Liberals Should Make Vitalizing Democracy Their Key Issue — Starting With Their Local Democratic Party

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This Pew / PBS survey of twelve questions scored me as “very liberal.” I could have predicted that my score would categorize me as liberal, but I’m a little surprised that I am scored as very liberal. According to Pew, only 23% of Americans say they are liberal, while 39% of Americans claim to be conservative and 37% say they are moderate. Being liberal, according to the criteria of the Pew survey, means to agree with statements that, to me, seem like an expression of common sense:

  • “There need to be stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment”,
  • “The government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt”
  • “Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person.”

Liberals need a winning issue to champion — an issue that transcends the usual labels. None of the twelve questions on the Pew survey seem sufficiently compelling to become the driving force behind a successful political movement.

The big question that is missing on the Pew survey is one like this:  “Americans now have a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But if asked to choose whether they “completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree,” with such a statement, most everyone — right and left — would disagree. The statement, therefore, would not work to divide participants into categories, and the point of the Pew survey is to formulate questions that will help separate respondents into a left / right scale.

As their first priority, Liberals should emphasize the need to vitalize our democracy. If we had a government of the people — if most of the people could be informed and engaged — it would be a liberal government. Our democracy is endangered and in need of vitalization, and more and more citizens are becoming alarmed. The time is right for a grass roots democracy movement.

The place for liberals to start a democracy movement is within the Democratic Party itself. My aggravation with our local party organization, The Montgomery County Democratic Party, is the fact that if it actually represented county Democrats — if it acted as the “party of the people” — in fact, it would be energetic and effective in promoting liberal ideas and in electing liberal candidates. I am disappointed with the MCDP, not because I heartily disagree with many of its actions — such as its imprudent endorsement of Nan Whaley for mayor of Dayton — it is because the process of decision making in the local party is rigged, undemocratic — starting with the fact that “the deciders” in the party owe their positions to a rigged selection system. See: Only 47% Of Montgomery County Dems Will Be Represented At The MCDP Reorganization Meeting

In order for liberals to help the MCDP be an effective advocate for liberal ideas and liberal candidates, we need to do the hard work needed to make the MCDP more democratic. There are over 35,000 Dems in Montgomery County who faithfully vote in Democratic Primaries, yet the leadership of the party, by design, have failed to meaningfully engage that group. It’s hard not to conclude that for the downtown crowd running the show — mostly those with patronage jobs and those who are elected county officials — an inundation of suburban Democrats into shared governance is resisted, not welcomed.

For liberals, the best way to advance liberal ideas and liberal candidates is to greatly expand the number of Democrats who are active in the local party. The most important liberal idea we can advance is the idea that we must make our democracy work — and if, in fact, this results in grassroots Democrats forming a consensus around ideas and candidates more conservative than I might like, that would be OK with me.

As part of the process for preparing for the MCDP reorganization meeting, liberals and every Democrat concerned about the state of our democracy need to brainstorm and come to consensus on an action plan that can be presented to the reorganization delegates for consideration.


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One Response to Liberals Should Make Vitalizing Democracy Their Key Issue — Starting With Their Local Democratic Party

  1. Eric says:

    Dear Vice-President of the South of Dayton Democratic Club

    “imagining a political party being anything other than bosses and insiders raising money, handing out jobs and advancing and protecting themselves”

    How’s that going? Please let me know of any progress supporting institutions foundational to a republic “of the people, by the people, for the people.”

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