1. This is why I choose to do something rather than nothing: because if I don't there are plenty of other people who want to do something, they will do it, if they do things not the way I would have done them and I wasn't there to try to oppose them then they'll keep on doing things I don't want them to do.
2. This is why I do electoral politics:
I'm almost 60 and I seem to have been politically aware to some degree for about 45 years. This acorn didn't fall far from the tree: my parents were and remain leftish, I am too. I became electorally active during the Kerry campaign because I realized that here in the USA we do elections instead of attempting to use force on each other. Our system seems to allow elections to be to some degree bought but to me that is ever so much better than buying and using private armies.
I have become really fond of the electoral process and I want to keep it going as the way we pick some of our important people who do important things for us. Without that periodic input from the people who don't participate in administration of the public part of their lives government would become the private operation of the people who do the jobs. We know this is so because of the shapes of the corruption we see happen in every administration. They are always the same: people take advantage of the system for personal gain. That is the normal situation in all human cultures: people try to take advantage, they continue to try, there are always more of them coming along. It is so great the elections have the possibility of meaning something in this country, I am so lucky to be living here. Elections don't have to mean something, but they can.
In my precinct we have a precinct organization consisting of me and a few people my age. All of the motivation for anything to happen comes from me. If I drop the precinct chair job most likely none of them will pick up the tasks. This hobby of mine is obviously a very rare behavior pattern. Everyone is some kind of crank about something, most of us refuse to do anything about it. For example: the Rips in the precinct don't seem to have an analog of me: an active precinct chair.
3. Why I work with the Dems:
My unpaid precinct chair job is to get people to vote for my party and its positions. A party is supposed to be a coalition of like-minded people doing political work together. Dems are not like that. The Dems are a coalition of various smaller interest groups. When elected they tend toward promoting tolerance of diversity within the rule of law. Typically when Dems govern these past few decades there are no really happy interest groups because the tendency is to attempt to diffuse and share gains and losses throughout the population. No group gets everything it wants, everyone grumbles.
The Rips, on the other hand, like to spend money on wars, make laws that allow people to cheat and steal things, neglect and destroy infrastructure and services, make vain & clumsy & wrongheaded attempts to make people behave in various ways.
I do a lot of history in my work (the things I do to make money). What's happening now reminds me of 17th-18th century Poland. The moneybags of the time (landowners) captured the government, ran the country for their own benefit, neglected the common weal, the country ended up disappearing for 120 years. I see the Rips as the party of big money. I'm sorry, Rips. I do. The Dems are into the money too, but you Rip guys think this is the way it should be, that money should rule. I don't agree. I'm a least-of-these guy. That's what I'm into.
4. What about third party
It is an odd feeling working for the election of a lesser of evils. Most elections have been like that for me. My guy is some kind of fool or jerk, the Rip is always more so. In my experience. The Dem will ignore my political desires, where else can I go? Every Rip will be worse for all of my positions. It doesn't even matter if a long shot Rip presidential candidate shares a single policy position with me, I could never consider that one because the whole rest of the positions are no good for various reasons. I have to vote for the less worse guy.
If there was a third party that could make a difference for my points of view that would be great. But there isn't. It would be the Greens or the Libertarians, the only third parties with any possibility of oomph. The way things actually are I could only vote non-Dem if it truly didn't matter, these days it always does. Rip policies are all versions of slash & burn, survival of the fittest, kick em when they're down. I cannot afford to take an idealistic stand that would allow any of them to win. I have to go Dem. Let the Libs draw some votes from the Rips from the right. Greens should elect local officers where they can. I think it is not good to pull Dem votes away from the left at this historical moment (the last three decades). That's why I don't put energy into the Greens.
I don't know what I'd do if I lived in Walter Jones' district. But then again the Rips there are trying to get rid of him.
I know that my candidates will proceed to ignore me more or less after they get elected. They really are the only game in town. Politicians - can't live with em, can't live without em.
And I don't want to be one either. Terrible job. Spending lots of time hunting money, dealing with lowlifes of various economic positions, boring meetings, bad food, terrible hours, no private life. Yuck. Let someone else do it. My weakness.
5. The county party
I do my work as part of the Wake County Democratic Party. There are a few paid positions but they don't pay enough to live on so essentially all of the work of the county party is done by volunteers or might as well be. People bring various degrees of commitment and competency to the jobs they do for WakeDems, about on the level you'd expect to get if there was no money. Skilled people with no time, unskilled people with more time. Everyone has too much to do and it doesn't all get done. Mistakes always getting made. When made, the makers of the mistake respond with the usual range of human responses from taking the blame for everything to blaming someone else. And a lot of turnover from burnout leading to continuous attrition of institutional memory.
To the extent that one might be tempted to say we often get our people elected only because the other side is essentially just as disorganized and incompetent most of the time.
When I do my precinct organizing the county party will sometimes help me do what I want to do. My experience has been that if I try to follow their script I don't get results. This year I am not getting my queries handled in a timely manner. Each election cycle I've worked in has seemed to be less organized than the last one on the county level. It is a real why bother situation. But what I am not bothering with is trying to closely coordinate with an organization that doesn't much care about the precinct work and choosing instead to actually do that work. Because this is where the voters are. Because I want to. County party gets to be useful we'll work more closely together. Meanwhile I have work to do getting people to vote Dem. Because the alternative is worse.
They really practice the Peter Principle at WakeDems. People with aptitude are promoted until they get to a level they can't handle then they stay there.
6. The state party
I essentially have nothing to do with the state party. To me it mostly looks like a moneyed remnant of the plantation Democrats of yore living the kind of rich person life they always have in coalition with the rest of the Dem interest groups and that's why we keep coming up with Dinos like Easley. Country club Dems. Land baron Dems. And there is a remnant of NC Dems who are Dems because of Lincoln, they'll never vote Rip because of Lincoln, otherwise they'd be Rips. A real coalition party. FDR depended on them for his majorities. We do too.
The state party pays essentially no attention to the county parties. There is never any coordination. State level officers like senators & governors are essentially unreachable by ordinary people most of the time.
A lot of the people who work in both the county and state parties are hoping to move up, that's what they think it is. There may eventually be a job of some kind, or maybe they can run for something. The state party reveals itself frequently as an organization staffed by incompetents too. I ignore them, they ignore me. The state party thinks of the county parties as the minors, the national party thinks the states are the same. They try to poach the talent of the local parties whenever a competent one shows up. Its amazing anything gets done.
7. Scandal - these things happen everywhere in all regimes. Scandals are the visible result of a certain kind of incompetence. Most incompetencies are private and minor. Major public scandals are a good indication that someone has been promoted to a position beyond their competence. In every organization there will be more people ("us") who trudge on through the task list regardless of the circus act that middle management has suddenly put on. Sometimes an organization will become staffed by multiple levels of incompetents and the situation can get really out of hand.
I find that I like to imagine that Dem scandals are a bit more, um, interpersonal, while Rip scandals tend toward the financial, but a moment's reflection destroys that idea. Rips are exactly as lewd as Dems. People do stupid stuff because they want to get caught, right? Eh, doesn't have anything to do with me. I have work to do in the precinct. Scandal or not I'm working to elect Dems. Which bring me to:
8. compromise - in my political work every step of the way is a compromise. I vote for people who do not have my positions because they are still better than the other one. I know they're taking advantage of me but I do it anyway. My time here has shown me that not to do it is worse. Humphrey was better than Nixon, the revolutionary me of 1968 professed not to see the difference. The Naderist position of 2000 that there was no difference between the Ds and the Rs was either a contributing cause or the cause of the outcome that year. Never mind that in some ways it was and is true, like both of them are corruptly influenced by financial interests.
I must have a Dem president and a Dem senate for the next 4-8 years because I must have a 5th non-conservative supreme court justice. Otherwise it will be what I consider mean and nasty. This is no time for idealism. Only the Dems can possibly hold back the Rips. I'm totally fine with pushing for whatever policy point anyone wants. Then they can go out and vote Dem. Go ahead and elect a Green to local office. We're not going to have a Green president, not even a Green congressperson. A Dem is the best we're going to get. Compromise. Yuk. Compromise.
That's what being grownup is about, right? Most of the time. Most of the time its cleanup and clerical. Hero stuff hardly ever happens. Right? The real heroism is grinding through. Right?
The difference is that the Dems, some of them, when they're doing well, try to open doors for people to be able to go through while Rips are all the time looking for hidden doors so they can nail them shut. Go Dems.
9. Cooperation - in several campaigns I tried to get a joint Dem-Rep transport voters to polls operation going. They always turned me down. The Rip central commandment is to never cooperate in government if it is possible not to. Party advantage is God to them. And most of them refuse to talk with me about, you know, anything. I have one neighbor, since he realized I'm a Dem won't acknowledge me in the street. Very rare to find any that are willing to interact with people not of their tribe. I have found two who will interact, I am so thankful. And I've come across one with whom there appears to be a spiritual understanding. What do I mean? The spiritual pictures he paints in his head are completely different from mine but there is apparently another level of somethingness that we both inhabit and recognize that in each other.
Where was I? So, any time I am sitting with an amiable rightwinger & a policy matter comes up I like to warn that we will immediately get bogged down in definitions of words & phrases and we end up going back to process issues (such as the degree of incompetence and criminality in both of our parties), stuff that every human has to deal with. Either we are the jerk or everybody else is a jerk, right?
I've come to the conclusion for now that there is a split in the English language going on here, multiple splits I guess. There are attempts, mostly on the Rip side, to change the way words are used. There is a lot of sloganeering on that side. They continuously launch little propaganda acts with buzzwords & buzzphrases. Press office of the Rips so much more, you know, "fun" than the Dems, who unfortunately are constrained by the need to attempt to govern in a world filled with, you know, facts.
I am really interested in getting together with people who think of themselves as conservative to discuss THAT issue: to attempt to figure out what the words we use actually mean.
I offered one of my conservative fbfs (i tried to friend one of his friends who commented in one of our threads but that one declined to respond) that we could start perhaps trying to talk policy by taking any phrase of the Constitution & see if we could agree what it meant, go on from there, that way we could build a mutual vocabulary with which to discuss eventually other things, perhaps the public accommodation law, hmm? He has agreed to do it but we haven't started yet. Its been almost a week.
9. Real power
Here in Wake County NC 50% of the precincts are organized by the Dems. The precinct chairs have votes in many matters that come before the WakeDems honchos & minions in their executive meetings. I don't take part in those meetings, haven't been to one in years, boring, most of the time spent on nothing, occasional policy or procedure coups, chair shuffling, etc.
What, I dreamed, if the precinct chairs that exist were to get together in a caucus and agree on something, a platform perhaps? What if they took that platform & put it on an exec committee meeting agenda, showed up in numbers sufficient to pass it? 10 precinct chairs bring a motion & vote on it its going to pass.
But that's not the first dream I had. I was thinking about my grownup kids and their friends. A lot of them are in the kind of temporary this-is-not-what-I'm-going-to-do-with-my-life phase that is pretty normal in the 20s today, they spend what seems to me, the older worker, a lot of time chilling, well, at least they're staying out of trouble. Anyway, dreamed I, 5 of them could go ahead and organize a precinct. Kids could organize all 50% of the unorganized precincts. If they organized even 10 and voted as a bloc they could transform WakeDems into a pro-kid organization that could work toward Wake Co becoming more kid-friendly from a kid point of view.
I found a couple of kids understood what I was telling them, more that didn't. I got no takers. I ran the idea past a couple of YDA people at the county convention 2 years ago. One of them said: "Yeah, but what's in it for us?" I gotta say, the Dems just suck at youth outreach. The only thing is the Rips are worse. Them, us. 2 years later the local YDA is, far as I can tell, no smarter than 2 years ago, still doing essentially nothing. Why aren't they doing poll greeting at all of the unorganized precincts? Why haven't they organized the unorganized precincts? If they did they could own the Wake party. What's in it for them? Bah.
Those unorganized precincts are power lying there unused. Somebody better get them organized before the Rips send in some shill Dems to take them over from the right. Then where would we be if all of a sudden a bunch of conservatives reregistered as Dems, organized the unorganized precincts, took over the WakeDems apparatus? What's to stop it from happening? Nothing I can see. Better get cracking.
Dealing with people who don't want to compromise is one thing. I'm actually more interested in my compatriots who agree with my positions to go and do something about it. In NC there are 700,000 more Dems than Rips. If we vote we win, simple as that. So its to get all of those registered Dems to actually go out and vote for Dems.
So who are the registered Dems who don't vote or who vote non-Dem?
Old people: I was walking the precinct, met a 93 year old Dem: "I don't vote any more, they're all crooks." Well, pretty much sometimes. It can get to be the less worse crook (we hope). Even that's better than sometimes the choice is our crook or their crook. My position of course is: yes, its all a matter of degree, it doesn't help to not participate. But no, he wasn't going to vote.
Young people: I badger my young adult children & they vote but lots of their friends don't. 18-25 year olds tend to not vote in droves. Vote parties? Dem precinct organizations treat the HS Dem club to pizza when the HS club organizes a caravan of Dem students to vote? I watch as one by one their friends awaken to some kind of political awareness. The organizing of those people a work in progress. Youth: I'm talking to you: the structures are all hollow. You don't have to wait to be invited in. You can take them over. Check it out. Figure out and take over. Don't wait until you're old. Don't leave government to right wing wierdos. That stuff has got to be done. Start easy: get educated and vote.
Hedonists: they'd rather go fishing, or shop or watch TV, or imbibe something, various kinds of not "why bother" but rather can't be bothered. Used to be a lot of religious people stayed out of politics, couldn't be bothered, thought they had better things to do. Maybe hard to believe these days, but used to be. Sports fanatics: doers and watchers. The consumers of entertainment do not lobby, it is the businesses that service them that lobby. There has never been a beer drinkers lobby but there sure is a beer making and selling lobby. Well, hedonists, if you leave government to people who aren't like you they will do things their way. You have to fight for your right to party, whatever kind of party you like to have. If you don't have your people in the governing mix they won't pay any attention to you, then if they decide they don't like your style of fun they'll step on you. Go ahead and organize around your preferred activities then lobby and vote.
Leftists: Occupy, for the moment. It is obvious that Mayday will be kind of low key for the most part. Could have been an impressive millions around the world thing, announce an international conference in the fall, etc. Instead there is nothing. Look, Dem party is there for the taking, at least here in Wake County, I think actually the Dem party is hollow all the way to the top. Think about it: Occupy could be running someone for county commissioner, you know? Its got to be done. Left developments will not happen in USA by other than legislative means. If there's going to be trouble its going to come from the right. Go take over the state legislatures, can be done. Start with voting for the less worse.
I mean: THEY did it in 2010. Certainly the Tea Party phenomenon was funded but it is not their fault that they got organized and have done something. A lot of those TP legislators are going to wash out in the next election but some of them are going to stick around for decades frustrating left goals wherever they can. Leftists have to have an electoral strategy and a grass roots presence, and unfortunately for their sense of political cleanliness the only store in town, like a poorly stocked convenience store in the stix or the ghetto, is the Dems. Romantically demonstrating in the streets is from a certain point of view a hedonistic passtime. I'm a big fan of hedonic liberty, you want a hot dog roast you go right ahead. I'm a bigger fan of basic maintenance and administration. Keep demonstrating, that's fine. Vote too. And take over local Dem parties, which can be done. 5 people working together, 3 years, a county party can be taken over. And run for office, if you can stand being a public figure. You see the bozos who run and win, it is obvious that anyone can do it. Right?
(Someone ask me about the accident of history that put those guys on the right side of the room and the leftists on the left side of the room at the start of the French revolution. Or was it an accident? "Right" linguistically identical with "correctness," "left" associated with "outness," which is what the left is concerned with: those who are "left out," while the "right" is associated with having "rights" and the rightness of the rights possessors to keep their stuff and never mind if someone else is left out, that's all right. Difficulty of the inclusionary project increased by inadequate and oddly shaped linguistics.)