Recently I got a questionnaire from the California Democratic Party. The gist of it was: What are the Caucuses doing? Should they remain in the CDP? etc. It is my firm belief that the Caucuses are the only thing that stands between the CDP, the Democratic National Committee, and extinction.
Some party leaders and elected offiials (PLEOs) have maintained for many years that the only function of the “Democratic Party” is to elect Democrats. I believe they really mean “incumbents only.” To that end, the entire structure of the Party, as defined in the By-Laws, has been designed to maintain that status quo establishment of “electeds” — that is, Incumbents. The Chair has stated in public, that these rules will not be changed on his watch. He has questioned the validity of the Caucuses, where all he hears is talk. He has said that he is more interested in the Party being devoted to “shoe leather.”
Any political party solely dedicated to get out the vote (GOTV) or electioneering is doomed. Today, tomorrow, soon. Ask the Republicans. Mickey Edwards, former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, has stated that the demise of the Republican Party derives from the day that they decided to turn the Party into an “incumbents-only” GOTV machine. They let go of their ”ideology”, which then allowed them to run up huge deficits on foreign wars. Incumbents-only was their dead end and it will be for the Democratic Party as well, if it is allowed to persist. What we need in our Party is more democracy, not less. What we must maintain is our ideology – the Liberal Ideal – to power our GOTV.
All of the Caucuses have played an invaluable role in the recent years culminating in the enthusiasm that has won the last two election cycles. The Labor and Progressive Caucuses joined together to pass a “Net Neutrality” resolution that was soon taken up by the entire Party across the nation. All of the membership, led by all of the Caucuses, passed the 2005 “Out of Iraq” resolution. This was followed just weeks later by the AFL-CIO passing a similar resolution – the first overtly political resolution in their 75-year history. The fervor for Single Payer in the state and the nation has been stoked by its embrace inside the Party at the Progressive and many other Caucuses. Immigration issues were brought to the main stage by the Caucuses working together.
The Caucuses are where we generate the heat and the light of policy for the Party. This is where the “Liberal Ideal”, the long-venerated soul of the Democratic Party most actively resides inside the Party. Without the Caucuses, the Party will be shrunken to an “incumbents-only” GOTV machine and go the way of the Republicans. Look at the cold, hard facts: party registration, Republican and Democrat, is withering. ”Decline to State” is the only growing political party in America. Reversing that trend is not possible as merely a GOTV machine.
If the PLEOs want people to show up and do the “shoe leather” bits, they need to give people a reason other than so and so needs to keep their job. The Caucuses are the incubator of policy. they give people a reason to believe. The rules are already undemocratic – appointed voting members in the Central Committees being the most obvious case. More democracy not less is required to save the Democratic Party from the fate of the Whigs and the Federalists.
Before the Assembly District committees were thrown out of the main body of the Party, we received a similar rationale that the ADs would be able to raise money and support candidates if they were shuffled off to the side. They were and they disappeared along with the vitality they brought to the dance. I believe that the same result will occur when the Caucuses are removed from the Central Committee as well.