I’m going to a meeting this evening of a group called Blue Ohio. Its website says that the mission of the group is to: “Motivate a strong majority of Ohioans to vote for Democratic candidates in local, state, and national elections.” The group is working on a plan that includes mailing out flyers, hosting candidate forums and organizing events for candidates.
I respect the efforts of Blue Ohio members to make a positive impact in politics and I want to be supportive of their efforts. But, to achieve progressive goals, I’m coming to the conclusion that a nonpartisan approach has a greater chance for success than a partisan one. People are sick to death of partisanship — when polled, 43% of voters identify as nonpartisan. A candidate forum sponsored by a group dedicated to electing Democrats would be a turn-off for a lot of voters. Progressives need a venue to positively interact with Independents.
Turning Ohio Blue sounds good, but if Democrats command 51% of the vote in Ohio, is Ohio Blue? If Democrats win 60%, is Ohio Blue? The fact is, turning Ohio Blue will never be possible. It will always have lots of red. We need to move away from a “winner-take-all” politics based on division and wedge issues and move towards a politics focused on unity and consensus.
Rather than focusing on achieving partisan victories, I’m concluding that progressives should focus on making our system of representative democracy work as it should. We need to have confidence that a government of the people would be a progressive government. Moving towards empowering a nonpartisan government of the people would be revolutionary. It would be fiercely resisted by the two party monopoly that is enriched and empowered in the current system. It would be resisted by every person and every organization that benefits from the partisan division of the political status quo.
Rather than pumping up a system built on partisanship and division, progressives should find a way to advance a system built on nonpartisanship and community. That sounds hopelessly idealistic, I know — words, words, words. But suppose a group took such idealistic goals seriously and worked together to move from words to deeds. I’m wondering what an organization called “Nonpartisan Ohio” might look like, how it would define its mission, its goals.