Memo to Democrats: Don’t be Afraid of Democracy

Just because the founders of our country distrusted true democracy quite a bit and set things up so that there were even checks and balances on democracy, doesn’t mean we should be similarly afraid of democracy.

It may come as a surprise to you, but we are not a democracy — we are a republic. The question is, “Should it stay that way?” My short answer is “no.”

I sent an e-mail to my Democrat District Chair on March 25, 2008. I informed him that I wanted him to remove me from the membership of the Democratic Party. I have either been a precinct committee officer or a paid party member most of my adult life. He hesitated but complied, complaining “why are you dinging your local district for the national party’s antics?”

I did this because I can no longer be part of an organization that contemplates for close to two months, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of primary voters under the guise of “playing by the rules.” I will only renew my membership in the Democratic Party if, and when, the DNC does the right thing and validates the Michigan and Florida primaries, as is (assign the uncommitteds to Obama).

I was ashamed to be a Democrat. I am happy to be an Independent. I will likely continue to vote for Democrats, but I just cannot stomach being part of the party until it shapes up. Unless anyone wants to accuse me of “sour grapes” because Senator Clinton is “behind,” let me say this: I will vote for whoever wins the Democratic primary. However, I am not proud of the Democrats’ current primary process, and, for me, the process counts more than the outcome.

Update No. 1: Click here to sign a Petition to Seat Florida and Michigan Delegates Now.

I truly was trying to stay out of this part of the primary debate, but it is no use. The “dirtiest” thing that is happening in this campaign is the conduct of the DNC by disenfranchising Michigan and Florida primary voters, and trying to get us all to believe that Democrat caucus results were actually more valid than the Michigan and Florida primaries… uh, really? Prove it. Show me the argument.

You can look at the data from states that had both primaries and caucuses, and Senator Clinton either won the primaries in those states or came very close, but was soundly defeated in the same states’ caucuses, which were often extremely smaller than the primaries. Exactly how does that prove that caucus results came closer to the principle of one-person, one-vote than the primaries in Michigan and Florida? It doesn’t.

In fact, caucuses are so far from the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy that some very astute people are calling for their demise here, here, and here. And, then, there is the unelected Democrat superdelegates (that is for another discussion).

If one-person, one-vote doesn’t get significant respect in nominations, then, get it, you as a voter, are having your options cut off or allowed by someone else long before the general election. I think our votes in the nomination process should have very similar value to our votes in a general election.

If the DNC can’t reform its ways, then I suggest, as a couple of other bloggers have suggested, that we start an Equalist’s Party of America (or resurrect the National Woman’s Party) and start recruiting both women and men who really care about the one-person, one-vote principle. I would suggest a nation-wide, two-day primary election.

That’s my plan, and I am sticking to it.

Update No. 1: Click here to sign a Petition to Seat Florida and Michigan Delegates Now.

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21 Responses to Memo to Democrats: Don’t be Afraid of Democracy

  1. old91A10 says:

    I was pasting this everywhere I visited yesterday:

    The (un)Democratic party — the party I have supported for 45 years!

    I am so disgusted with Dean, Pelosi (not impeach), Reid (FISA coward) — I want these a**holes gone as much as I want Bush, et al., gone.

    One person, one secret ballot (if eligible, registered, and in state of residency). A complete and accurate count.

    How can we deny or not count a vote by a citizen, and then allow a supposed higher authority approve or enforce the evil? Then, are we to let the clock run out, so any challenge becomes moot? Oh! I remember now. But, this time it is ‘we against us.’

    All of this other blather about one candidate dropping out for the sake of the party or how super delegates should vote is just a smokescreen — while the clock ticks down.

    We still have plenty of time, resources, and options to have a primary revote in both Florida and Michigan — not caucuses, but real primary elections.

    I am so disgusted with my party. I have seen the erosion of our rights and stifling of our voices effected by neocons, and more than abetted by some of the feeble progressives we have elected to serve and protect us.

    How are we to repair the damage caused by this war, the gluttony at the top, our ignorance of the disadvantaged, the putrid behavior of the fourth estate, etc., if we do not have our vote and voice?

    It seems that supporting our party, voting, marching, waving signs, and typing words into emacs buffers will have little, if any, impact.

    Throughout this campaign, I have said that I would support any candidate nominated by our party.

    I am beginning to believe that my only option is to write in a vote for whichever Democratic candidate is NOT nominated.

    No citizen should be denied the opportunity to participate in a primary or disenfranchised in an election. Fix the Florida-Michigan debacle. Let the primaries continue as they may. Then the Presidential Election, Electoral College, and Swearing in. Then we clean up our party by getting rid of our own bags-o-sh*t, beginning with Dean, Pelosi, and Reid. Then we gut the DNC and get our primary rules right.

  2. coldH2Owi says:

    What to say? Hmm…OK, I think I have it, no, I promised myself that I would listen to rants like this & try to remember when I was a Eugene McCarthy supporter, a George McGovern supporter. I am sorry for some of what has transpired in my adult life, I apologize to you, Mark, but I still vote & still have hope & now realize that some people have learned nothing from history. Buck up chum, things could always be worse. Oh, & thanks for abandoning the grass roots, we will miss you.

  3. hells kitchen says:

    I commented on another blog about the third party issue. The usual response is that third parties don’t work and it’s a waste of time and effort. This may be true for one issue parties, but I think we are in an historic time with our major parties.

    Both the Republican and Democratic parties have been weakened by internal dissension. For the Republicans, it’s the takeover of the extreme right wing, leaving the moderates without power. In the Democratic party, the blue dogs and the yellow dogs can’t seem to work together.

    It seems to me, at such a time with so many disaffected voters, a perfect opportunity to start a new all-issues political party.

  4. Janis says:

    I agree with you — but I have a serious strategic difference, and I think it’s at the heart of what Pamela and I have been discussing.

    While you may think privately that you will still support whatever Democrat ends up on the ticket — and while everyone else here has been insisting on the same thing — it is strategically vital that you not say so. When you bluff, you don’t tell the other guy that you didn’t load your gun. You do in fact load it, but hope to hell that you don’t need to fire it — but you must get that guy believing straight down to the soles of his shoes that you will.

    Saying this out loud ruins it, which is why I’m more than annoyed at having to do so, but however you feel, it is extremely important that you state out loud that you will vote for John McCain in the fall.

    There’s a ZILLION such examples from history, but I’ll use one of the ones I know best. Back to the other politics we go, the one that’s been absorbing so much of my life and attention lately — devolution politics in the UK. *wavy lines go across the screen for a bit and we refocus in Cardiff*

    In 1979, when the first vote was put forth for devolution, the version that was being argued was weak and almost entirely toothless, a “glorified county council,” as Richard Livesy called it. Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party, made the serious strategic mistake of being earnest and upfront with what they supported. They supported the thing– which permitted the Labour party to shred it to bits over its weaknesses, which even the most ardent of devolutionists were forced to admit to.

    And they got creamed. 75% of the population voted against it.

    The next time it came up, it was a stronger assembly, but still quite frankly too weak to do any good. The blasted thing doesn’t even have any powers of taxation. But the natioanlists knew two things:

    1) They had to get it passed, and
    2) It would function as a stepping-stone to something more powerful and effective.

    As a consequence, Plaid Cymru knew that even with its weaknesses, it was an absolute balls-out necessity that it pass. They also knew that saying out loud, “Even though it’s weak, we must support it anyway” would kill it stone dead. Saying what they actually thought would crush it.

    So they said publicly that they weren’t sure if they would support it, because it wasn’t good enough. Privately, they were almost exploding with the passionate desire to see it pass, but publicly, they said nothing of the sort. They knew they had to play it otherwise and let the Labour party put the thing forth as their own case.

    If they hadn’t done that, the vote would not have passed, and they wouldn’t have had devolution. And of course, in the privacy of the voting booth, every goddamned one of them voted for it and prayed for it to pass while they did so.

    No matter what your feelings on the results, goddamn it, it is VITAL that you NOT SAY WHAT YOU JUST SAID PUBLICLY — that you’ll go with whichever wins in the fall anyhow. That’s like bluffing up a bad hand in poker and then going, “BTW, I’m bluffing, just so you know.”

    Damn it. This is a serious and significant strategic mistake you all are making as Democrats and as patriots, and it’s driving me nuts.

    I know how I feel, but however you feel, you all better knock off the “but I’ll vote for Obama if I have to” nonsense, at least publicly. Brinkmanship doesn’t work that way.

  5. Mark says:

    Hi ColdWater Wi: I guess that is quite a bit different than AuH20Dem, eh? I am not sure why you want to be mean, in the sense of accusing me of “abandoning the grass roots.” Hmmmm…

    I haven’t abandoned the grass roots, I have become even more of an activist. The definition of grass roots varies a bit, but here is the one I go with: “A grassroots political movement is one driven by the constituents of a community. The term implies that the genesis of the described political movement is natural yet spontaneous and imposes a dichotomy between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures.”

    I am “abandoning traditional power structures” for a more grassroots approach to democracy.

    If the Democrats can become more democratic and not continue to pursue really quite outdated “old school politics,” I would be more than happy to re-up. But, not now. By the way, I wasn’t ashamed of being a Democrat before about three weeks ago… but as the DNC dithered on democracy, it just grew bigger.

    No reason to apologize. Be the activist you want to be, and I will be the activist I want to be.

  6. Mark says:

    Hi Janis: Thank you for the response.

    Like I noted, this is not about sour grapes, it is about *process.* I have nothing against Obama or Hillary. I DO NOT feel that a fight (which might include “overzealousness”) between two competitors for a nomination is what makes for chaos in a party, it is the characteristics of the nominating process that determine the “fairness” or “unfairness” of a contest. I don’t hold any grudges nor expect either candidate to be perfect.

    However, the DNC is in shambles this time around and has not caught up with what people feel is fair in this day and age (as opposed to “old school politics”). I really recommend reading the three articles I site as “here, here, and here” in my post in paragraph 8.

    Declaring that I am a progressive and will vote for a progressive in the fall is not an attempt at brinkmanship or threat… it is what I will do. I am a progressive, after all, and I want a powerful progressive as President.

  7. Jessica says:

    Mark: interesting post and I agree that there’s some stuff that the DNC has to work out. A couple of questions: one, would you be in favor of scrapping the electoral college in the general election and go with a straight up popular vote, and two, do you think a two day national primary (and general election popular vote for that matter) would have an adverse affect on the participation of smaller states because candidates would likely focus only on big states?

  8. cdo says:

    bravo mark. you are not alone. a hard rain is coming for the dnc if they don’t start act liking democrats.

  9. Mark says:

    Hi Janis:

    Great questions re electoral college. I think it is also the same or similar question regarding the superdelegates, who are kind of the electoral college of the Democrat nomination process. I personally would like to see the superdelegates and the Electoral College become a thing of the past.

    On the superdelegate issue, it would require some other changes first, like I noted, something that allows for a straight-up, more democratic popular vote. Right now, with the caucus process making things, IMHO, less democratic, the superdelegate issue is kind of moot.

    On the issue of little states losing power somehow in the process of electing a president, I have to do some major thinking about what was so great about the concept before and what might not be so great about it now.

    I am not sure we should be worrying about “state power” when it comes to the election of a president. States already have a lot of power to legislate separately from federal legislation.

    I think, now that presidential elections are definitely trending to being close and the nation is so “polarized,” that a straight-up, popular vote would be much fairer.

    But, let me get back to you on this maybe by Sunday and I will have a better answer. Gotta work this weekend and I really want to look at the Electoral College issue a bit more.

  10. coldH2Owi says:

    I’m a big believer in party discipline. I’m also a big believer in trout fishing. If I had no discipline as a trout angler, the water my granddaughters will live with would be a lot less clean or cold. I could explain that to you someday, if we ever meet. I also do not belong to an organized party, I’m a Democrat, thanks Will. But anarchy, not owing anything to anybody, that takes us off the bus completely, something you ought to think about.

  11. Ms. Pelosi is not really to blame for being cautious on the impeachment issue. There is a structural deficiency in our current framework of governance. The chain of succession currently provided for is from Bush to Cheney to Pelosi. Also, there is the obvious party split. For her to take the lead role in moving things forward, then, is susceptible of being construed as a coup. I think that we need to acknowledge the delicacy of that situation.

    To get around it there would likely need to be a substitute Speaker appointed for the limited purpose of handling impeachment matters. Obviously that is something that Ms. Pelosi can and should address immediately.

    Now to the greater problem. I contend that The Founding Fathers never imagined that the ship of state would be commandeered by a band of pirates. That bandits would invade and hold the highest position in the land. Accordingly, their remedy for “abuse of power” was designed to handle only abuses far less serious than those that we have now come to understand that modern politicians are capable of committing.

    Given the fact that we are now living with a system that is proving itself to be unwieldy, at best, and even arguably unmanageable, it seems incumbent upon this generation to design a structure for our government that is capable of resolving the crises that we are encountering in our own time. Any number of options are available, and the only venue that would really be adequate for sorting them out is a Constitutional Convention.

    It would be realistic to think that this particular incarnation of BUSHCO is not the most corrupt and criminal enterprise that will ever attempt to kidnap power in this country. Would you argue that our current protections are sufficient for the future challenges? If not, wisdom would dictate that we create structures and procedures that reasonably match the dangers that we will face. We have nothing to lose by making the effort, and a nation that might be lost by ignoring the challenge.
    There are many things that we as a nation need to hear. There are vast numbers of conversations that we need to engage in. And we have a near unlimited supply of some of the best minds on the planet to help us focus our thoughts. For us to continue with so much despair, so much uncertainty, and so much doubt when we have the ability to create the clarity needed to move into the future makes no sense at all.

    Sure we exist in a point in time, but that doesn’t mean that we’re stuck in a point in time. We’re residing on a continuum. The past is whatever it is (and there are nearly an unlimited number of opinions about that). The present is knowable, but only to each of us individually.

    Then there is the future, and there is nothing in life more magnificent than that to contemplate. Anyone who would tell you that that we’re limited in what we can create is more deserving of pity than of censure. Why, then, we continue to act like we’re unaware that the future is coming whether we prepare for it or not is not real easy to contemplate. This seeming preference to leave our collective affairs moving forward on cruise control is certainly far from one of our more admirable qualities.

    Extricating ourselves from Iraq, Impeachment of our Conspirator in Chiefs, and creating a Constitutional Convention are actually all jobs that our current political and social conditions make approximately equal in difficulty of accomplishment. Of the three, however, the Constitutional Convention route gives us the chance to accomplish at least most of the benefit that can be achieved by each of the other options, as well as working on just about everything else of a social and political nature that vexes us. And here’s a fact. If all of the current disaffection in America were focused on that goal we’d already be discussing how we’re going to do it, not if we’re going to do it.

  12. Janis says:

    I am a progressive, after all, and I want a powerful progressive as President.

    I am as well — but what I’m saying is that openly SAYING what you want or will do is not always the best path to achieving it. GETTING it matters more than loudly declaiming that you want to get it. And something that path to getting it is paved with shutting up about it. 🙂

    Like with the Welsh Assembly — Plaid had to bite their tongues so hard they bled in order to get what they wanted. And they got it.

    Again — I know what I’m going to do this fall — what I’m saying is that, whatever you plan on doing, you’d better be ready to promise to throw the election. Vote however the hell you want when you’re in that booth — but don’t telegraph that ahead of time.

  13. Janis writes: “No matter what your feelings on the results, goddamn it, it is VITAL that you NOT SAY WHAT YOU JUST SAID PUBLICLY — that you’ll go with whichever wins in the fall anyhow. That’s like bluffing up a bad hand in poker and then going, “BTW, I’m bluffing, just so you know.” Damn it. This is a serious and significant strategic mistake you all are making as Democrats and as patriots, and it’s driving me nuts.”

    Um, you realize that you undermine your position when you state “like bluffing up a band hand in poker”, right? Obama’s side views her campaign at this point as a bad hand, and they know the Hillary supporters are bluffing in their threats to vote for McCain in the fall.

    Telling everyone “don’t say what you just said publicly” is, to continue the poker analogy, like standing up at the table and saying “this hand sucks, everyone knows I’ve got nothing, but I’m going to pretend that it isn’t and I’m not going to tell you I know.”

    Everyone already knows it. This is silly.

  14. Janis says:

    Everyone doesn’t, Todd — and if Clinton supporters are indeed worried about her losing (BOTH can lose at this point, so both hands are equally “bad”), they need to STFU about “supporting whichever wins.” I imagine the same goes for Obama’s fans, but Clinton’s been getting treated a LOT worse and more unfairly, so her supporters are more — and more rightfully — furious.

    And um… I know it’s bad to say what I said out loud. If you go back and read my post you’ll note that I also said: “Saying this out loud ruins it, which is why I’m more than annoyed at having to do so.” Pwned.

    Here’s an interesting poser — why are we all going to act gobsmacked and like we never ever saw that coming when McCain picks Condi Rice as his VP?

  15. Janis

    Although this primary season has gone on longer than the last, I can tell you categorically that John Kerry and his online supporters were treated as bad if not worse (than Clinton supporters) by the media and supporters of other candidates in the blogosphere in ’04.

    The animosity towards Kerry winning the nomination from some in the blogosphere remained prevelent through out the election cycle and in the end, in my opinion, as a writer and moderator on the Kerry ’04 blog, the attitude towards Kerry DID NOT help him — it hurt him.

    Many of the blog boyz in the blogosphere who now support Obama were Dean supporters. They whined and bemoaned publically about every damn move that Kerry made during the general election and it hurt not only his candidacy but his long time supporters as well.

    I was on board with Kerry from Spring ’03, as Todd can confirm, and my memory is long concerning the damage done to Kerry from the media and the blogosphere (left and right).

    The right wing has one thing over the left that we may never get — that is the understanding that no matter how you feel about the nominee, no matter whether the nominee is your first choice or your last — they coalesce around the nominee and give that nominee unbridled support.

    Mark my words here Janis — If you think the bloggers calling for Clinton to step down will support her wholeheartedly if she ends up winning the nomination — Think Again. They will not — particulary those who cry out loudest against her now.

    I speak from experience of 5 years in the political blogosphere, working for one presidential campaign under my belt and a continued relationship working with John Kerry’s press staff after the ’04 election, as the ONLY, yes the only blogger for quite sometime who still supported John Kerry after the ’04 election.

    I know full well what I am talking about and IF Clinton supporters don’t coalesce around Obama if he is the nominee, likewise IF Obama supporters don’t coalesce around Clinton if she is the nominee — it will hurt us in November.

    So if you don’t want to be “gobsmacked” when McCain picks Condi as his running mate — and if you don’t want another friggin neocon in the White House, you had better think long and hard about not supporting WHOEVER our nominee is. And that goes for all the readers who who think it’s fine and dandy to threaten not to support the nominee.

  16. Todd

    We miss your voice of reason around here. I was just browsing around AoF – this is a great post –

    Some of our Clinton supporters here should read it.

  17. Hi Todd, it’s been awhile.

  18. Thanks Pamela, hi Darrell. As Pamela linked from AoF, I feel more conflicted all the time since I like Obama and hope he wins, but absolutely deplore the way Clinton is being treated by his supporters in the MSM. It’s nuts. But thankfully, Kerry’s support of Obama doesn’t seem to have split us former Kerry supporters from ’04 (which shows you how right we were then, but that’s another story) 😉

    The party can weather a good contest just fine. Bill Clinton didn’t clinch until June of ’92, if memory serves.

  19. Todd

    I’ve taken some heat here from a few of the old Kerry crowd that came around here on a regular basis but all in all I think most are all wise enough to keep our eyes on the prize. I have an edited version of my comment above sitting in the drafts – I’ll probably post it later tonight – or not.

  20. Mark says:

    Hi All:
    I said I would get back to this discussion on Sunday (it’s Sunday), with respect to the kind of “side issue” of the Electoral College (superdelegates being a kind of electoral college for the Democrats).

    If I were to write an article (and I am not quite ready to do that yet), the title would likely be The Electoral College as “Overkill.” The Electoral College (although not named that until the early 1800’s) and not called the “college of electors” (its official name) until 1845, was created by the original constitution.

    It was seen as a check and balance on the popular vote and a way of giving smaller states more power in the process of picking a president. Well, in 1776, I think that was probably a smart move.

    As such, however, it DOES MEAN that if you live in a more populous state, your vote in a presidential election is worth LESS than the vote of a person in a less populous state. Essentially, the Electoral College controls the outcome, and not the popular vote. However, the only times that the Electoral College has “overthrown” the the popular vote were 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. So, it has not happened that often, but it is problematic.

    I think the crucial question is “Should the electoral college be allowed to overthrow the outcome of the popular vote in a presidential election?” I say “no.”

    It is speculated that such a change to the Electoral College might change the dynamics of campaigning and it can be speculated that it might make it easier for presidential candidates to “ignore” smaller states and smaller state issues, however, I don’t buy that speculation.

    We are a very different society now than we were even 20 years ago. The power of small groups and the communication capabilities of small groups is very different than it was even 20 years ago. I can’t for a minute believe that any candidate for president could get away with ignoring small states, campaigning in only big states, without tainting their campaign so heavily that there would be such an outcry that it would damage their campaign rather than enhance it. We just aren’t the country that existed when the Electoral College was created.

    The old argument was that the Electoral College makes it harder for a candidate to narrow their focus and the rationale was that candidate would have to appeal to a wider array of interests and would thus be less likely to be a demagogue or an extremist. This argument is no longer relevant. The crucial question is “what is the definition of ‘wider array of interests.'”? Currently, minorities often don’t exist is many of the smaller states and won’t be large components of many smaller states for years to come. Currently, because of the huge variety in populations in larger states like California and New York, the idea that “wider interests” would not be represented if the Electoral College didn’t exist, just doesn’t fly as an argument anymore.

    The biggest obstacle to Electoral College reform is the Republican Party. Most, if not all of the so-called smaller states have a fairly long history of voting Republican in presidential campaigns. The Electoral College, thus, gives the Republican Party a leg-up in presidential campaigns. This, in essence, subverts the significant primary rationale for having an Electoral College in the first place — “to force presidential candidates to appeal to a wider array of interests.” In fact, the Electoral College may have worked that way in the years when populations were quite different than they are now, but now it works to disenfranchise many minority groups and actually allows small states to “demagogue” the rest of the population.

    I would start Electoral College reform by passing a law that makes it mandatory for the Electoral College to give the vote to the winner of the popular vote, period. There are other aspects of the Electoral College which may necessitate it staying in place for emergencies, such as the death or incapacitation of the winner of the popular vote, or some such unpredictable kind of situation.

    Similarly, I would start superdelegate reform only after caucuses are outlawed. There is no point to reforming superdelegates to be more “democratic” when the process before it reaches the superdelegate stage is as unrepresentative as it is. Once we have a more representative process, then I would reform the superdelegate process similarly, and make it mandatory for them to validate the popular vote.