The Party belongs to the People, not the Insiders!
On July 4th, as we celebrate our Founders’ decision to exercise our right to be a nation sovereign from the King of England, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect upon the legacy of America, and whether or not we have lived up to our promise to be a nation built on the principle that people are born to be free and autonomous, and have the right to live with minimal government intervention.
Our nation, founded on the principle of limited government, seems no longer limited by any measure. Government intervention in healthcare, retirement, education, finance, housing, and countless other areas of life are not mentioned in our Constitution.
Citizens are convinced that not only are politicians corrupt, but so is the very process that elects and re-elects them year after year. Americans seem to feel alienated from the government and the political process as a whole.
Why in a free country would this be the case?
The two major political parties are localized and decentralized. Yet most people have no knowledge or awareness of the workings of their local political parties. When new activists talk about the “grassroots,” few are talking about the grassroots of the major political parties.
In Sasha Issenberg’s book “The Victory Lab,” he references a quote from Matt Reese, a high-level Democratic committee campaign operative for Lyndon Johnson in 1964:
“(political) Consultants have become possible because of the decline of the political parties, and the consultant has made the parties even more irrelevant.”
This fact is painfully obvious to anyone who bothers still to be active in their local county political committee. But why? Can this phenomenon be reversed?
The highly-paid or looking-for-a-future-in-politics political consultant is not necessarily a friend of the county committee or the grassroots. They operate in a world of media strategy, “messaging,” direct mail, and other top-down methods of winning campaigns.
The county committees were set up in a time when there was no mass media. Committeemen were responsible for getting the vote out and all election activities.
In the era of big-money, high-stakes political campaigns, consultants want to control the process and the message, believing this is what is going to get their candidate elected.
There is some schizophrenia involved here, too. The consultants know it is useful to have real people stand at the polls on election day, and people to make phone calls before Election Day. But they don’t trust the reliability of the existing political machinery to “do the job.” Somewhere, somehow, people have forgotten the original purpose of the local political party.
The political committeemen can serve a vital function in all parts of the election cycle. Committeemen are objective public servants in the neighborhood to give their neighbors information during election season. Neighbors may feel more comfortable getting information from their elected committeemen than even the candidate himself.
A well-trained committee person is competent and knowledgeable. This might be the most intimidating phenomenon for a professional consultant. How can the consultant command his high fees if committeemen are doing such a good job? Good question…
Unfortunately for the political process, the role of the committeeman has been downplayed now over at least 2 or more generations, as consultants realized they had control of the airwaves, so long as there was enough money available. But are voters really paying attention anymore? That is certainly debatable.
The solution is obvious. If we truly want to take back the political process, we must restore the rightful role of the political committees, which is a restoration of the grassroots nature that is built into the political parties. Citizens have another opportunity to do this in the spring of 2014, when most of these precinct positions are up for re-election.
When I hear people say, “Oh, the party is this,” or “the party is that.” I know they are not talking about their local party. They are thinking about politicians in Washington. But what about the local party? What are they doing?
The local party is the only organized method citizens have of communicating with their elected officials and providing the liaison with the public. If we restore that system, which is already in place, we will go a long way to restoring a healthy, participatory Republic.