by Inoljt, Wed Dec 16, 2009 at 08:08:34 PM EST
Imagining what the Founding Fathers would think about our nation today always constitutes an interesting exercise. America's strength and enduring democracy probably would have delighted many of them. On the other hand, its political parties and many foreign alliances might have raised an eyebrow or two.
In fact, if one reads George Washington's farewell address, its quite amazing how much of his advice was not followed. "Avoid...overgrown military establishments" (nope); "steer clear of permanent alliances" (nope); "preserving the Union" (the Civil War ruined that one); "avoiding...the accumulation of debt" (funny, that); "party dissension...is itself a frightful despotism" (stopped following that advice even before his death).
Because this is a politics blog, however, the question here is what political party Washington would have belonged to.
On the surface, things look muddled. Washington's personal beliefs don't fit one particular mold. His commitment to isolationism, for example, wouldn't have made either the Democrats or the Republicans look appealing. He supported democracy and liberty - but doing that isn't exactly a Democratic or Republican-only thing.
We know that Washington held Federalist sympathies; thus his support of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton strikes one as a modern-day big-business supporter; perhaps Washington might therefore have leaned Republican.
The truth, however, is actually fairly obvious. Demographics provide the answer. If we look not at policy but at identity, we can tell what party George Washington would have belonged to.
Think about it for a moment. George Washington was a married rich rural Southern slave-owning Protestant straight white male who in all probability would not have voted for a black man. Sounds like a Republican to me.
by davidfarrar, Tue Dec 18, 2007 at 07:36:33 AM EST
Not since the very beginnings of our democracy have we had an opportunity, as a people, to come together as we once did in small town hall meetings all across this country to speak with one, deliberative voice.
Our present "representative" party structure -- and I speak of one party structure because both the Democratic and Republican parties operate basically under the same party structured -- has developed as a natural consequence to a population growth that made small, individual town meetings impossible. But now, as Bob Dylan ofttimes laments, "Things have changed". The Internet, if structured correctly, can give "the people" back their voice at their own local party level so they can once again speak with a clear, deliberative voice.
The problem is, party leaders have no interest in using the Internet for this purpose. Allowing party members to communicate with themselves at the netroot level could change the present power matrix within the party itself. The mere threat of a "possible" change in the party power matrix is enough to stop party leaders from pursuing such a course.
No, if we, the people, want our voices to be heard, as they once were at the local party level, we must pick up the tool of the Internet and get the job done ourselves. Once the people's voice is hear at the local party level, the national party will make the right decision.
To find out more, please go to The National Online Party and drop me a line, or post a comment.
by sdickert, Tue Sep 19, 2006 at 04:44:05 PM EDT
Cross-posted from Political Gastronomica
One of my business partners, Rana Sarkar, is the founder of the Progressive North Forum in Canada and is preparing a conference in Toronto on October 20th with a question - "What's the Party For?" It is an interesting question - in this age of "distributed democracy".
One of the challenges that European parties (I am leveraging my experiences from England, mainly) is that they have difficulty because of the structure of their party. These parties are primarily membership driven - similar to other membership organizations, you pay membership dues to become a card-carrying member. But in today's world, where many people revel in the freedom of choice and wish to express their independence, how does a party attract new members, and not simply churn the ever smaller group of people, over and over again?
IMHO, I do not think the party is a dead, I think that parties takes a lot longer to evolve into a mechanism that can support the fast-paced, fickle nature of the electorate today. Empowered with inexpensive technology, an ability to create content at a whim, and express themselves across a wide audience - individuals are finding their voice, without the need of the party. But, as human beings, we often require some form of organization to show our allegiance to - to share in our goals and values. This is one of the many reasons for parties.
So, let us consider that parties do today. From my experiences, parties:
- Act as institutional memory - which is both good (learning from previous mistakes) and bad (keepers of conventional wisdom). By being "king-makers" and having a formulaic process, they tend to assure that everything has the same flavour, and interesting entries are appreciated, entertaining but also eventually discarded from the main body before the final decision is made.
- Act as the gatekeeper for fundraising - in most state parties, the party seems to be the aggregator of the large donors and most networked individuals, providing learned guidance to the party faithful on whom to contribute to. It is here where the party wisdom often is seen to bestow the mantle of succession on the appropriate candidate.
- Act as an organizing body - where the steady supporters and new volunteers are often brought to become involved in campaigns, especially around the time of elections. They hold training programs, manage data, and generally considered the keeper of the wisdom on the local, county or state field organizing.
- Act as event planners - truly, where would a party be without the convention for the faithful to gather, commiserate, and make decisions on the direction of the party? Newbies are given a show and restricted access, where the faithful enjoy the benefits of connection and longevity.
But the question still beckons - what is a party for now? Are the tasks above all that is necessary, or can they evolve into something that engages the growing younger electorate and become part of the life of the community?