October 7, 2006
By Bill Kraus
The political party system which evolved early on in this country and dominated the selection and funding and management of candidacies for most of our existence is now pretty much gone. The parties have no meaningful role to play in the process. Their delegations are increasingly taken over by what used to be the fringe groups that joined the parties to advance their bizarre agendas and that were usually marginalized by the centrist citizen politicians who were in charge of those parties.
If you were advising some young person who wanted to become active in politics today, it is unlikely that you would suggest joining a party, getting to be a delegate to a party convention, working their way up the party leadership ladders’ county chair, district chair, state chair. This is not where the action is.
Candidate organizations have always been important. They used to be supplementary to party organizations. But as the money flow shifted from parties to candidates, as candidates became self-selecting—entrepreneurial if you will—the would-be activists joined those organizations as a route to power and influence.
That is the mildest form of tribalizing going on in America.
We take another giant step away from being a representative democracy as candidates and their organizations become more important than party organizations and as legislative leaders who recruit, train, and fund candidates became more important than both.
Alongside the candidate organizations there is another tribalizing route to power and influence: special interest organizations that espouse narrow causes, ideas, philosophies, economic interests, or any interest for that matter. The most obvious (and most powerful) of these are pro-choice, pro-life, pro-guns, pro-environment, pro-business, pro-schools (more likely pro-teachers), pro-gambling, even pro-good government, the dreaded reform organizations.
As the power shifts to candidates and causes, the middle, the general interest, is squeezed out. The warlords are the legislative leaders and the leaders and funders of the special interest organizations. And they and their tribal followers rule.
You may have noticed that one of the main reasons that democracy doesn’t work in many (most?) parts of the third world is that their political organizing principal, if any, is tribal.
Is it possible that U.S. efforts to bring democracy to those who don’t have it is simply selling them a more sophisticated version of what they already have.
Maybe we should put a fix in at home first.
post a letter about this blog »