Apathy is the seemingly most powerful political force in America today. While other nations on oceans away from us writhe in tempestuous tumult over the birth of democracy, America sleeps. And in its somnambulant state the faint tremors of truth revelations glide by unnoticed. Why would this nation, the birthplace of modern democracy, be so complacent while it crumbles? How did the forces of unmitigated greed seduce the body politic into this miasma of mediocrity? The clues, dear readers, are in the Rules, the Robert’s Rules of Order Torpor.
- sluggish inactivity or inertia.
- lethargic indifference; apathy.
- a state of suspended physical powers and activities.
In the nineteenth century, the chaos of burgeoning democratic society and its many bodies of deliberation craved a new approach to civil debate. That craving was satisfied by the publication of “Robert’s Rules of Order,” written by U.S. Army Brigadier General Henry Martyn Robert in 1876. While the earnest general was searching for a better way to bring order to contentious bodies, he inadvertently sowed the seeds for the slow and painful path to gridlock and entropy. In every social club, city council and legislative body across the nation, too often the rules or the by-laws are used to slow things down to a halt in the name of law and order.
Rules and regulations can help to sort things out and put them in working order. They can just as well muck things up and stifle innovation. Just take a look at the Senate of the United States of America. The 60 plus one filibuster rule brought the once august seat of contemplative reason to a halt. Nothing of considerable import can be accomplished with that rule in place. Democrats could have changed it, but no, they lacked the courage a scant four months ago to do just that. Or consider the House of Representatives. Every time the majority changes, the rules are twisted, strangled and put to perverse use in the name of partisan triumph. Well, at least that is the way the Republicans use them. Rules have become the roadblock to progress and led us down the path of stagnancy, rigidity and torpor.
Now, admittedly we all need to feel some stability in organizational bodies so that we can relax and be confident that reason and values will lead us into the future. However, from the California Democratic Party to the New York Stock Exchange, the rules are killing that same future. Without an “update,” a “reboot,” a re-examination of all the rules in America we are doomed to slide slowly into irrelevancy. Reverence for Robert’s Rules of Order has created a quasi-religion of infallibility ascribed to General Robert’s good idea gone bad. The Age of Information and the Internet require a more asymmetric collaboration, a peer to peer and point to point immediacy not envisioned by Robert’s Rules.
So, welcome to the 21st Century friends, where organizations will inhabit a horizontal world that topples the old vertical silos, where the innovative ideas require leading and creating and must be emboldened by rules that support a 360 degree globe of possibilities. The past is exceedingly persuasive, but the future must never concede to the past what it knows to be true. A great place for Democrats to start the change and welcome the future is the California Democratic Party. Once again, I call on the leadership of the Party to “Change the Rules” and “democratize” the Democratic Party. End the primary endorsements, end the voting status of “appointed Central Committee members,” and let all committees be “elected” not selected.”
Democratize the Democratic Party now because tomorrow is already yesterday and the public is moving beyond any institution that cannot embrace openness, transparency, accountability, democracy and inclusion with an eye toward the future and not feet stuck in the past. I think General Robert would have wanted it that way…
Valley Dems United, Margie Murray, Editor
Copyright 2011 LA Progressive