Friday Feedack: Dorothy and the Land of Oz, Indeed

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Every Friday the LA Progressive features a comment that was particularly noteworthy. This week we are featuring a comment submitted by Wayne Williams, commenting on “The Walled Garden: Fading Away at the California Democratic Party,” by Brad Parker. Wayne writes:

“Those of us who have watched the machinations of the party leadership parade before us as if they are Progressives, then turn their backs on Clean Money and the long litany mentioned in your write up, have so much to account for and yet offer so little in the process of empowering the Progressive cause. With the rare exception of Kristine Pelosi and the members of the Platform committee…our ideas have taken years to sink in, and when they do, they get watered down more often than not.

The bottom line is that being a Progressive is about removing barriers, opening doors and exchanging ideas, not living in fear of losing or protecting our turf.

To this point, the DSCC is protecting its turf by underfunding or not funding Progressive Democrats across the state when they do run for office in close races, especially in so called red districts… even with these districts are turning purple or blue.

An there is little consciousness paid to the reality that the Democratic Party overall is shrinking as Decline to States are growing. Seems to me, the only reason this party is holding some semblance of power at this time is because the other side is so blown apart by their failed ideologies that have brought down our economic system and our place in the world. Let me also say that I believe strongly that this party would be in tatters as well if Obama had not spent his time speaking in a manner that inspired people to come out and vote. Whether he will accomplish what people thought they think he meant, with the massive resistance of the Blue Dogs and the Clintonites hoping for a downfall in 4 years is not beyond consideration or concern.

All the while the real idea people in this party, we Progressives, will never achieve our place at the table as long as the Rules are set to limit our size, 1/3 electeds, 1/3 selecteds will always leave the 1/3 of us fighting for little more than speaking time.

They say, hey, you can run for office, but against an entrenched incumbent Democrat, good luck with the primary endorsement process…. remember the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3? Not going to happen… the system inside the party is not a democracy, it is rigged.

Yes there have been breakthroughs, but don’t be fooled, the walls are up and they won’t come down until money is removed from the political game.

This party must change and change now or forever decline until it is as irrelevant as the Gone, Over and Past party of Bush/Cheney et al.

The key is to get Politicians out of the fund raising game so they can do the jobs we elect them to do, and if they don’t do it, the party must not be in a position to keep them in place with a rigged DSCC and corporate funding from the likes of AT&T and others.

We must open up the political process to candidates who are not wealthy, or don’t have big money contributors, but are good people with good ideas.

We must fight pay to play politics, parties and government if we are going to stop the entrenched or special interests from destroying our Democracy as they came so close to doing in the past few years.

Now Progressives have altered the thinking of the party over the past 5 years, but we can not get the leadership and electeds to even read the damn Platform, what is with that?

The message to us should be clear. IT IS ALL ABOUT THE MONEY, THE PARTY IS A BUSINESS (remember what Art said… exactly that) SO WE ARE WASTING OUR TIME UNTIL THE MONEY AND TOP DOWN CONTROL IS REMOVED FROM THE GAME. WE HAVE COME AS FAR AS THEY WILL LET US.

Yes Toto, it does seem like a big risk to support Fair Elections that are publicly funded, but then, if you like were we are headed without being a party true to its Progressive ideas, then you have to ask yourself. Why are you here?

Obama has brought us the opportunity for change, yet even he has back peddled on key issues (Privacy, Iraq timetable), but we have our hopes up that we will see positive things happen anyway. I know I do… but it isn’t going to happen in this party in this state until this leadership is more reflective of the people with ideas instead of the pragmatism of winning the next election without a solid foundation of those ideas.

When the public hears the truth they respond, when they hear nothing, they lose interest. That is where we are now when this party is not a party of ideas but of business as usual.

The alternative to top down, special interest control of our party, and our government at all levels is Fair Elections (Clean Money).

If you do not make it a reality, you are turning your back on the people in favor of the powerful.

Where will you stand?

I, for one will stand with the truth, that low voter turn out, apathy and ignorance on the part of the majority of the public can only be reversed when the party and its structure change. As of now, I don’t see it happening. Oh they may say they support change, even say they think we have good ideas they support, but then they do NOTHING! If you don’t vote, you support the failure continuing, if you don’t act, you support the status quo.

Now, The California Fair Elections Act is coming in June 2010. If this party does not get behind it with all its public, financial and idealist support, then this party will no longer be worthy of the publics trust.

And I for one, will not be around to see it melt away for lack of backbone. I will not stand around watching the Progressive Caucus be divided by those who do not share our ideas. Let them wake up, or wallow in the stagnation they have sat with for failing to stand up, speak up and vote!

Thank you Brad for making this party clear for all to see. Thank you Brad and Ahjamu for providing the framework for change in the Progressive Plan. That you Brad for all your efforts to reach out, yet stay true to the Progressive ideas. Now again you speak the truth… The Walled Garden must be destroyed if ideas are to allow us to save ourselves and save this Democratic Party.

Thanks for listening and I’ll be at the Convention… watching what is said, and what is done. I’m not holding my breath, because sometimes power needs to run its course before it dies.

When the positive ideas of collaboration, participation and transparency bring positive results, that is when everything changes.

Wayne

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Comments

  1. Wayne says

    Joe,

    All I could work with was what I assumed you meant… and we both know how that can work out for us both. I appreciate your intelligent, cordial perspective and dialog.

    Yes, life is short, how we spend each day decides the value we put on our lives and the experience it provides us each day. I however disagree that life will be over before the real game can begin. This is the game, and it began when you and or I became aware of our lives and our ability to participate in it. It is not a game but life, right now, here, and with that, we do and work with what we have… to do what we are willing to do with the time we are here, right now.

    My father, who helped launch the California Clean Money Campaign spent the last years of his life worrying so much about what wasn’t working that it may have attributed to his passing, but I won’t bore you with details, just a simple perspective, as you said, life is short. So we do what we can, what we’re comfortable doing, step by step, a process we are just a part of moving in a direction we feel is best. Nothing more, nothing less.

    My leap to state the overturning of the Constitution was mostly an effort to emphasize the long road, not necessarily the flaw in a process to make Democracy better for the people.

    All democracies survive or fail because of their investment and time invested in it by the people. Making their own money the catalyst is their willing participation.

    Like you say, there is the need for stepping stones, and for me, Clean Money is one of those stones in the process towards a more perfect union.

    As for the Internet changing everything, yes in time, that may be true, but money is used for those who don’t spend their days on the web as well… in the form of multiple mailings, siignage, offices for campaigns as well as TV Ads for larger campaigns, but don’t fool yourself into assuming it all is for TV… for even the Internet will and is becoming the new TV/Radio, so money will be needed to reach the public. The question is, who’s money will it be?

    As for the small reforms verses massive steps as you would like to see, I’d like nothing better than to live in a perfect world, but it is going to be what it is, and change as it does, no matter the efforts we make. That said, Clean Money does work, and that is what is critical to me, and I’d hope you and others reading this would take it seriously. The fact is, we have a tool now that the powerful don’t like, so we… we must work to implement it for just that reason. It isn’t a somewhat working thing, it works when fully deployed and funded.

    Again, this isn’t a feel good reform, it is the reform that makes all others possible. Let that soak in a moment. Think stepping stones.

    As for Long Beach having Clean Elections, they are no more clean than LA’s as they are matching funds systems that are severely flawed as candidates must still raise initial funding to gain the matching funds. Matching funds are a joke today as the powerful still buy the politician before the system kicks in and also limits those who can get in the game.

    That said, anything is possible, I just know getting to the possible can be achieved with full public funding, not partial. Do check out the viable systems of Clean Elections, not the out of date attempts with partial funding.

    Go to http://www.CAClean.org

    Check it out.

    Wayne

  2. Joe Weinstein says

    Wayne,

    You have unhappily misinterpreted several things I said – by assuming that they include or imply things that they don’t. But likely you are not alone, so I thank you for showing me how I may be misinterpreted.

    My basic stance (as I near 70 years of age) is that life is short. Barring accident, I do expect to keep going strong many more years, even several more decades, but even so life has taught me that it doesn’t pay anyone to struggle too hard for too small reforms. Life will be over before the real game can begin.

    I fully agree with your point that our basic questions are where do we want to go, and then how do we get there? We may disagree on the target, but – despite appearances perhaps – I fully agree that the likely sensible thing is to strive for the target in feasible stages, not all at once. Please read on.

    I never called for (or implied) overthrowing the US constitution. We shouldn’t be overthrowing the constitution, we should be affirming its flexibility for changing times. We should instead overthrow the idea – which in fact Jefferson himself rejected (letter to Sam Kercheval, October 1816: the very letter in which more famously he also warned against an overweening government with oppressive taxation) – that the present specific stipulations of the constitution are forever, or that we can’t take a series of amendment steps whose net result over time is to drastically amend it – as indeed happened with toleration and even promotion of slavery and of gender inequality.

    The Consitution – any constitution – is a tool. The idea of an orderly meaningful written constitution as a tool for guiding comprehensible governance is inspired. However, the idea that therefore all specific provisions of a specific constitution are sacred – and that therefore the document must not be significantly changed at all – is misguided. According to Jefferson the constitution could be changed significantly every generation – which for his time he stated was 20 years.

    I never said or meant to imply that the way from here to a far-off there is to be achieved instantly – or not at all. There are always good stepping stones. For instance, well before we have full-fledged citizen decision juries, we can and should first institute some citizen review juries. But the measures to be striven for now should have worthy and even visionary rationales as to where they are intended to help get us.

    So I object to working too hard for, and seeing long-term salvation in, some of what today pass for reforms – whether it be ‘clean money’ or ‘redistricting reform’ – because all these small reforms lack worthy vision. All they strive for – and give us when we get there – is more of the same corrupting concentration of elected oligarchic power. (To add insult to injury, even when these reform campaigns are given some explicit rationales, usual rationales are highly debatable.)

    Perhaps clean-money has helped somewhat in some places. I hope so. But I’m not clear on close-to-home specifics. I’m not clear in what way clean money has ‘proved itself’ in the cases you mention – and in particular what happened to getting a progressive governor now in Arizona? Here in Long Beach we have long had public financing for council candidacies for those that want it. It’s been a feel-good measure, but I have yet to see any difference. No problem about getting a diversity of candidates for council and mayor. But winning candidates who keep worthy promises?? Another story altogether.

    You speak very cogently of the need to ‘remove the money from the game’. Yes! But the real ‘game’ is not just campaigning. Campaigning is just one pathway or excuse, among various others, for injecting money into the total game. The total game involves not only gaining office but filling it – and that totality provides all kinds of ways for exploiting a system where the same few people hold concentrated power for long terms. Seasoned players can gain favors using various other pathways that don’t require expensive campaigns, either as tool or as excuse.

    Yes, I know (and acknowledged) that politicians turn purple from their paranoid perception of threat in ‘clean money’ campaign legislation. That doesn’t prove that there’s much of a real threat – or anyhow difference.

    As I’ve already noted, the Internet already makes an end run around any legitimate need for massive public campaign outlays. Within a few years, economics and advancing technology and attitudes will make easy Internet access and use just like TV – an acknowledged entitlement even of welfare cases.

    Meanwhile, regardless of the source (‘clean’ or ‘dirty’) to cover the costs, the ‘skyrocketing cost of campaigns’ owes largely to decisions to use mass-electorate campaigns as gratuitous vehicles – vehicles not for providing otherwise unavailable information but for irrelevant elaborate traditional mass-media ads and circuses. Public campaign finance for such campaigns would in essence be yet another, if indirect, public subsidy of traditional mass media.

    I disagree that progressives or indeed anyone are obliged to operate so that in effect we keep to the old policy (promoted and successfully institutionalized by Hamilton and his pro-monarchy pro-oligarchy party) of telling every ordinary citizen: we don’t trust you to make good public policy decisions, even on those few matters that most concern or interest you personally; but we do assume and ask that you put your ‘trust’ in a few special other folks, whether or not personally known to you, to make a host of good public policy decisions that will affect you and everyone.

    In Hamilton’s time this attitude might be promoted on the grounds that citizens then – free adult males – were largely uneducated. But the ‘we don’t trust you, so trust us’ attitude never made much sense, and it makes even less sense now that we have mass education.

    I did not and do not advocate compulsory long-term decision-jury duty for all citizens, but rather the opportunity – as a matter of the right of every citizen – for all citizens that wish to be empowered decision-makers – likely a ‘small’ minority, but a minority of many millions in the USA – to put in short-term decision-jury duty.

    Not that there isn’t a good case for compulsory short-term decision-jury duty, when compared with today’s compulsory short-term criminal jury duty. At the very least, the policy topic of decision could well be far more meaningful to the jurors than deciding criminal guilt or innocence of a given accused.

    Your argument, against learning and using a good idea first developed prominently in ancient Athens, should be reexamined. You could as well say that the Athenians found many uses for olives, and for sports and for debates – and therefore, because ancient Athens is no longer, these uses and activities are automatically discredited or outdated.

    Cordially,
    Joe

  3. Wayne says

    Joe,

    Thank you for commenting on my thoughts about solutions to our political mess, we all want a better world, the question is, how do we get there.

    Simply put, your solution is to completely throw out the Constitution, you also seem to operate on the assumption that Clean Money doesn’t work (this has been proven wrong in the states and cities that are using it) and that for some reason, the Greeks were smarter than everyone back in the days of Athens at its peak. Well, Greek democracy isn’t around anymore so lets not run off on the value there, for many reasons.

    You write off the effects of money in politics to easily, especially since we’re unlikely to trash the Constitution to get to your end. The reality is, you want people involved and the only way to get there is to have them trust those they have to vote for as not being bought and paid for by the powerful among us. Again, remove the money from the game as much as you possibly can. That solution, as Arizona and Maine as well as many other cities have proven, WORKS.

    Now I know you didn’t mean to, but you called me a petty reformer… actually, Clean Elections is not petty in any sense of the imagination based upon the amount of resistance there is to it both inside and outside the political parties, from the crony clowns and powerful who like the system the way it is.

    I wish you the best in your goal of over throwing the Constitution, getting everyone involved in politics as much as you are, and the amount of time you will spend in your life dreaming of a fantasy of Athenian Democracy that hasn’t been practiced since city states existed with 1 billionth of the worlds current population.

    The rest of us Progressives will continue to pursue the working and the possible, that being full public funding of elections, to fight pay to play politics, open up the process to more diverse candidates, not just the wealthy, stop the skyrocketing costs of campaigns, increase voter turnout as has been done in those states that have implemented it.

    Wayne

  4. Joe Weinstein says

    I agree that the Dems are ‘succeeding’ only because the Gops are failing even faster. I disagree that the most attractive and rational alternative for Dems and Progressives is to promote ‘fair elections’, let alone ‘clean money’ elections.

    The real cure is not elections at all but REAL democracy – deliberative public policy decision making which involves the mass of citizens. By involving a lot more people and effort in public decision-making, real democracy will overall produce better decisions. It will recognize the right of every citizen to have direct political – i.e. policy decision – power that matters. It will give every citizen a genuine reason to be empowered and connected in society and its decisions.

    Ancient Athens provides us a useful first-cut model, which has got an unmerited bad rap, mainly from propaganda of monarchists and of republican oligarchist supporters of our present populist-veneer elective oligarchy of political officers. The propaganda focuses on two inessential features that need not be copied today: a drastic restriction of citizenship to native-born free adult propertied males, and a raucous mass open daily assembly. But Athens’ real decision-making was mostly and commendably quite deliberative, done by citizen juries of rotating short-term membership.

    Today’s elections however are simplistic favoritism contests – where each vote in fact need be based on no consistent or rational preference criterion, let alone a cogent one. Even if there were only one voter, the resulting mode of decision-making – requiring no analysis of pros and cons but just recording gut feelings of preference – would not be a good one. Modern decision analysis – including popularized simple versions such as the ‘grid method’ and techniques suggested in Fisher and Ury’s classic ‘Getting to Yes’ – offers a superior alternative approach to decision-making – whether by one person or a group.

    To boot, our typical elections involve each citizen infrequently and as one of just a staggering huge mass. Despite gobs of populistic rhetoric, this approach makes a travesty (or farce) of meaningful citizen participation. In a large-scale election, it’s extremely unlikely that any given citizen’s vote can decide any matter: her vote has no political power whatever.

    This situation defies a widely shared conviction that, in our internet age of an educated and readily informed citizenry, it is an inherent right of citizenship to share as equally as possible in actual decision-making power – not merely in ceremonially voting away this power to a few others. And indeed, Athenian citizens had roughly equal opportunity to share in actual decision-making. But in our oligarchic system, all de-facto political power is reserved for the politician oligarchy, none for the rest of us. If political power (which is every citizen’s essential right) were food, after a spell the oligarchs would be close to death from corpulence; and the rest of us would long have starved to death.

    ‘Clean Money’ campaigns are premised on the notion that campaign costs and contributions are the (or anyhow a) key cause of official corruption and malfeasance. No, they are only yet another pathway for operation of the root cause and mechanism – which is the oligarchic concentration of power in a few. Already in 1887 Lord Acton – not only famously but cogently – wrote that the essential fact is that ‘power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’. There’s no mystery why Acton is right: when essentially unchecked power is given over to a few for a long period, they are free to treat it with impunity as as their private entitlement, to abuse it or trade it away for personal advantage, monetary or other. This is true no matter whether these few get power by ‘clean’ elections or by ‘dirty’ elections or by appointment.

    Even if (as too many petty ‘reformers’ keep doing) you disregard Acton’s key point and its implications, note that ‘clean money’ campaigns have also missed another key point, one already exploited by the Obama campaignas well as by some efforts of LWV and the Sec. of State and others. Namely, in the INTERNET AGE there is ever less need for or benefit from the costs and burocracy and regulations of an official ‘clean money’ effort. Efforts to reach and involve voters need not be costly, or – even when they are – can even be self-financing.

    To be fair, ‘clean money’ campaigns nowadays maybe do serve one purpose – namely to be something like Reagan’s ‘star wars’: a weapon program that will scare a paranoid opponent (read here: establishment career politician) even though, from a rational perspective, the weapon in itself either isn’t needed, doesn’t work or is readily bypassed and rendered irrelevant.

    So, as I see it, the main reason to pursue the diversion of ‘clean money’ pseudo-reform is for the pleasure to be got from witnessing the face-purpling effect on paranoid politicians.

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