants to join, registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement.

  • 5. Under no circumstances should any member of the party apparatus support any member of any opposing coalition, (in other words, any other political party).

  • 6. Outside of issues relating to corruption, Democrats must never criticize each other in the same manner that Republicans criticize Democrats.

  • 7. No Democrat should ever publicly call any Democrat unelectable, or publicly rank candidates based on perceived electability.

  • 8. Don't expect the party to change on it's own. Be prepared and willing to change it yourself.
It is not easy to follow all of these rules, but I firmly believe that the more of us who adhere to these rules, the better off the Democratic Party and the progressive movement will be. Following these rules would prevent apathy, create accepted mechanisms to handle intra-party disputes, not require anyone to defend corruption, give all members forums to defend their principles, and go a long way toward preventing individual members from undermining the coalition.

I try to follow all of these rules. I see them as my eight pragmatic laws of progressive Realpolitk. I do not try and follow them for their own sake, or out of some sort of high-minded idealism. Rather, I firmly and honestly believe that the more progressive stray from these rules, the less likely they are to enact the sort of progressive change they desire. If you ask me, every time a progressive violates one of these rules, s/he undermines his or her own desire for progressive change.

I did not arrive at these rules overnight, or all at once. Further, I used to violate quite a few of them myself on a regular basis. However, I just grew tired of not achieving anything, and of the country continuing to slide to the right while the left-center refused to work together. I think these rules solve that problem. At this point, few things drive me more nuts than watching any Democrat, whether s/he is in the leadership, the activist working class, or the rank and file violate these rules. Virtually all of my most vehement writing against individual Democrats takes place when I see a particularly egregious violation of these rules take place. This goes for Ellen Tauscher trashing the left just as much as it goes for Pennsylvania progressives who refuse to vote for Bob Casey after working for a different Democrat in the primary. If you want to know a way to get on my bad side, suggest a course of action that openly violates these rules.

I am very interested in knowing what you guys think of these rules, and in hearing some of your own laws of progressive action, whether they can be considered Realpolitik or not. Now, I have to return to work.

Tags: Democrats, progressive movement (all tags)

Comments

101 Comments

Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

NICE!  Well written.

Another caveat is that those primaries can be hard fought, and we need to battle for years to get what we want.  It's not gonna happen in one election.

by nathan 2006-11-28 02:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

sound like a good plan to me

by gobears 2006-11-28 03:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Let's change litmust test to values. How do you determine if someone has the values of a progressive besides the fact they are a member of the party?

by bruh21 2006-11-28 03:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Good point. Also, a lot of people who supported the Democratic House and Senate victories were not progressive at all, but were in fact nominally Republcon conservatives. We would have gotten nowhere without them, and we owe them respect for their brave realism. The rules are reasonable as guidelines, but politics is about compromise. Not compromise of oneself, but compromise with those we may not agree with. So we will always have two sets of goals. First, we must ruthlessly stop the neocon fascists, and second, we must argue with the paleo-conservatives in a civilized manner. These are necessarily very different goals that demand very different tactics.

by blues 2006-11-28 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

actually my point was about how to achieve progressive goals if you dont care what people stand for in their values. and the way we won was not through conservatives, but moderates and progressive. that's not a manipulation of words. i am not saying moderates as in centrists. i mean moderates as in people who are probably left of center to directly center in their views. trying to build coaltions with people who dont want you around wastes alot of time and energy.

by bruh21 2006-11-28 03:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I never suggested trying to build a coalition between progressives and paleo-conservatives. I merely suggested avoiding an unproductive war with them. We do not define them, and they do not define us. But we are all at war with the neocons. As far as "capturing" the Democratic Party as Chris advocates, I will try to help. But I have no idea if it will really work. We must try.

I also have my other foot in the Idymedia protest world, which both enables and backs up this candidate advocacy world. That is a good thing to do, because if one thing might not work, you should always have a "plan B."

by blues 2006-11-28 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

your statement makes an assumption: you assume that they want to compromise rather than run on whatever they can turn into a political football for 2008. that's their goal- 2008 and beyond. They didn't learn that they needed to compromise from this election,a nd they didn't perceive of us as equals. They saw it as a blip- talk to a few conservatives, ask them what they think this means for the GOP. They will say they aren't being conservative enough. People like Grover Norquist will say it means its time to appear bipartisan, but acted partisan. Which is really what they have been doing all along. Your arguments are cover for that strategy because you assume from the start- that you have more to fear from them by not acting 'bipartisan.'

by bruh21 2006-11-28 04:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik
People like Grover Norquist are not paleo-conservatives; they are neocons who need to be destroyed. I'm 59 1/2 years on the planet, and believe me this is not simple. For example, I watched with my own eyes the Republican paleo-conservative Scott Ritter form a temporary coalition with the real full-time peace movement, mostly quakers and folks like that. At first they got along fine, but eventually he had this huge run-in with Cindy Sheehan. He was an ex-Marine intelligence officer turned anti-war icon, but he still didn't realize that the permanent peace movement is no movement at all -- but an actual
tribe! I am not a real member of their tribe, but come from a vastly more confrontational Indymedia street activist background, so I could be more impartial in this situation.
by blues 2006-11-28 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Perhaps I'm confused, but Grover Norquist is not a neo-con at all. Neoconservatives are "liberals who got mugged" - former liberals (Trotskyites!) who grew disillusioned with the ability of government to solve social problems at home and with the peace movement and counterculture. A neoconservative is for liberal goals at home but against Great Society-style programs and supports a pro-democracy idealist foreign policy. Norquist isn't a paleocon (exemplified by Pat Buchanan), but he isn't a neocon either.

by CT student 2006-11-28 05:04PM | 0 recs
"liberal goals at home"

Could you please list one instance of such that emerged from the neoconservatives that controlled out government for the last 6 years?

A neoconservative to me is someone willing to use "Big Government" to create the results that for years paleoconservative wished to bring about by "free market", "states rights" and other such advocacy.  Same goals, different methods.  Both see war as a means to political and domestic ends - they just drape it slightly differently.

by PantsB 2006-11-28 05:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

PantsB "claims":

A neoconservative to me is someone willing to use "Big Government" to create the results that for years paleoconservative wished to bring about by "free market", "states rights" and other such advocacy.  Same goals, different methods.  Both see war as a means to political and domestic ends - they just drape it slightly differently.

This is just bullshit. Many of the paleo-conservatives are sincere. I disagree with them, but will not destroy what is most precious to me in a stupid attempt to destroy them.

by blues 2006-11-28 06:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

It's okay to be confused, CT student! Confusion beats idiocy 87% of the time (counter-example: George W, Bush). Okay -- As I seem to have to say so often, I do linguistics. It's kind of like this: How much "extra play" can you carom off of a word? Yes, I personally knew many 60's "radicals" who morphed into neocons. Let me tell you something: they were never radicals, nor anything like that whatsoever! They were merely egocentric parasites who always wanted to be on the "winning side!" You can bet your butt they are joining the Democratic Party in droves while we type!!!

When you read me talking of "neocons," I'm always using the term to best advantage. Neocons are opportunists who would never hesitate to burn a Jew if they could only be convinced that it would be the "hip" thing to do. They usually have a lot of mommy (I mean money), although there were plenty of lumpeneocons on the dumbass "redstate" site who don't. The general attitude is "I got mine, fuck you!" The provenance of these neocons lies not in half-assed liberalism gone rogue, but in the desire to achieve hipness by winning always.

by blues 2006-11-28 05:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Two questions:

What about the Working Families Party? They're careful not to throw elections, but are an important part of pushing the Dems to the left, especially in New York City.

More broadly, why should all our rules be within the electoral sector of politics? Every era of true progressive success has been the result of efforts outside electoral politics (though usually in coordination with electoral efforts) - abolitionism, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, etc.

by CT student 2006-11-28 03:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

This is very true. Our political projects could never get to first base without the existence of an entirely different group of people, who demonstrate in the streets, create all sorts of havoc, etc. These are the Indymedia folks. A bunch of lawyers would get nowhere without cops to back them up. Liberal and all other political types need this street-level access at some point. Even the paleo-conservatives are fielding Alex Jones types in the street with bullhorns. This is a reality that is far too easy to ignore. But everywhere on earth, when you need these street activists, you really need them.

by blues 2006-11-28 03:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik
...Our political projects could never get to first base without the existence of an entirely different group of people, who demonstrate in the streets, create all sorts of havoc, etc...

Uh, I know plenty of party activists who have taken to the streets. The two groups are not mutually exclusive.
by Michael Bersin 2006-11-28 04:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

i agree.  this post is very much written in a party uber alles mindset, and in a way it makes sense, given that you want to win elections and your particular movement doesn't have an outright majority (i.e., you need to form coalitions).

but it ignores the contributions of our ideological allies: unions, teachers, media and blogosphere types, religious liberals.  that being said, it could well be that you can do both - adopt a party uber alles mindset on the one hand, and aid our ideological allies on the other.  there are a few cases where you would run into conflict, but there shouldn't be too many.

by Shai Sachs 2006-11-28 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

What about the Working Families Party? They're careful not to throw elections, but are an important part of pushing the Dems to the left, especially in New York City.

In my NY State representative district, there was a WFP candidate and a Democratic candidate - Koziol/Murad.  The incumbent Republican won.

It is not obvious to me the WFP is leftwing at all when it supports Hillary Clinton.  For sure it betrays principles by supporting a rightwing, free trade, Iraq War-hawk and then running a candidate against the slim hopes of a Democrat trying to unseat a Republican apparatchik.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-29 04:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

The real question about the Democratic Party these days concerns whether it can becomes a progressive party.  The unfortunate reality is that it looks progressive only in relation to the truly atrocious Republicans.  Until the Democrats take real steps to undo the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and other anti-democratic accomplishments of the Republicans, the Democrats cannot claim to be a progressive party.  Far too many Democrats are happy to be co-conspirators in the right-wing revolution agains democracy.  The main argument of the article, it seems to me, is that there are only two parties, so the Democrats are  the progressive party by default.  This is both a weak and a sad argument.  Until the Democrats truly become a progressive party, and are not designated such merely by default, then this country cannot be said to have a progressive party.  I say this having voted Democratic and having given money to the party for several decades.  But I've stopped because I don't want to encourage a party that isn't really progressive and hasn't been for a long time.  Not being the Republicans is not a sufficient reason to have any enthusiasm for the Democrats.  The Democrats don't seem more progressive than the Rockefeller Republicans of the 1960s.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

The Democrats don't seem more progressive than the Rockefeller Republicans of the 1960s.

Not just don't seem -- they aren't
more progressive than the Rockefeller Republicans of the 1960s. But we are working on that. The liberal/conservative dichotomy is a vast oversimplification. The progressives and the paleo-conservatives are in the process of re-inventing themselves. For a long time, idealism has been out of fashion, it seems. We need to examine who we are and what we need. That will take a lot of doing. Additionally, history is happening whilst we make all these plans!!!

by blues 2006-11-28 03:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

"The real question about the Democratic Party these days concerns whether it can becomes a progressive party.  The unfortunate reality is that it looks progressive only in relation to the truly atrocious Republicans."

IMO that's a completely irrelevant question. The question is: how should progressives accomplish our progressive goals? In our winner-take-all electoral system, there can only be two parties that have a chance to be elected--the Democrats and the Republicans. A 3rd party could only hope to gradually whittle away support from the Democrats which would result in Republicans in power working to promote regressive policies and digging us deeper and deeper into the pit so that even if a progessive could win she'd have to use all her political capital to try to get us nearly back to where we were before the 3rd party starting to build support. Given that, progressives who want to actually gain the ability to enact progressive policies must choose one of the two parties as our home, and the Republican Party isn't it.

If we want a progressive party we have no choice but to try to make the Democratic Party as progressive as possible. That means trying to win primaries and then being loyal Democrats even if our progressive candidate loses. That might mean pro-choicers have to support anti-choice Democrats like Casey against Republicans, or (if Lieberman had won the primary) supporting pro-war Democrats against their pro-war Republican opponents. If we want to be politically serious we have to be good members of our Party, that has to come before self-indulgent "principled" grandstanding.

your friend
keith

by keith johnson 2006-11-28 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I disagree.  Parties that lose their souls wither away.  The Whigs elected presidents, but didn't survive.  They were replaced in the 1850s by the Republicans because creating a new party proved better than trying to revive a tired old one.  If the Democrats don't become progressive, and there is not assurance that they will, it might be a better progressive strategy to put them out of their misery and create something else.  I don't think the matter is settled at all as to whether progressives should try to reform the Democratic Party or to kill it off and start over with a new party.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 05:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

"I disagree.  Parties that lose their souls wither away.  The Whigs elected presidents, but didn't survive.  They were replaced in the 1850s by the Republicans because creating a new party proved better than trying to revive a tired old one.  If the Democrats don't become progressive, and there is not assurance that they will, it might be a better progressive strategy to put them out of their misery and create something else.  I don't think the matter is settled at all as to whether progressives should try to reform the Democratic Party or to kill it off and start over with a new party."

Well, I disagree with your disagreement:-) Seriously though, I think the case of the Whigs beingh supplanted by the Republicans is a unusual situation. Let me explain. What happened then was that the two parties both completely fragmented because of the unprecedented division that became the Civil War so there were four parties that all had significant support. The winner take all system naturally reduces to 2 dominant parties and the Republicans were one of the two parties that survived. This is very different from the present situation. There is no chance the Democrats will completely fragment. All that can happen is the kind of thing the Greens caused on 2000--people who should have voted for Gore voted for Nader instead and the election in Florida was therefore close enough for Bush to steal it. This is what would generally occur--a progessive 3rd party would siphon potential votes away from the Democrats and give Republicans control of government. There is far more chance that progressives can accomplish our political goals by trying to be the soul of the Democratic Party because that's the only way we will elect progressives to office.

your friend
keith

by keith johnson 2006-11-28 08:00PM | 0 recs
Not Winner Take All

keith johnson said:

The winner take all system naturally reduces to 2 dominant parties and the Republicans were one of the two parties that survived.

This is really at the heart of the central dilemma of US politics. If you hope to have any influence on the ideological structure of US politics, you must capture one of two dominant parties, because the voting structure imposes a two party system. What distresses me more than anything is that keith johnson, as well as virtually every other blogger around here, insists on courting a totally incorrect theory about why this is the case! His contention that: "The winner take all system naturally reduces to 2 dominant parties and the Republicans were one of the two parties that survived" is just flat-out WRONG!!!

Careless thinking might lead us to see the winner take all syndrome as the cause of our inflexible two-party pseudo-democracy. BUT THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG. The real cause of this two-party pseudo-democracy is really the direct consequence of THE BLACK HAT SYNDROME!!!

I provide the solution (which definitely is not IRV) in the following comment:

http://www.mydd.com/comments/2006/11/22/ 16202/830/2#2

by blues 2006-11-29 03:17AM | 0 recs
Not Winner Take All

keith johnson said:

The winner take all system naturally reduces to 2 dominant parties and the Republicans were one of the two parties that survived.

This is really at the heart of the central dilemma of US politics. If you hope to have any influence on the ideological structure of US politics, you must capture one of two dominant parties, because the voting structure imposes a two party system. What distresses me more than anything is that keith johnson, as well as virtually every other blogger around here, insists on courting a totally incorrect theory about why this is the case! His contention that: "The winner take all system naturally reduces to 2 dominant parties and the Republicans were one of the two parties that survived" is just flat-out WRONG!!!

Careless thinking might lead us to see the winner take all syndrome as the cause of our inflexible two-party pseudo-democracy. BUT THAT IS TOTALLY WRONG. The real cause of this two-party pseudo-democracy is really the direct consequence of THE BLACK HAT SYNDROME!!!

I provide the solution (which definitely is not IRV) in the following comment:

http://www.mydd.com/comments/2006/11/22/ 16202/830/2#2

by blues 2006-11-29 03:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Winner Take All

This is very important, and God gave me awful typing! And the MyDD Gray Fog is forcing me to open another bottle of wine.

I provide the solution:

HERE!

by blues 2006-11-29 03:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Winner Take All

Hi Blue

YOur three tier run off system seems interesting to me, but I have to disagree with your claim that "winner take all plurality voting" (WTAPV)isn't what causes a two party system. There is a very strong incentive in WTAPV for the left/center to form one party and the right/center to form another. Suppose there were 3 parties, the Republicans, the Dems and the Greens. Suppose the Republicans had 40$ support, the Dems 35% and the Greens 25%. If the Greens and Dems stay split none of their policy preferences will be enacted because the Republicans would win with 40% of the vote. It's a simple matter of aritnmetic.

your friend
keith

by keith johnson 2006-11-29 05:01AM | 0 recs
True. also...

You're right, Keith, about the WTAPV => two-party system.

I only know of one country in the world that has WTAPV and more than two viable parties -- France. The only way they do it is with two rounds of voting, and coalitions that form by negotiations in the week before the two rounds, during which each coalition bargains with the other parties therein for which party's candidate gets to represent the coalition on the ballot in any particular district.

The result is that if party A, B, and C form a coalition, then a member of party A in a district where his coalition is represented on the final ballot by party C's candidate (chosen behind closed doors in a very undemocratic way) has no one on the ballot who represents their party. Given the sometimes dubious intra-coalition relationships, party A might hate party C.

The result is a lot of people sit elections out, or turn to the radical anti-democracy FN. It's not pretty. I don't like the idea of a round-by-round election system one bit.

by msnook 2006-11-29 07:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Winner Take All

Grrr!!! Neverending!

Consecutive Approval Voting ---

Round one is an approval, not a plurality method election. Therefor, each voter gets to give just one vote to each candidate that she or he "approves of" (finds acceptable) up to twenty choices (so wacky people don't list thousands of candidates out of a phone book). From start to finish, parties are only advocacy networks; this voting system is "blind" to parties. So there can be no negotiating. Intelligent Greens will vote for some Democrats, as well as some greens. And intelligent Democrats will vote for some Greens, as well as some Democrats. So some Democrats and/or some greens will undoubtedly get 60% of the maximum possible vote. Given the above assumptions, some Republicans would possibly get up to 40% of the maximum possible vote. The eight candidates who garner the most votes get to go to the second round.

The second round is again, an approval contest between the eight remaining contenders. No negotiation is allowed. Each voter can give exactly one vote to each of the remaining contenders that she or he "approves of" (finds acceptable). Once again the votes are added up, and the two candidates who have received the most votes go to the final round.

The final round is between only the two remaining contenders, there is no third candidate to act as a "spoiler," So, the Black Hat, or spoiler effect is eliminated. If the people have half the sense they were born with, 95% of the Republicans will be eliminated as well.

by blues 2006-11-29 09:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Not Winner Take All

"Grrr!!! Neverending!

Consecutive Approval Voting ---

Round one is an approval, not a plurality method election. Therefor, each voter gets to give just one vote to each candidate that she or he "approves of" (finds acceptable) up to twenty choices (so wacky people don't list thousands of candidates out of a phone book). From start to finish, parties are only advocacy networks; this voting system is "blind" to parties. So there can be no negotiating. Intelligent Greens will vote for some Democrats, as well as some greens. And intelligent Democrats will vote for some Greens, as well as some Democrats. So some Democrats and/or some greens will undoubtedly get 60% of the maximum possible vote. Given the above assumptions, some Republicans would possibly get up to 40% of the maximum possible vote. The eight candidates who garner the most votes get to go to the second round.

The second round is again, an approval contest between the eight remaining contenders. No negotiation is allowed. Each voter can give exactly one vote to each of the remaining contenders that she or he "approves of" (finds acceptable). Once again the votes are added up, and the two candidates who have received the most votes go to the final round.

The final round is between only the two remaining contenders, there is no third candidate to act as a "spoiler," So, the Black Hat, or spoiler effect is eliminated. If the people have half the sense they were born with, 95% of the Republicans will be eliminated as well."

I am trying to figure out why you went "grrrr". The 3 tier system you describe might well make room for more than 2 parties in our system, and IMO a multiparty system would be a welcome change to our present system. But GIVEN THE VOTING SYSTEM WE HAVE--THE WINNER-TAKE-ALL PLURALITY SYSTEM, it is destructive of our ends to try to build a progressive party that operates outside the Democratic Party. The arithmetic I mentioned in my post only applies to WTAPV, not to the voting system you propose.

your friend
keith

by keith johnson 2006-11-29 03:03PM | 0 recs
Sounds a bit nutty to me

IRV isn't the best, but I don't think it's as bad as it sounds from the way you rant against it. Your three phase system is unweildy, we should be able to do it all from a single rankings or ratings ballot. How it's counted on the back end is open for debate.

by bolson 2006-11-29 07:07AM | 0 recs
these days

The real question about the Democratic Party these days concerns whether it can becomes a progressive party.  The unfortunate reality is that it looks progressive only in relation to the truly atrocious Republicans.

These days?  You could have made the same statement about even the greatest periods of progressive politics in our nation's and party's history. Consider Franklin Roosevelt, one of history's greatest, most effective progressive leaders. But the father of Social Security also threw Japanese Americans into prison camps simply because they were Japanese Americans (that was the worst, but not his only sin against progressivism.)  And sitting right beside FDR in the pantheon of great progressive politicians is Lyndon Johnson.  But he of course also has Vietnam as part of his legacy, alongside the Civil Rights Act and Medicare and Head Start.

Point being, you aren't going to find perfection even among history's greatest progressives.

In the Democratic Party, progress tends to be two steps forward, one backward.

In the Republican Party, progress tends to be zero steps forward, one backward.

You pick.

In the real world of human beings with human weaknesses, you're going to be very disappointed if you expect perfect progress from any party (or politician).  What makes sense is to choose the most forward-moving party - the one with the record of accomplishing the greatest net gains - and do your best to help it move forward faster.

by Rob in Vermont 2006-11-28 05:22PM | 0 recs
Re: these days

A different possibility is to create a different party that takes two or three steps forward and only an occassional one backwords.  In my view, your assessment of the Democrats of today is overly optimistic.  They seem to be taking one step forward and two backwords.  Granted, this is somewhat better than the Republicans who are galloping back to the 11th century, that is, to an era before the Magna Carta and habeus corpus.  But that doesn't tell me that the Democrats are worthy of support.  By your argument, we should support Mussolini over Hitler, but an alternative would be to abandon both Nazis and Fascists for something better.  This "better of the two evils" approach hasn't been going so well in recent years.  I'm coming to the conclusion that we ought to consider seriously abandoning the "lesser evil" for something else.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 05:53PM | 0 recs
Re: these days

Roosevelt. Put. Japanese Americans. In. Prison.

Roosevelt. Was. A. Great. Progressive. President.

Roosevelt. Was. Nothing. At. All. Like. Hitler.

Can you hold all these in your head at once?

You're drawing very false parallels, and based on these, you're demanding that folks view the world in terms of the very exaggerated either/or choices that you view it.

Honestly, the problems of this world are big enough - you really don't need to view them through that false lens.

by Rob in Vermont 2006-11-28 07:31PM | 0 recs
Re: these days

Roosevelt. Put. Japanese Americans. In. Prison.

Roosevelt. Was. A. Great. Progressive. President.

Roosevelt. Was. Nothing. At. All. Like. Hitler.

That makes as much sense as saying Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond were great Democrats because they never lynched a black man.

Roosevelt and Hitler were both anti-semites though oddly Hitler's antisemitism arose from his use of the common prejudice as a tool against Communism.  Roosevelt's was the more common variety.

A poor man's crusade was led by the redoubtable populist, Huey Long.  Roosevelt was the conservative who told people not to worry.

Much greatness in Roosevelt but it is sometimes helpful if one looks at things as they were rather than as one wishes them to have been.

Best,  Terry

by terryhallinan 2006-11-29 04:27AM | 0 recs
Re: these days

Oh please.

It is impossible to read this thread - even the quote of mine you used here - and conclude that I am viewing Roosevelt through blinders.

Well, obviously it's not impossible, cuz you just did it.  It's just really, really silly.

As is your remark about Helms et al.  Roosevelt was a great progressive because great progressive thinking and great progressive accomplishments are an important PART of his record.  Those gentlemen have no such record of great progressive thinking or accomplishment; hence they were not great progressives.  Really, Terry, this isn't rocket science.  

by Rob in Vermont 2006-11-29 05:03AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

7. No Democrat should ever publicly call any Democrat unelectable, or publicly rank candidates based on perceived electability.

How does #7 impact open discourse including stating Elections Predictions  during
A. The Primaries period and
B. The General Elections

Specific Example: Jefferson-D/Carter-D LA-02.

by Predictor 2006-11-28 03:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

These rules generally make sense when success is the goal. But since success is the goal, how does Rule 7 fit in? If, for example, people in New York had guessed how vulnerable Reynolds was going to be in his Congressional race, wouldn't it have been completely appropriate in the Democratic primary campaign, if there were one, to point out that Davis has serious weaknesses as a campaigner and another candidate would have a better chance against Reynolds?

by tyva 2006-11-28 03:46PM | 0 recs
Just don't say it to the media.

have that conversation at primary caucuses and committee meetings -- we should try, if we can, to keep intraparty democracy within the party.

by msnook 2006-11-28 07:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Just don't say it to the media.

I was thinking of primaries, not those with caucuses.  Most states determine party candidates in primaries.  There is no way to promote or oppose a candidate in a primary privately.

by tyva 2006-11-28 09:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I could buy most of these, but not #7.

by meekermariner 2006-11-28 03:53PM | 0 recs
To Critcize or NOT ...

I'm not trying to get lawyerly, what the definition of is is kind of stuff, but

there has been so little progess for decades, AND

the DC-ocracy crowd has fucked ME (oh, and the rest of the country and world) by NOT fighting the fascists,

and they've been viscous about protecting their turf.

I am not going to use fascist memes to attack hillary etc etc, but

they are spineless ass losers who only excel at staying in charge of this losing party.

is that criticsm, or is it just the raw, unpleasant truth?

how many times have they been unemployed and had to cough up 12 grand for a year's worth of cobra ... while you are trying pay the rent AND get some retraining done?

I've been following politics since I was 8 in '68 ? and I am sick of losing and I am sick of people who are fighting to stay in charge of losing.

rmm.

by seabos84 2006-11-28 03:56PM | 0 recs
Re: To Critcize or NOT ...

perhaps we should be considering abandoning the hillary party and seeking something truly progressive and worthy of our support.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 05:55PM | 0 recs
Here are a few more

Here are a few more:

A. The name of this association: the Democratic Party. Any other permutation used by you which shortens the actual name is prima facie evidence that you watch too much cable television.

B. If you make a statement that starts with the phrase "the Democratic Party should..." you have just volunteered to actively work to implement what you suggested the party needs to do.

C. If you don't like a particular candidate, you don't have to volunteer for them. This does not excuse you from actively volunteering for someone else. Find someone, anyone, running for public office who you can support and then go help them. There are a lot of good people out there running for public office under the party banner. Not all of them are running for president.

D. Don't complain about what the the party is doing (or not doing), take it over. Run for ward or precinct committee and work your way up from there.

by Michael Bersin 2006-11-28 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Here are a few more

I complain about the Republicans, but I wouldn't dream of supporting anything about them.  My complaints about the Democrats also don't entail my working within the Democratic Party.  Don't they need to deserve our support before they receive it?

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 05:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Here are a few more

...My complaints about the Democrats also don't entail my working within the Democratic Party.  Don't they need to deserve our support before they receive it?

The Democratic Party is not a monolithic, top down enterprise. While you might find one candidate or group of candidates within the party unacceptable, I guarantee you that you'll find someone, somewhere who you can support, even at the local level. When you find someone local who you can volunteer for, you've just started working for your ideological farm team. If they win, you're on your way.

In general, the Democratic Party is opposed by the republican party (this is why we call it a "two party system"). Given that no third party is effective enough to gain power (they always lack party infrastructure) and the "winner take all" system we have, if you don't support one party, in general, you are enabling the other party's rise to power. Now, if you belive that their "is no difference" between the two parties you can easily do nothing and will be able to sleep well at night. On the other hand, if you believe that there is some difference, and you still do nothing, then you are nothing more than a petulant amateur, and you're just occupying space and wasting bandwidth here.

Be the change you want in the party, grasshopper. It isn't easy, but it sure beats wringing one's hands and doing nothing.

by Michael Bersin 2006-11-29 02:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

My fortune cookie says: Be cautious about making rules in a fluid medium!

by blues 2006-11-28 04:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

The Democratic Party needs to find its soul.  It won't do this by playing nice nice.  We need people who stand up and point out those in the party who are supporting policies and positions that would have been Rockefeller Republican (or worse) 40 years ago.  The Republicans in Democrats' clothing need to be opposed.  Let's not kid ourselves about this.  Reagan may have stated a commandment that Republicans do not speak ill of fellow Republicans, but in reality Republicans forced their moderates out and turned their party into a right-wing vehicle.  And that victory gave them dominance for 12 years because people believed they stood for something (however repugnant).  If the Democrats are to be a progressive party they need to ignore the dictum not to attack one another.  Those who are not progressive shouldn't be supported in the Democratic Party.  I live in NYC, and I've watched Democratic office holders supporting Giuilani and Bloomburg over Democratic candidates with impunity.  And at the same time, I received phone calls from the party asking me for support--both votes and money.  This at a time when Democratic office holder in the city paid no price for cozying up to Republican mayors.  No, let's not buy into this notion that we shouldn't speak ill of Democrats.  Democrats who are not true to the progressive path should be attacked for that.  Would you advocate being pleasant to the old Dixiecrats in the party when they supported segregation?  Granted, pushing them out of the party turned the South over to the Republicans, but it did, for a while, provide a reason to support the Democrats.  Get over it: if the Democrats are to become a progressive party, there needs be some fights within the party for its soul.  Otherwise let's forget the Democratic Party.  They won't be worth  our time and effort.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 04:04PM | 0 recs
What do you do if...

What do you do if both the Republican and Democratic candidates are unacceptable to you? There are obvious examples, like the Dem is corrupt or something, but what if a 3rd party candidate simply shares your values more, or would clearly be a better holder of the office in question?  I ask out of genuine curiosity of what one should do in that circumstance, given the rules.

by Qshio 2006-11-28 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: What do you do if...

Rules for fools.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 06:11PM | 0 recs
work for another Democrat

there's always another race on the ballot. If your State Senate candidate is an asshole and your House of Delegates seat is uncontested, the next HOD race is only a few miles away, and you can get phone lists to help with calls, and follow the race on local blogs, and write letters to the editor.

If you don't like one Democratic candidate, work for another one.

by msnook 2006-11-28 07:12PM | 0 recs
Re: What do you do if...

"What do you do if both the Republican and Democratic candidates are unacceptable to you? There are obvious examples, like the Dem is corrupt or something, but what if a 3rd party candidate simply shares your values more, or would clearly be a better holder of the office in question?  I ask out of genuine curiosity of what one should do in that circumstance, given the rules."

Ignoring things like corruption, any Democrat ought to be acceptable to you, as long as he is closer to progressive than the Republican is. That's the thing about "Winner Take All Plurality Voting" like we have in the US: dividing the anti-Republican vote into 2 parties allows Republicans to win elections even though most people don't agree with their extremist program. This happened in Florida in 2000--if the Naderites had voted with Gore then the Supremes never would have had the chance to hand the election to Bush. This is just simple arithmetic. Suppose the Dems held 48% of the vote, the Greens has 3% of the vote and the Republicans had 49%. If the Greens and Dems were in the same party we don't suffer Republican government, if we are slit we do suffer Republican government. If all a progressive cares about is expressing himself politically then I supopse there's no problem. But if the progressive really wants progressive policies to be enacted he has to make political decisions that have a chance to work.

your friend
keith

by keith johnson 2006-11-29 07:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I agree with a few comments above, a good list but #7 doesn't belong at all. Electability indeed varies via locale and situation and we're foolish to pretend otherwise. It's inevitable candidates will be evaluated by how the nation will perceive them, particularly the vital swing states like Ohio, Florida and Virginia. Stealing or forfeiting a point or two via electability is the entire race in a polarized electorate.

The idea is not to dismiss electability. Just the opposite. There is a desperate need to study it further. Obviously it's not quantitative but judgments certainly can be made.

Don't reject electability simply because we applied it wrong in 2004. There were two distinct contrasting arguments there:

* Kerry was most electable due to military background and knowledge, and how that would play in a post-9/11/Iraq landscape

* Kerry was among the least likable due to bland New England senator, particularly since likability is vital in ousting a presidential incumbent

The primary voters handicapped poorly. Big deal, short sample 0-1. Learn from it and don't make the same mistake again.

I know one thing, if we continue to evaluate candidates via issues and not charisma and likability we're doomed to narrow defeats. I host debate watching parties among apolitical types every presidential cycle and I wish I had audio tapes from my group. This forum would be shocked at the discourse, overwhelmingly focused on personality. When there's an extended policy yarn the line forms outside my two bathrooms.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-28 04:43PM | 0 recs
Correction

Kerry was among the least electable, not least likable.

Although that fits also.

by Gary Kilbride 2006-11-28 04:47PM | 0 recs
Death to Electability!

Don't reject electability simply because we applied it wrong in 2004.

When was it ever applied right?

Electability is a completely bogus measure of who you think someone else will vote for. Polling data is just that, data. It's real. Electability is not. Polling data doesn't say which candidate is better or more electable, it just gives a snapshot in time of a sample of the population.

It's absolutely right to not talk about electability. Talk about who you want and why. Electability is not a valid reason why.

by bolson 2006-11-28 09:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Rule 2:  So if Wm. Jefferson is elected in LA 2, we should support him?

If Jefferson were to run for DNC chair, we should not try to force him off the ballot?

If David Duke registered as a Democrat, what should our response be?

Should there not be some litmus test regarding absence of corruption? How about rascism?  Etc.  How egregious will the transgressions away from a progressive standard need to be to earn criticism?

If we are going to purify the Democratic Party toward a more progressive image, which is exactly what is being discussed by running primary challengers against Dem-registered Rockefeller Repubs, how do you build the case against the sitting Democrat without some tests or criticism?

If we are going to accomplish anything, much of the movement will be incremental and probably require some cooperation from some GOPs.  What constitutes support of someone in the  GOP?  Is it only voting for them?  That may be easy to follow.  If Wm. Jefferson was running againt a GOP, would you just not vote?  I've seen that argued here many times as supporting the opponent.  Is saying, "GOP Sen X was brave in his effort to forge a compromise with the Democratic Senators in to pass the bill on [whatever]/override a veto/etc." considered support?

I'm not saying  these rules are innately bad.  But they strike me as naive, particularly as they  are written as absolutisms.

Also, IMO, they require serious election reform, probably to the point of a constitutional amendment, requiring either completely publicly funded elections (no 527s) or vastly limiting the amount of money one can raise/spend in an election.

by The lurking ecologist 2006-11-28 05:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Still, I thought it would be interesting to actually list the pragmatic rules that I feel progressive must follow in order to build a progressive governing coalition.
...
4. There are no litmus tests to join the coalition. No one has to read or sign off on any document stating support for a particular policy. If someone wants to join, registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement.

Aren't these somewhat contradictory?  How can you list rules while simultaneously saying "registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement."

While I understand the "big tent" appeal, rule #4 seems too broad.  Should we support a member of the KKK just because he says he's a Democrat?  Thats a level of commitment I'm not willing to endorse - and I think despite these rules Chris wouldn't follow this to its conclusion in such a way.  A whole range of possible positions or advocacies, such as neo-Nazism, human sacrifice, MAMBLA or overt fascism, are outside the limits of what Dems (or anyone remotely mainstream) are or should be willing simply to strengthen a "coalition."  

If we accept that is true, the question then becomes: what is a supportable candidate?  A candidate such as Senator-elect Casey was certainly not ideal to most liberals/progressives.  However, there were mitigating factors.  First, he was obviously the lesser of two "evils".  Second, he did strengthen the party in the Senate.  Third,  his positions weren't so unacceptable that regardless of how bad his opponent was, that supporting him was feasible.  

If Senator-elect (just as an example, no offense is intended) was not just pro-life, but believed in outlawing homosexuality, the creation of a theocracy, the elimination of the minimum wage, a national sales tax to eliminate the income tax, the elimination of public schools and any number of other 'deal killers' would a progressive who failed to support him, or supported another candidate, really be harming progressive ideals?  Would failing to do so be anything more than the prostitution of ideals for power?

If the Democratic party is to be anything other than a means of accumulating power, it also has to stand for something.  If that makes it a relatively smaller tent... so be it.

by PantsB 2006-11-28 05:09PM | 0 recs
Concur and second. Motion carried!

Chris this is wonderful, and very simple.
its obvious you're up to something else.

it is, as we say in math, a basis. a bundle of vectors that can recreate your space.

alright to refine this a bit we have to think more about what it means to be american.

i would add the ninth - revolution number ..

9. We, as Americans, must be willing to pursue liberty and democracy even unto the internet.

by heyAnita 2006-11-28 05:12PM | 0 recs
Rule 4

"*    4. There are no litmus tests to join the coalition. No one has to read or sign off on any document stating support for a particular policy. If someone wants to join, registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement."

Under this rule, Zell Miller circa 2004 would still qualify. Or does a violation of rule 5 release us from the obligation to respect him under rule 4?

Speaking of rule 5, what about Bernie Sanders? Does the fact that he caucuses with the Democrats make him count as a Democrat? What if he'd had a conservative Democrat for an opponent? Under these rules, is there a difference between supporting Sanders against a Democrat and supporting Lieberman?

by Gpack3 2006-11-28 05:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Rule 4

Senator Bernie of Vermont merits the support of progressives more than does any member of the Senate who is a Democrat.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 05:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

These rules were great for the current election when there was an overwhelming need to provide congressional opposition to Bush. I agree with the most important rule that we should try to make the Democratic Party our vehicle for change. We can and should fight like hell in primaries to get electable progressive candidates, and third parties are not a viable option in our current electoral situation.

But I agree with "downtown democrat" that we will probably have to fight for the soul of the Democratic Party if we are to accomplish progressive change. We cannot refrain from criticizing democrats who stand in the way of this change, or even opposing their election in some cases. Many of these 8 rules are basically tactical in nature and should not be set in stone.

As for electability this is a tough issue. I get very tired of Democratic primary voters making this their top priority and ignoring the progressive credentials of the candidate. The media "horse race" mentality unfortunately plays into this very unhealthy political thinking. But even though I hate this as the top priority it has to be some part of the way we think about a candidate. Of course we need to get them elected.

So let's support the Democratic Party in elections and push them hard to do the right thing when in power. But we will need to fight the elements of the party that are preventing progressive change.

by berkeleymike 2006-11-28 05:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I like the way our two party system presents to voters an established coalition.

Now that we have begun to relearn the dangers of single issue politics the rules Chris posted seem entirely reasonable.

However, there is a lurking problem on the horizon that I think needs to be considered in the context of these rules. IRV. Does not instant runoff voting dilute the party building these rules imply? Will it not perpetuate the issue hiving that has plagued the party as of late?

by Judeling 2006-11-28 05:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Why is it that for every rule, Joe Leiberman came to mind?

Good rules.

by USAagain 2006-11-28 05:32PM | 0 recs
Stepford Democrats? (Rules 5-7)

I've got problems with 6 & 7.  We need a rigorous debate during primary season, and I'm not entirely sure what criticizing fellow Dems "in the same manner that Republicans criticize Democrats" means.  How exactly do Republicans criticize Democrats?  Do all Republicans criticize Democrats in the same way?

Would Lamont's lambasting of Lieberman have broken rule 6?  Would Webb's questioning the electability of Harris Miller have broken rule 7?  While it's true that we should all work toward some semblance of decorum in the party, I don't like the rigid, "united we stand," Stepford Democrat feel of rules 5-7.  Let's concentrate on a positive agenda rather than definitively ruling out opinions/tactics.

by maconblue 2006-11-28 06:04PM | 0 recs
Sore Loser Mechanism sorely needed

Party should ensure that noone that runs and loses in the primary is able to return as an opponent of the primary winner.

by NuevoLiberal 2006-11-28 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Sore Loser Mechanism sorely needed

This would be impossible most places. The party can only enforce discipline on people who want to be a part of it. If you're already willing to leave, then punishments by the party would only hasten your departure.

by Gpack3 2006-11-29 05:55AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

A final comment on the "eight pragmatic laws of progressive Realpolitk."  What we need is less Realpolitik and more Ethicalpolitik.  A politik in which we can speak of what things are rather than speak with our ear to the political winds. A politik in which we spell out an ethical set of policies without trying to maneuver for advantage.  Enough triangulating.  Enough of the Dick Morris in the White House we got with the DLC Clintons.  Progressive Realpolitk, indeed.  Enough.  This oxymoron is what has all but killed off the Democratic Party as a progressive party.  Money and Realpolitik.  Rules for fools.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 06:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik
You seem new here. You might find it surprising to learn that MyDD is not about empty slogans, and is about progressive action. We go beyond simple feel-good statements and easy response. Try to tailor your comments as such.
by Chris Bowers 2006-11-28 06:55PM | 0 recs
One Point

I agree about supporting the party's nominee, but with two caveats: corruption and a disdain for the democratic system.

For example, I did not support the Democratic candidate Secretary of State of State in Massachusetts because he outright refused to debate his primary challenger and was refusing - all along - to debate his challenger in the general election (up until just a few days before the election, when he agreed to a FIVE MINUTE debate at an UNDISCLOSED, SECRET location. I don't care if he won the primary; I voted for the other candidate.

The only other situation I could envision that would cause me to do the same thing is if the Democratic Nominee was found with $90,000 in his freezer.

by Ryepower12 2006-11-28 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: One Point

I wouldn't vote for a Democrat who supports the Patriot Act.  I wouldn't vote for a Democrat who supports the Milatary Commissions Act.  I wouldn't vote for a Democrat who doesn't resist the Iraq occupation. Are these litmus tests?  I suppose so.  They are minimal standard for gaining my support.  And if a Democratic Party candidate doesn't support me on these things, that's enought for me not to support that candidate.  Either we have a Democratic Party that is worthy of our support, or we don't.  When we don't, we ought not to give it our support.

by downtown democrat 2006-11-28 06:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Sounds like this is a loyalty oath. Sorry, but I am going to question electabillity, I am going to question a person's views, signing up as a Democrat is not enough for me.

Number 8 is going to lead to the breaking of rules one through seven.

by jbou 2006-11-28 06:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I'm a big, big fan of rule #6.  After seeing Arnold quote Westly in slamming Angelides, I'm kinda partial to that idea.

by Jim Treglio 2006-11-28 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I agree with these principles 100%. Since I live in a liberal region of the country, most of the time I spent talking to friends or coworkers about politics this season involved promoting concepts similar to Chris's rules here. Here's an example of the type of thing I would tell people:

"The basic strategy is this: use the primaries, and the very early pre-primary period to actively support progressive candidates. This can very effectively move the Democratic party to the left, because candidates are desperate for help in these early stages, and will move to the left in order to get effective help from progressives. When the general election comes, be a good foot soldier and vehemently support the Democratic nominee regardless of what happened before the primaries. This gives progressives better standing to influence the next cycle of primaries. This is going to work very well over the next few years, because with Pelosi and others in the leadership, the progressive wing controls the Democratic party for the first time in history."

If we are serious about wanting change, then we all need to make an effort to communicate these ideas to the people we influence, such as peers, family, etc.

by Mark Wallace 2006-11-28 07:39PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

methinks the stickler is #3. There will always be factions and they will be the hardest to convince its in the best interest of all to not play games.

by SPIIDERWEB 2006-11-28 07:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Overall, I agree with the rules but there are occasional exceptions.  I am thinking about the Stevenson governor race in IL the early 1980s when the Lt Gov candidates were unknown and a LaRouche emerged as the candidate.  The guy was a complete whack job running on a platform of death penalty for drug dealers.  There was no way to get rid of him so Stevenson had to run as an independent with the guy he wanted as Lt Gov.  These screwups should not happen but sometimes they do.

The other deal is criminals like Jefferson.  Zero tolerance.

by bakho 2006-11-28 07:43PM | 0 recs
Let me join the anti-7 camp

"7. No Democrat should ever [...] publicly rank candidates based on perceived electability."

This is not in the service of realpolitik! Quite to the contrary, in fact. Realpolitik requires a continual examination of electability. Not taking electability into account has been one of the major flaws in Democratic strategy over the past four decades, and one big reason we've occupied the White House so seldom in that time.

by syntag 2006-11-28 07:49PM | 0 recs
Almost there

I'd expand number 6 just a bit, to dishonesty and clearly unethical behavior.

#7 may be overstretching, although I reject many of the criticisms against it. I'd say it's our job as a movement to redefine electability. As we saw in the Il-06, the "electable candidate" might not have been as electable as Cegelis. I believe you wrote to that effect yourself.

If we do the hard work of changing that bit of conventional wisdom, I'm not sure rule 7 is necessary. We can always re-examine it after we've taken the first step.

I know there are seeds for this sort of change in opinion within the movement. For example, John Lapp spoke to my class Monday night, and he clearly and explicitly understands that you can't try to create an image for a candidate, and what works best is someone who is genuine, and who has personal roots in the community.

We need to push that sort of understanding a little farther, to say that person-to-person contact and support wins elections, and (even if Republican electability doesn't work this way) to make the conventional wisdom makers understand how important grassroots energy is to the Democratic party.

If we take on this hard work we might do a great service to the party without the need for a rule number 7.

by msnook 2006-11-28 07:58PM | 0 recs
Wow

I disagree with #s 1, 2, 6, and 7.

More demonstration of my continuing drift away from both the Democratic Party and the Progressive movement.

by Nonpartisan 2006-11-28 07:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Wow

How can you disagree with #6?  Democrats shouldn't attack other Democrats from the right.  So no more "my opponent is too liberal/will raise taxes" attacks from Democrats about Democrats.  If you want to attack from the left, fine, because a Republican can't quote from the ad.

by Jim Treglio 2006-11-28 08:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I think the list of rules is interesting, but doesn't really form a pragmatic and meaningful set of political principles for progressives. Status quo Democrats will readily agree to abide by these rules in primaries against progressive challengers, and accuse a progressive of violating their own rules when the going gets rough.

Ultimately, we're talking about taking on DCCC-backed candidates, in scenarios like Cegelis v. Duckworth in Illinois, and, of course, a primary challenge to Ellen Tauscher and other Blue Dog Democrats in 2008.

Better to formulate a strategy where self-identified progressives find and support each other wherever possible.  This means using the resources of the internet, in conjunction with local progressive groups, and Democratic Party programs, to recruit and train progressive and electable candidates, and raise early money for primary campaigns of such candidates.  It means forming regional progressive entities to recruit and provide campaign workers to move quickly into a district and raise the chances of a successful primary candidate to win both the primary and the general election.  In addition, such regional entities can assist with media, research, and strategy.

In sum, while it's all well and good to seek a level playing field in Democratic politics, what is more important is a winning strategy to ensure that progressives increase their numbers in Democratic caucuses at the congressional and state legislative level.  That will reguire innovation, early beginnings to campaign organizations and fundraising, and willingness to be a lot tougher than the Liebermans and Tauschers.

by politicsmark 2006-11-28 08:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Add Donna Edwards-D over Al Wynn in MD-04.

by Predictor 2006-11-28 09:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I tried to pick what I thought was the most important rule of all the eight.

I was unsucessful. These progressive rules are all highly valuable and egually important.

Well written.

by FreedomOFSpeechFromTheDNC 2006-11-28 08:22PM | 0 recs
#7 is the best!

I need to disagree loudly and often with the people who want to talk about "electability". It's a bogus measure of who you think other people will vote for and it says nothing about what you yourself value in a candidate. It's baaad democracy.

I'm shakiest on #1. I have a lot of friends in the Green Party around here and I think on a lot of issues and state/local referrenda we wind up working together. As far as electoral strategy then oh yes absolutely I agree that the current correct strategy is to shift the major party we have in the direction we want. But I also want to fix the system so that we're not artifically locked in like that.

by bolson 2006-11-28 09:24PM | 0 recs
Re: #7 is the best!

The Greens are, largely, saboteurs, not allies, as shown by the Pennsylvania Senate race this year and by Nader in 2000.  And in the unusual situation where they win, they can really screw up, probably due to lack of experience in actually running anything, as with the Seattle School District this year.

by tyva 2006-11-28 09:59PM | 0 recs
Re: #7 is the best!

That's rubbish. Plenty of Democratic candidates ran this year who'd never held office before. Should they have let the incumbents carry on with what they were doing?

The Greens are, in the current political system, hurting progressive politics by too much ideological rigidity. But there's plenty of room for informal coalitions with them the rest of the time. Our objections to the Greens should not be due to their policies but due to them not having a hope in hell of enacting these policies and making it more likely that those who most oppose them would get in. And if we make that clear, we make them less likely to act as a spoiler anyway.

Plus in safe seats where a primary challenge fails and the Republicans aren't bothering to compete, a protest vote can have a purpose.

by Englishlefty 2006-11-29 04:06AM | 0 recs
Re: #7 is the best!

It's "rubbish" to attribute Greens' bad performance to inexperience?  All right, I shouldn't try to be polite by saying it was inexperience.  The Greens who were elected to the Seattle School Board due to a scandal discovered after any other candidates could file are complete fools, however well-intentioned. Nobody in their right mind would direct the superintendent to prepare a school closure plan that necessarily would close some low-enrollment schools, which are predominantly African-American, and then, when he did exactly as directed, refuse to support him and postpone the whole decision due to bogus assertions of racism, apparently to make the resulting financial crisis come after the next election.

by tyva 2006-11-29 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

If anyone needed evidence that we need the rules in question, look no further than the Taylor/Cox primary here in GA.  It ruined a party already on the ropes, and now we're stuck with that total fraud Perdoodoo for another four years.  I'm still sickened by the prospect.

by CLLGADEM 2006-11-28 11:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Taylor ruined Democratic prospects in Georgia, not a tough primary. There's no way he would ever have won here or, likely, in any state.  

by maconblue 2006-11-29 04:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I've got to say I disagree vehemently that the Democratic Party is the primary vessel for the progressive coalition-  or ever has been for that matter.  Most, if not all, progressive change within the party occurred under serious pressure from movements that developed their own political and electoral apparatus.  Think about it-  would the Democrats ever have embraced Civil Rights if the black churches and movement organizations in the South hadn't organized massive registration and voter drives and fed their leaders into the political process?  Would we have any semblance or organizing or worker's rights if Labor had not shown its muscles at the polls as well as the picket line?  What about women's suffrage or even abolition?  Were those causes championed by any party in their initial phases?  Were they given any attention before they formed their own political and organizational vessels?  The answer to all of the above is no.  The problem today is that e have forgotten that and deferred to the party.  Yes, labor is out in force during elections, but hand in hand with the same Dems that has been selling the rank and file out, as well as non-union labor.  Obeying the Dems and relying on them as their "electoral vessel" has not served the average worker or union well.  To court heresy, I believe Andy Stern gets this and it is a key factor in the labor schism.  

by guero 2006-11-29 02:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

That's a keeper.  Really.  A lot of wisdom in Chris'es rules.  I'd add: #9 Always listen to the locals, the people on the ground.

by howardpark 2006-11-29 03:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Unrealpolitik

These rules imply that one should never have a contested primary when one of the candidates is an incumbent. If the voters are determined to thow the bastard out this means the Republican is elected unless the incumbent is defeated in the primary.

These rules are often applied in local elections and there is a strong bias toward electing party stalwarts who have lots of friends and relatives who are willing to overlook the fact they are not qualified for the job.

Voting for the party instead of the person can only work if the party is selective about who they support. When loyalty is valued more than competence people will split their tickets.

by JSN 2006-11-29 04:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Unrealpolitik

I think it implies no negative campaigning in the primary, and that should apply with or without an incumbent. The Westley-Angiledes primary for CA Governor sapped them both leaving no campaign left to challenge $chwarzenegger.

by bolson 2006-11-29 07:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I am done with the you got to support who-ever wins the primary line of thinking.I will not vote for anyone who voted to go into iraq or voted for the bankrupcy bill or supports the warrantless wire tapping ,or is against a womens right to choose.you think that not voting for these people if they win the primary is hurting democrats,I say that supporting people like that is killing america.these are my new rules.I went by your new rules for years and all it got me and america was a sore butthole and a bad taste in my moulth.

by idahojim 2006-11-29 04:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

While I've never stated them formally, these also are the rules I try my best to follow.

They're important because -- apart from the fact that progressives must have the electoral infrastructure to succeed -- we don't have a single Democratic Party.

Here in VA, we have a "recovering" Democratic Party, which is both good and bad. Good, because the opportunities to join, work and influence outcomes is greater than in a party where the machinery is well-financnced and well oiled, bad, in that there is such a long history of failure that in many parts of the state the party is little more than a social club for a close-knit group of stalwarts who are more concerned with the invitee list for the annual JJ Dinner than recruiting and supporting real candidates.

As we showed in the last few statewide elections, we can sometimes pile up impressive votes for Democrats in Northern Virginia and other enclaves, but here's a telling fact: Out of 100 state delegates running this year (07), a third or more will be unopposed Republicans.

The realpolitik rules, over time, help us gain influence in the party and longer-term, will help us turn this situation around.

by tdgoldsmith 2006-11-29 04:35AM | 0 recs
Re these are rules not ...

This is a list of rules, not divine mandate, rules are bent on occasion, rules are broken sometimes.  I haven't been active in politics as long as maybee some of you have and I've already sens situations where it became neccessary to break or bend one or two of these but as guidelines they are as good as any.

I might ammend #4 to read 'single issue litmus test".  I can give a candidate, particulalry in red areas like where I live, a little rhythm on an issue or two but we must be mindful against R's in a D's clothing.

by DvilleDem 2006-11-29 04:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

I'd like a moratorium on electability discussion, until it means something more useful.

Electable is often used as a codeword for inoffensive, bland and pandering.  The Hillary camp is definitely here. The 2000 Gore campaign and 2004 Kerry campaign were based on the "bland" defininition of "electability."  I think that Gore is more electable now that he has lost some fear and says what he believes.

"Electability" also often is used as a codeword for regional - no East or West coasts, somebody from the South or Midwest with a pulse.

Since these things are what electability is used to mean, I support Chris' rule. Focusing on perceived electability hobbles candidates who are boldly progressive and can use their views to shift the debate. Focusing on perceived electability hobbles candidates who aren't thorough progressives but who speak clearly (Howard Dean).

by alevin 2006-11-29 04:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

In #8, it's "its", not "it's"!

Oh well, a losing battle.

by The Cunctator 2006-11-29 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Overall, I like the "rules," but #6 is a bit hard to define. Is Murtha corrupt? Was Lamont wrong to frame Leiberman has having a corrupt position on the war? I get the spirit of the rules, but applications, especially in primaries are difficult to apply.

by Russ Jarmusch 2006-11-29 06:30AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Good list, but based on the comments others have written and my own experience (growing up in conservative East Texas and working primarily on issues in liberal California), I want to add a bit.

For one thing, I think these should be seen as guidelines, not strict rules. Politics is too human and fluid to have strict rules. There are times when we will not adhere to these guidelines and we'll probably all agree that that is OK. The value of guidelines is to make it clear what we should generally do and make us think twice (or thrice) before doing anything else.

Also:

    *     1. The Democratic Party is the primary vessel of the progressive coalition. It is impossible to enact real change without an electoral apparatus within your movement. In a two-party system, it is thus necessary to adopt one of the two parties as the electoral vessel of your coalition.

Historically, the strongest progressive coalitions have been alliances between a party and strong social progressive movements: the anti-slavery movement and Lincoln, the labor movement and Roosevelt, and the civil rights movement and Kennedy/LBJ. Parties without a movement tend to drift off into moderation, movements without an electoral component tend not to form lasting legislation/institutions. Both, working together, are best for bringing about progressive change.

Currently, the Democratic Party is the primary electoral vessel of the progressive coalition, but this might change over time. If it does, then our guidelines would change.

Because of our winner-take-all electoral system, two parties naturally emerge as dominant and third parties are marginalized. But sometimes (as in Vermont), progressive independent or third party candidates can be elected. And the winner-take-all system might also be challenged and changed over time.

    *     2. Within the coalition, intra-party democracy must always be adhered to. All party nominees must be determined by an elective primary open to all registered members of the party in the relevant district. The winner of the primary must always be supported by all members of the party apparatus, and all rank and file members should vote for the nominee (especially those who voted in the primary).

There are some people who will never support a conservative Democrat. These people may "waste" their vote on a third-party candidate or not vote at all, but they are unlikely to support a Republican unless that Republican is quite progressive. Because they don't support the Democratic candidate, they do not contribute to building the progressive electoral vessel, but they also don't detract from it. So we should not publicly attack these people (and we should value them for what they do contribute).

Many people will find it difficult to work for or even to vote for conservative Democratic candidates. They should be encouraged to "hold their noses" and do it anyway but, more importantly, they should find Democrats they can support and work doggedly for them.

    *     4. There are no litmus tests to join the coalition. No one has to read or sign off on any document stating support for a particular policy. If someone wants to join, registering as a Democrat should be the only requirement.

Actually, I think we can agree on some very lowest-common-denominator litmus tests for behavior around civility and tolerance. For example, we should not support those who advocate violently killing fellow Americans (lynching blacks or gassing Jews).

    *     6. Outside of issues relating to corruption, Democrats must never criticize each other in the same manner that Republicans criticize Democrats.

I think what you mean here is that we should never criticize Democrats from the conservative side and never provide easy fodder for our opponents to attack our candidates.

For the progressive coalition to work well, we need to acknowledge the value of many kinds of progressive efforts and stop attacking each other. People who work on particular issues or support third-party candidates contribute to the progressive movement even if they do not contribute in the electoral realm. Conservative Democrats may vote wrong on many of our issues, but at least they vote right on some things (and the Repubicans they defeat -- under current conditions -- probably would not).

To me, the general rule is: strongly support progressives and challenge everyone else to be more progressive, but in general don't publicly challenge Democrats (except in primaries and then only from the progressive side). Work vigorously for progressives, but also work for moderate Democrats when they might beat a more conservative Republican. And even work for conservative Democrats against moderate Republicans if the Democrats will contribute to the progressive coalition overall.

by RandomNonviolence 2006-11-29 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Sorry, I have real problems with #5 and 6. Living in Colorado Springs and as a long time fiscal conservative progressive, I have watched the Republican Party here eat its own over the "3 Gs" - to the point where anyone right of James Dobson has a tough time getting nominated. It is very possible for a faction to gain control of a local group - especially in caucus states. The mantra in this area has been "vote the person, not the party". The single maor campaign issue here for Rs was "don't lose control of the Congress". WHAT makes the Democratic progressive movement any better than them if #5 is in place - #5 is ALL about power. What #5 says to me is that the progressive movement believes the common voter is an idiot and can't make intelligent choices while voting. That's what got us here in the first place.

#6 asks me to accept without challenge a candidate that I DO NOT agree with and feel would be a mistake to elect. Don't tell me that never happens in elections. I understand realpolitick - I have argued against Republicans and voted against them because Republicans based their strategies on power, not governance. #5 and 6 are that distilled down. I am a progressive because of choice - the thing about a tent is that you can leave and enter at any time - many of these eight rules are a Houston McMansion of political power - not a tent. A vote is something to be sought - not coerced.

by tjlord 2006-11-29 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Chris,

Just a question here regarding point #4.

With no tests for membership in the progressive coalition other than being a registered Democrat how exactly do we define "progressive"?

It seems to me we are the progressive wing of the Democratic party and when it comes time to write the party platform we are going to have planks we need to see added.  What are those planks?

by LarryInCincy 2006-11-29 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Eight Rules for Progressive Realpolitik

Very good ideas here, Chris.  It's disappointing to me that so many people still don't understand the fundamental point here, even after we had the ultimate "burn down the village to save it" moment with Nader in 2000.  Don't stop making the case, because you do it very well, but if people still don't grasp that refusing to vote for an impure Democrat on "principle" can have disastrous consequences for the country, I'm not sure they ever will.

One major issue is what we should do about those who violate these rules.  After all, much of our anger is directed towards those who improperly criticize fellow Democrats and enable Republican talking points.  I don't like this behavior any more than you do.  But at some point, our criticism of these people reaches critical mass and ends up causing harm of the sort we're trying to avoid.  I wonder what your thoughts are on this issue.

by Steve M 2006-11-29 05:39PM | 0 recs

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