The RDP: Some Afterthoughts
April 18, 2016 § 4 Comments
A few days ago I posted a proposal for a “Revolutionary Democratic Party”. The reaction has been underwhelming but, because these musings are for my own enjoyment and I don’t imagine myself as a future Napoleon of the American Left, the muted reaction does not discourage me. Drafting a plan for a political organization has, however, awakened braincells grown dusty and flabby from long disuse.
So, in response to the stirring of old embers, I have a little more encouragement to offer.
First, I omitted Rule One: Never adjourn a meeting before setting the time and place for the next meeting. Rule Two: There is always something useful to be done, so never call a meeting without a proposal for some kind of action or a report of some ongoing activity in furtherance of the organization’s purpose. This is challenging for a political organization because elections don’t occur every year so there are periods of time when there are no campaigns demanding energy and work. That problem leads to the demise of many organizations because people won’t interrupt their lives to attend meetings that offer no purpose.
The Importance of Technology
I think this problem can be solved in several ways. The organization I envision should train each member to use an iPhone, a iPad or a laptop as a revolutionary machine. People skilled in ways of group communication should be recruited to serve as trainers at meetings. There are computer programs capable of communicating to groups and setting up group communications on these computers. There are internet sources of information that political activists need in order to recruit more members, to communicate encouragement to political allies, express hostility toward political opponents and organize public protests. Group email lists or iMessage lists of some kind should be established so this information can be shared.
These activities can forge relationships and offer people a sense of becoming participants, not observers, in support of or opposition to political activities of which they approve or disapprove.
The evidence is all around us that this kind of technology can be a powerful organizational force. If ISIS can recruit thousands of young people to travel across the world to risk death, we should be able to persuade our fellow liberal Democrats to become active in changing the political landscape by investing a few hours of effort. And, on a completely different note: The Bernie Sanders campaign has demonstrated that a 74-year-old man leading an army of 18-30-year-old enthusiastic youngsters can mount a formidible political organization starting from scratch within less than nine months. Their use of Twitter and other internet media weapons has more than matched the organizational performance of the Clinton/Obama political machine supported by hundreds of elected Democratic Party leaders and supporters.
I believe the present political contest within the Democratic Party proves that the power of cheap computers and the internet pose the kind of threat to traditional political machines that the English bow-and-arrow posed to the armor-clad steed-mounted knights. Not to take the analogy too far, the internet may be to the present power structure of the Democratic Party what Samuel Colt’s revolver, nicknamed “The Equalizer”, was to Western miscreants.
Youth and Experience – a Winning Combination
One important by-product of these efforts will be the involvement of young people. That will happen because they routinely learn about this technology and the social organizational techniques it enables. Bernie Sanders has demonstrated how potent and powerful the mix of young and old political activists can be.
The AA Model
Each group should spawn other leaders of other groups. Each meeting should select a person to plan and preside over the next meeting. The selection can be done by asking for volunteers. After attending a few meetings, members should be encouraged to start other meetings in other neighborhoods.
The Local Elections Issue
Finally, there are two schools of thought about the following idea: Should these organizations become involved in the election of candidates for local government agencies? In the past, this was avoided because it was thought to be a source of division. I think that was probably a mistake. If local agencies are affecting the lives of those whom we are trying to influence, I think our organization should wade into the election of leaders of those agencies. We should vet and interview the candidates and make decisions about which ones to support based on the degree to which the candidates conform their goals to those of our organization. Those decisions should not, of course, be based on whether the candidates are Democrat or Republican because most of the agencies’ elections are not based on those organizational divisions.
As you can see, if the organizational model I propose is followed, there will be no dearth of things to do between elections. That is important . I believe that one of the worst aspects of our political activities in the past has been to treat political organizations as temporary structures, dismantled at the end of campaigns. That process enables elected officials to be unaccountable to the grass roots efforts to which they owe their success. I believe political power should always flow up, not down. Organizers should empower others, not themselves.