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The Mission of the Democratic Party Should Be to Empower Democracy to Work

This is a re-write of a paper that I presented to the Executive Committee of the Montgomery County Democratic Party at their October meeting, October 25.

Ralph Nader once said the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are like Pepsi and Coke — two marketing brands, both selling basically the same product.

The mission of Pepsi Cola is to sell Pepsi Cola, to increase shareholder value. The mission of the Republican Party is pretty much the same. Both the Pepsi Co and the Republican Party have a product to sell; both, in fact, have been pretty successful at selling their product. Pepsi has spent many millions of dollars over the years on marketing. The Republican Party has done the same. And, amazingly, Republican marketing wizards, like Carl Rove, have succeeded in advancing a weak product to dizzying heights — regardless that the product, in fact, is absolutely harmful to and against the financial interests of 85% of its customers. Republican marketing has been amazing.

What Nader is saying, to me, in his Pepsi/Coke put-down of political parties, is that, as he sees it, the mission of the Democratic Party and the mission of the Republican Party are the same. Both are trying to sell a product, both are centered on marketing.

It is important, I feel, that we define what the mission of the Democratic Party, in fact, really is. I don’t think our mission is to be an advocacy group focused on certain issues. If so, then, again we would simply be all about marketing.

I believe our mission is to promote and empower democracy. If we could actually fulfill such a mission — by educating the public, by empowering opportunities for political participation, by creating community — then, of course, Democrats would win elections in droves. Having Democrats win elections in droves, in such a case, would be a byproduct of accomplishing our mission, not the point of the mission.

Having Democrats win in droves is not the point. The point is to solve problems, the point is to make government effective so that there is an increase in justice, fairness and prosperity for everyone. Our firm belief is that vigorous democracy offers the best means to solve societal problems, and that through vigorous democracy we find the best leadership. Our democracy, however, is far from vigorous. And the weak state of our democracy is what is bringing disaster us. As a Political Party, we have a unique responsibility to work to make our democracy effective.

So, if Republicans manage to infuriate sufficient voters so that Democrats take firm control. Then what? Electing Democrats is hardly the answer if we are simply electing Republicans in Democratic clothing. Electing Democrats is hardly the answer if we are not electing effective and wise individuals.

What is ever more evident is that our nation is in peril. We are not producing a leadership that has the wisdom and passion needed to articulate solutions. Our failure to form effective government, at heart, stems from the fact that our democracy simply is not working as it should. In a democracy, the hope is that the cream rises, that the best and most enlightened among us rise to the positions of leadership. But, in our democracy, this is not happening.

The mission of the Democratic Party should be to empower democracy, because, it is only through an empowered democracy that we, as a nation, can hope to find our way, that we can hope to generate the needed societal cohesion, that we can hope to help the best ideas and the best leadership to emerge. It is only through an empowered democracy, I believe, that we have the chance to secure for ourselves and our grandchildren a good future.

In my opinion article, “The Big Questions Facing Our Democracy Are Too Important To Allow Political Parties to Decide,” I tell about the July 27 Dayton Daily News article that sorely criticized the Montgomery County Republican Party for its blatant suppression of democracy via an early primary candidate endorsement process. The Dayton Daily included a slap at the Montgomery County Democratic Party, saying that the Democratic Party, in its suppressing of democracy, acts the same as the Republican Party.

We need to do everything in our power to dispel the notion that the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are the same. We should take no actions that would discourage individuals from fully participating in their democracy. Making recommendations/endorsements of primary candidates prior to the deadline for filing discourages participation. The problem with making an endorsement is not the fact of the endorsement itself, but the fact that the endorsement effectively suppresses democratic participation. To a great degree, as its advocates assert, the whole point of early endorsement is to limit primary activity — as a strategy to save money. The practice is rightly condemned by The Dayton Daily News in its January 27 article as anti-democratic.

Our opportunity is to distinguish ourselves from the Republicans and I ask for a second to this motion:

Prior to the deadline for the filing of candidate’s petitions, January 4, 2008, the Montgomery County Democratic Party shall make no official recommendations / endorsements concerning primary candidates for the offices of State Representative or State Senator.

In both the Executive Committee and the Central Committee there were seconds to this motion and good discussion. The motion was defeated by two to one against. See more details.

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