… policies, not programs
Reflecting on the utter failure of the Green Party, but also on the whole US political ecology. We just had a close call. But there’s much to be done and little time to do it. We can’t afford to waste time on anachronistic strategies that are obviously failing.
I’ll be direct.
Third party politics is delusional in the US. It’s like trying to plant blueberries in alkaline soil. They just can’t thrive. Meanwhile, Justice Democrats just doubled their Congressional representation. That’s an approach that’s working.
Now there’s the Democratic Party, but if you ask anyone what the Democratic Party is, nine times out of ten you’ll get some reified nonsense . The Democratic Party is not a thing, per se. In ecological terms, it is a political terrain. It’s ground that is held, and has to be fought for, but it’s no more possible at this point to leave that ground than it is for a foot soldier to float. That’s what we’re standing on, and that is what we’ll have to traverse. Deal with it.
Which brings me to parties. And programs. Right now, we’re all trapped in the concept of a party as one that unites all under the banner of a program. Programs are a set of line item stands on particular issues. The problem is that the general never matches the particular in its details. I know people who are anti-capitalist and anti-abortion, for example. The Democratic Party puts them in a bind. The little gears don’t mesh with the big ones.
How to get out of this dilemma, which translates into the same kinds of traffic jams in making badly needed policies and laws? This is just a suggestion of a suggestion.
A party is, first and foremost, a voluntary, dues paying organization. Dues paying organizations are the foundation of strength through independence. That is the basis of any structural strength in a movement of whatever stripe. Join a union and pay dues so you retain some independence of action. He who pays the piper and all that.
A policy party would function like a party — ideally, disciplined and self-supporting — but only have one issue. And by issue, I don’t mean “smash imperialism” or something like that, but an actual policy. Medicare for All comes immediately to mind. Campaign finance. Debt jubilee. Ending a war.
Some may say that there are already single-issue organizations, but I am telling you as an alum of several, these are all 501(c)(3) non-profit corporations, not dues paying independent organizations. They depend on grantmakers, not a membership. Medicare for All (perhaps the most important issue right now) needs an M4A “party” or “union” or whatever you want to call it, that functions as a movement, and refuses stances on all other issues.
In this way, each individual candidate for elected office can choose to support or reject X policy, with no obligation to accept Y policy. Let’s use M4A and gun control. In District A, 65 percent of voters want M4A and 70 percent want an assault rifle ban. In District B, 65 percent of voters support M4A and only 30 percent support an assault rifle ban. If two different candidates for these two different districts are following a party program script, District A will elect someone who wants both and District B will elect someone who rejects both. Even though in both districts, voters support and desperately need M4A. The party programs have lashed the two issues together, and M4A — which has enough general support to fly — is held back. (I know, neither party has endorsed M4A . . . this is hypothetical.)
If there are powerful, independent, dues-paying organizations (this is the engine that gets the plane airborne) with real political clout, but without programmatic appendages that hang on everything, candidates A and B can both support M4A, and still take alternative stances on assault rifles. M4A wins, even if the assault rifle ban isn’t yet ready for prime time.
Now this certainly could put candidates at odds with the national party program — making them mavericks or rebels; but who cares, if they can win? They can adapt to their particular constituency, and this also gives them the ability in some cases to run as Independents.
This may go against inveterate ideologues and wannabe social engineers with all their utopian visions, but it delivers concretely for the people. And it undercuts the two parties’ dependence on big donors . . . in military terms, it allows small, agile forces to penetrate the terrain that is constituted by those parties and to eventually undermine their control.
Just a thought.