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rbnyc

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Gender: Female
Hometown: New York
Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 17,043

Journal Archives

Winning

As we struggle to use our deeply pathological political process to advocate for social and economic justice, two critical activities are primary elections and general elections. We are now in primary season, and I am speaking as a progressive voter.

I am a registered Democrat for only one reason, so that I can participate in Democratic primary elections as a means of communicating my values and concerns to party leadership. The political center has been moving to the right for decades and I believe the driving force behind that trend is the failure of registered Democrats to utilize primary elections in this way. Constituents place too much emphasis on selecting a candidate who is perceived to be electable. Constituents judge candidates through the eyes of others and elevate the candidate with the most perceived broad appeal...and the most immediately recognizable spending power. Constituents dismiss candidates who more closely represent their own positions because they know those positions have been marginalized. Constituents dismiss candidates who must rely on financial contributions from the general population because we don't believe the general population can compete with entrenched power. The underlying themes in this kind of constituent behavior are fear and shame. Refusal to act in a contrary manner is compliance. Refusing to act in a contrary manner is a message to Democratic leadership that constituents are willing to give up a lot for emblematic victories.

I am fervently in support of Bernie Sanders this primary season, as I intend to be in the general election. I am also in support of anyone who favors another candidate if such an alignment is based on positions and values. But I do think a serious mistake is made when we try to shape our positions into what we hope will be winnable, rather than trying to win with the positions we believe are important.

There's an analogy in non-profit fundraising. When organizations change their programs in order to win grant support, what happens to the organization is called mission creep. When this is done time and again, the organization finds it has strayed from its intended mission and values and is participating in a smattering of activities responsive to grant guidelines. The solution is to give up that funding. Funding should chase programs; programs shouldn't chase funding.

The Democratic Party has mission creep, because we're afraid no one will chase us.

There's another analogy in fundraising. The best way to avoid mission creep is to collect the bulk of revenue through modest individual gifts. This also turns out to be best for growth. (Bernie wins again.)

My strong appeal to everyone, no matter whom you support, is to reject language about viability and electability and always frame the debate in terms of issues. This is not the same as being unconcerned about winning. It's about winning by selling what you want to sell, instead of by trying to figure out what people are buying and selling that.

(I am highly conscious that this narrative is dismissive of third parties. That's a problem. The two-party system doesn't work. I acknowledge my unwillingness to fully commit to a third party as being somewhat analogous to the misuse of Democratic primaries. I do, however, see my participation in Democratic primaries as similar to being an independent public servant who caucuses with Democrats.)
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