Friday, August 12, 2005

GoodWorks-PAC Approves of the Foolishness of the Democratic Party Leadership

Here is an interesting audio of Chuck Schumer giving an impromptu speech to high dollar DSCC donors in GA. He gives an interesting run-down of the Senatorial electoral landscape for 2006 and then he makes it perfectly clear that the leadership’s plan for 2006 is to pick the most likely winner for the key races and clear the field of all opposition.

Here is one such quote:
"We are no longer letting Democrats get in a circle and shoot each other. We are going to intervene if any one Democrat attacks another. We are doing that in states where there are primaries. ......this always happens in the primaries, people throw up the cards and see where they land. No more. We're finding the best candidates in every one of the seats where republicans are vulnerable."

Many Netroots activists disagree with this approach. There’s a good article on this conflict here

Most activists want a real 50 state strategy where no seat goes unchallenged, while our party leadership and their staff naturally prefer to stick to their training in the imprecise art of estimating election outcomes.

Their selection of Casey to be the nominee in PA is the most extreme example of the conflict between the Netroots strategy and the leadership strategy. The Netroots cannot easily support Casey because he is (by Schumer’s admission) out of step with most Democrats on choice, gay rights, and gun safety issues. The Netroots wants to support candidates like Pennacchio (www.chuck2006.com) or Paul Hackett who can and will clearly articulate positions that will inspire most Democrats.

The Party Leadership is Right. Sort of.

As hard as it is to accept, we have elected our leaders and we are paying them to do exactly what they are doing: the responsible thing; the careful thing; the thing most likely to succeed according to their best available information. Competitive primary campaigns are expensive and destructive. They’ve been through a few, and they know that in their bones. Competitive primaries usually leave the winning candidate wounded in the press, her Democratic opponent(s) and their supporters bitter, and the donor base poorer. The leadership knows of no choice but to fix this problem by minimizing the number of candidates participating in any given primary. And who are they going to pick besides the person they think most likely to win?

Now, maybe, just maybe, the short-term advantage of decreasing competition is outweighed by the short-term disadvantages and longer term negative impacts. In the short-term a carefully chosen candidate with a clear field will cruise through the primary untested, only to face a well prepared and campaign-experienced opponent in the general election. In the long-term, the number of Democrats running for office is shrinking, the number of volunteers is shrinking, the number of local primary donors is shrinking and the party as a whole is contracting.

The Democratic Party is losing registered voters, losing elections, and doesn’t have a wide base of newly elected officials on which to draw for higher office. But these problems only make our leadership more desperate to do their best with the limited resources they have. How could we expect them to do otherwise?

Chasing the Perfect Primary

We can only fix this problem by proving that it is possible for competitive primaries to be beneficial to the party. The party leadership cannot responsibly sanction competitive primaries in key races until they can be confident that those primaries will cause more good than harm. It is up to the Netroots to do this. We are the energy, the heart, and the innovative wing of the party. It is up to us to fix the deficiencies of the Democratic primary system.

What is wrong with our primaries? They cost too much money and they do not benefit from competition. Our primaries should have a low and fixed cost that does not depend on the number of candidates. Our internal competitions should not result in donor fatigue. Having more opponents should make the eventual winner stronger, not weaker. A spirited primary should leave the Democratic electorate energized, not dispirited.

How can we achieve these things?
GoodWorks-PAC.org is dedicated to finding out. In the 2006 cycle we are experimenting with public service primaries consisting of many community service events for Democratic Party candidates and supporters. At each event, a Good Work is done and candidates speak on related issues. An event might be

  • A Book Drive
  • A Community Garden Work Day
  • An Errand Day for Housebound Seniors

GoodWorks-PAC organizes events, recruits candidates and volunteers, and cultivates media interest.

Maybe, just maybe, the internet is going to make possible the kind of vigorous internal debate that we need in order to guide the Democratic Party democratically. I hope so. And I hope you will help us find the way. Please join GoodWorks-PAC.org and donate your money or time to the effort to reform our primaries so our leadership can stop clearing the field!


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