After much press and campaigning, the Democratic National Committee elected a new chairman, Tom Perez. His main opponent, Keith Ellison, accepted the position of vice chair, and the overall message from the two of them was “unity.” Like clockwork, the “real progressives” promptly started whining about how the party “hadn’t learned its lesson,” and spent time on the internet and press complaining. What makes this annoying is some of the statements are from people who should know better.
Earlier this year, I said that they don’t understand politics. Every time I read what they’re saying, they demonstrate that. “The Party should,” “the Party needs to,” “the Party must,” are all phrases at the beginning of a statement about what they think should happen. Why does it show a lack of understanding? Because it shows they think of “The Democratic Party” as a top-down organization, with the DNC Chair as the executive authority. It’s far from that.
As I said in my pundits post, political parties are not “top down” organizations, they’re “bottom up.” If you read what the DNC actually is, you’d quickly realize that. It’s not an organization where the chairperson orders things done, and Democrats jump to accomplish it.
Which is why they fail so regularly, and complain about it. They fail because they never seem to grasp something very simple, in fact, something I talked about at the beginning of this blog: All politics are local. That means if you want progressive candidates, a “more progressive” platform, you need to be organizing and active in your local party.
Here’s the reality: “The Democratic Party,” and in particular the DNC, doesn’t pick any candidates. None. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee don’t pick them either. There are no directives coming down from “The Party” telling local committees who to run. In fact, there’s often not anything in the way of money. It’s the local parties who find candidates, and identify potential ones to those organizations for recruiting. They’re the ones who decide who they’re going to endorse, and who they’re going to put on the ballot. It’s a lot of work, and mostly thankless. It’s only after the local parties have made their choices that the larger organizations come in.
The failure – or unwillingness – to grasp that is why so many of the purity progressives keep failing. Oh, they can do damage, but they don’t help. Their “ideals” are more important than actually getting something accomplished. If this past month has been any real lesson, it’s that there is a very real and quantitative difference between the two parties. Think of any “progressive ideal” and it’s under attack and being rolled back by the Republicans. It doesn’t matter what your opinion polls say, the reality is that the Republicans aren’t listening to them and they control the government right now.
You want progressive action? It starts in your backyard. Screaming at “The Party” doesn’t do anything except waste everyone’s time. There’s a real danger to this country and what we expect right now, and if you’re not helping to change that at the local level, you’re in the way.