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The New Activism

By David Weiner  Posted by Joan Brunwasser (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Joan Brunwasser
In Crashing the Gates: Netroots, Grassroots, and the Rise of People-Powered
Politics (Chelsea Green, White River Junction, VT, February, 2006) Jerome
Armstrong (creator of MyDD) and Markos Moulitsas Zunigas (creator of Daily
Kos) describe substantively and in detail how Republicans excel at 21st
century political strategizing, and how Democrats do not. They also tell us
how a new breed of activists on the Left is already addressing this dilemma.

Setting our across country in the summer of 2005 to talk to people about
political process, they discovered (1) a Democratic party dominated by
"single issue camps" unwilling to compromise in order to achieve effective,
focused strategy; (2) "consultants that are allowed to profit without
performance"; (3) an "infrastructure of think tanks and training centers and
media outlets" operating according to old fashioned assumptions; and (4) a
party hierarchy committed more to maintaining their status than to
accomplishing necessary goals. "Instead of helping the new candidates by
weeding out the incompetent consultants, the Democratic party continues to
thrust the same tired, old, unsuccessful consultants on new campaigns every
cycle. It's a veritable revolving door - jobs abound, win or lose, as long
as they are part of their clubby D.C. clique."

Following are excerpts from the book in the order they appear, indicating
specific areas of the authors' focus. Each of these areas is well developed
and documented.

"Five years ago, the Republicans took over the government through
non-democratic means. Establishment Democrats, for the most part, stood
back and watched as a partisan judicial body halted the counting of
presidential votes. While conservative activists led the charge on behalf
of their party, there was nothing happening on our side. That was the

"Both of us started our blogs because we wanted a voice in our nation's
politics. We had hundreds, then thousands, of readers, as we somehow tapped
in to a greater need for strong progressive voices -- voices that had been
shut out of the corporate media outlets". Our sites grew in size and
influence. Daily Kos is now the largest political blog in the world by a
factor of three or fou8r. Jerome's MyDD is one of the most influential
political blogs in the nation."

"If only we could say, 'To hell with the Democratic Party!' But part of
the present American reality is that we live in a two-party system, and the
Democratic Party is our only alternative. It's efficient -- and expedient
-- to reform the existing party of the left, much as the conservative
movement took over the Republican Party in the 1970s and converted into the
electoral powerhouse it is today."

"The Democratic Party stands for everything, yet stands for nothing. It's
a gaggle of special and narrow interests, often in conflict with each other,
rarely working in concert to advance their common causes. Members of each
group -- environmentalists, pro-choice activists, civil libertarians,
plaintiff's attorneys, and so on -- promote their agenda above all others
and show little or no understanding of the larger progressive values they
share with the other groups. And so the whole is never really greater than
the sum of its parts."

The 'Democratic Party coalition' of the past few decades has failed. It
must be replaced by a new progressive movement, one that is dedicated to
finding those common bonds that tie us together while tolerating the sorts
of differences inevitable in any 'big tent' gathering. And that movement
needs to remain outside the party, giving Democratic candidates the freedom
to get elected in all parts of the country without being smeared by
association with any particular interest group."

"Unless there's a groundswell of opposition to business as usual, the
Democratic Party's campaign machinery, with its ever-i8ncreasing inflow of
money, will continue to function and lose as it has lately. The whole
situation is one hell of a fix. The candidate needs money, but to get the
money, he or she needs a strong connection to the party apparatus.... The
party wants assurances that the money is being spent wisely. It needs
people in each campaign who will feed critical information from the inside.
The consultants step in to fill that role."

"Instead of helping the new candidates by weeding out the incompetent
consultants, the Democratic Party continues to thrust the same tired, old,
unsuccessful consultants on new campaigns every cycle. And why not?
Candidates come and go, their fate decided by voters, but insider D.C., the
consultant class and the party officials move on to the next election and
more business. It's a veritable revolving door -- jobs abound, wind or
lose, as long as they are part of their clubby D.C. clique."

"The key to effective advertising for Democrats is not only to get beyond
the corrupt commission model of media saturation, but also to find more
creative ways to reach the audience that is watching less and less broadcast
television and getting its news and entertainment more and more from new
media. The next challenge in campaign messaging is to stay ahead of the
curve when it comes to using new media to target specific audiences with the
messages that will resonate with them. In this area, too, the Democrats
need to shed the old ways and embrace the new."

"Perhaps the biggest difference between the way Democrats and Republicans
communicate with voters, besides the more sophisticated used of technology
and data, was that the Republicans have been targeting all voters --
Republicans, Democrats, independents -- and doing it all year long, not just
in the last weeks of an election."

"Even some of the large donors are beginning to recognize the problem of
accountability and of overpriced consultants. The Rappaports have been
incubating activist groups that merge technology with politics rather than
giving money directly to the party committees."

"Never has one of those dreaded PowerPoint presentations brought more
notoriety to a man than Rob Stein's did, mainly because it was the first
time anyone had quantified and mapped the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy (VRWC)
and graphically shown the enormity of the challenge before the progressive

"In fact, what conservatives have built over the past thirty years is
nothing short of brilliant. We can admire it the way we would admire the
precision, engineering, and craftsmanship of a stealth fighter. That no one
even compiled the data on the VRWC , and got the information to the right
people until Stein did it in 2003 is an indictment of its own. That the
Democratic establishment didn't react to the rise of the VRWC was virtually

"A whole new generation of reformers -- from the online world of the
netroots, to new multi-issue groups, to new labor, to new big-dollar donors
-- is engaged in a two-front war: battling to knock Republicans off their
perch while jostling for control of the Democratic Party."

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Joan Brunwasser is a co-founder of Citizens for Election Reform (CER) which since 2005 existed for the sole purpose of raising the public awareness of the critical need for election reform. Our goal: to restore fair, accurate, transparent, secure elections where votes are cast in private and counted in public. Because the problems with electronic (computerized) voting systems include a lack of (more...)

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