Implementing Electronic Democracy
Fixing our Democratic Party Is how to strengthen the Party
Tom Hartmann made the statement a few years ago during one of his programs about the need to:
"weaken the parties and strengthen the people.*"
On the contrary we need to strengthen our political party system in order to empower the people.
The Democratic Party was created out of Democratic Societies or Clubs that represented the interest of common people against the then centralizing interests of the Federalists who created the Constitution we operate under, partly with an interest in weakening the power of common people. This battle became a tug of war between party and leadership interests, the country's interest and that of party or leadership. To bring all this together requires structural form. The way the party is constituted and operates is as important as who is involved. The current Key Issue Gaps in both our party and our country are:
- Selection and Vetting Process for Candidates
- Vetting, Review and Accounting Process for Officers
- The way we identify and Track Issues
- Our Weakened Press and Speech capabilities.
- Our weakened deliberative Process.
Little "d" in the Democratic Party
All these issues are tied to one another. And all of them can be addressed with threshold kludge fixes and by setting an objective to make more permanent fixes to our charter and constitute a more just society that addresses those issues. Ultimately they need to be addressed permanently with a Second Bill of Rights, but as a Democratic Party, we can institute many of these changes as a party. Thomas Jefferson did this when he constituted the Democratic party in the first place.
We Democrats win when we;
- fight to make our party inclusive and that our leaders represent us.
- Organize so that people are involved in every election top to bottom.
- Organize electronic democracy and provide social & official communication between candidates, representatives & general members.
- Use electronic democracy as an informal tool in decision making.
- Use the Chapter, Club and member organization system to provide diverse yet inclusive leadership backup and local participation.
- Make people feel this is "our Democratic Party" instead of seeing it as some tool of corporate interests.
- Stop talking about "those Democrats" and start using we and us.
- Articulate our ideas, concepts, democratic and non-violent strategies and legislative principles.
- Recruit people of all faiths and beliefs.
What we need to do is to:
strengthen the Democratic Party and its democratic attributes so that the people will be strengthened
Parties like the Democratic party exists in order to serve their members and to give us the power to be stronger together, and has so since the beginning of the country. Since the party is a big tent and contains all sorts of interests, from ones that are powerful with or without a party, to others who are only powerful when they work with others. The purpose of letting the party have clubs and other semi permanent sub groups is to channel all that information and energy to running the country sanely.
Ultimately we would have a system where the Republicans were run similarly and the country as a whole run justly as a result.
The Democratic Party as a Networked Utility
The Democratic party is US. And our leaders are our standard bearers, not "them", or they need to be replaced. We have to have officers to run the party and those officers should probably be prohibited from also being candidates or running for election. This would be a major change, but it would deconflict the primary process and prevent the kind of games that lead the personal ambitions of politicians to over-rule the function and health of the party. The Democratic party has to be run as a democratic utility.
Centralized Issue Tracking and Bottom up Information Flow
The purpose of organizing the IT centrally is to keep well ordered control over how those groups debate and work together. They need to be free to work out their differences. But there need to be rules to minimize trolling and oppressive bullying.
We are going to have internal struggles, and one of the purposes of an institution like the Democratic Party is to moderate and officiate/adjudicate these internal struggles through the candidate selection system and primaries. There has to be vigorous debate to achieve true unity and consensus. Fake unity is when 51% permanently decides or minorities stop debate. Real unity is achieved through relentless deliberation and parliamentarian participation.
Better Primary process
The Primary process should be about identifying, vetting, training and fostering candidates for public office.
As a party we should train everyone in civics and legal issues, broadcast pertinent information, record issues, and moderate the debates between candidates.
Anyone should be able to throw their hat in the ring for public office. But when they do so as Democrats we should require them to sign a contract with the People to:
- Testify on their background and fitness for office, preferably under oath.
- Provide documentation of their fitness, criminal and civil record for review by a review panel
- A review panel should have the power to issue a report on their fitness an qualifications. No more.
- The Review panel should also moderate debates and get candidates to commit to plank and campaign promises, on the record.
Once all the candidates are done debating etc... the Party should provide a report & summary of the debates, with objective information, and leaving out the personal feelings of the reporters.... to the people in the party who will vote on them. Then the voters can make informed decisions about who to select to be a candidate for elected office. This can be replicated at State and National level. Candidates for State Office should be vetted by representatives from around the State. Local Candidates locally.
Presidential candidates By representatives from around the country. Debates should be held in each subdivision that the candidate represents. The process should be longer the larger the representation. My opinion is we should elect Presidential candidates on a Single Primary Day after they've debated around the country. But the exact rules should be set by the Democratic party at an annual convention. There is value to making them visit each State. There should be a debate in each State.
At the end of each elected or appointed term of office, there should be an accounting audit. First auditors should examine the economic behavior of the Officer for appropriateness and financial rectitude and create a report. Next a panel should examine the record of the candidate against his campaign promises and interactions with lobbyists and special interests. That panel would also look at the audit report. If the officer wants to run for new or re-elected office, that panel report should be a public record going into the vetting for the next election. The panel should also have the ability to refer such reports to prosecutors.
Internal Officers And Clubs
Each sub-division of government in the United States should have a formal subdivision of the Democratic Party with everyone living in that subdivision having a right to participate. [this is pretty much already the case] Officers should be elective and serve a term that ends with an election and a Party Convention. The Party conventions should be televised and offer virtual participation. Party Officials should be prohibited from being elected officials. In addition to these the Democratic party should have Democratic Clubs to represent all the various subgroups of our party: women, liberals, conservatives, youth, minorities etc... These should also have elected officers, but membership should be fluid. Elected Club Officers should have the power to moderate discussions. The Democratic party membership should be open to all declared Democrats. The rules should be standard and National clubs encouraged to have chapters and recursive subchapters. The Clubs would provide news, two way communications and have access to a tool for tracking issues, debates, policy and legislative proposals. Most of this should be transparent to everyone. Candidates could create campaign Clubs with even more fluid rules. The purpose of this is to promote debate and two way communications. Information should be pushed up to national officers on national issues.
Reconstituting a Free Press
Unfortunately the Press is being oppressed or disappearing in much of the Country. The Democratic party should have a built in Press Feature. Members of the Press should have some rights and responsibilities. There should be a volunteer press, and a certified press. The Press should be subject to some standards of objective reporting and these should be determined by the members of the Press itself. The Press would be a special Democratic Club. They'd have a responsibility to record & report on:
- All meetings, activities, legislation and policies of the Government in their Area of Jurisdiction
- Any legal or social matter of their choosing, of interest to the general public.
- All Democratic Party deliberations should be reported on and/or broadcast.
The Certified Press should be cleared to listen in on "private matters" of the Government as background information. Members of the Press should have the ability to Join the Press freely. Certification should be granted by the Press Club. They should be sworn to embargo time sensitive information, and to keep confidences on sources and confidential information, and follow basic Press Ethical rules created by the club. The punishment for breaking such confidence would be loss of certification initiated by the parties who agreed to share confidence with them. Their colleagues would have the power to restore certification via panel. But mainly both Certified and Volunteer press would be given a broadcast medium for Stories. Maybe through a deal with groups like the AP. Maybe the Dem Party having it's own network.
A Free Press is absolutely necessary to investigate matters such as corruption. Vetting and Accounting panels would have certified Press members monitoring them. The Party would be required to let certified Press sit in on meetings. Eventually the formal government would use similar procedures. WE should be broadcasting Government proceedings as a rule and private meetings should be an exception for time sensitive matters.
Improved Deliberative Process
The purpose of all this is to bring an improvement to our deliberative process. Members of the party should have the power to influence the plank that candidates run on and enforce that they represent members rather than special interests, often outside the party. Improved deliberative process is also served by setting up the Club and Party System with media built in.
If the party doesn't do this, we can build some of this informally. We already have democratic groups on facebook and similar. The risk is that Facebook is a private for profit organization that is not exactly democratic. That is why we need to build the infrastructure I'm talking about.
- Related Posts
- Vetting and Accounting for Democratic Candidates And Officers
- Implementing Democratic Subsidiarity
- Lessons from Organizing for America
- What Electronic Democracy Means
- A More Effective Democratic Infrastructure
- Definitions Related to Democratic Republicanism
- Principles of Federalism
- "Demos" in the Federalist Papers
- Lakoff & building a Party that can be all it can be
- The Trouble with Bernie Sanders
- If the DNC (tries to) Rig the Primaries they risk the election
- Our Democratic Movement is not a Totalitarian Movement
- The Paranoid Left's insane demonology
- Community Policing and Democratic Subsidiarity
- Organizing Local Democracy around the Post Office
Note, this post draws on previous posts, but also refers to them. All these were inspired by wanting to throw a shoe at Thom Hartmann*
*Note, they didn't rig the primaries, but that was a concern. This is here because of Project Ivy
I had reruns of Thom Hartmann I was listening to a couple of years ago. He started talking about the need to "weaken the parties and strengthen the people.*" My immediate reaction was that I emphatically believe that is demented! (fortunately he later started talking about the need to participate in the party). As long as we see "the Democrats" as "them", we'll keep losing. The Democratic party is US. And our leaders are our standard bearers, not "them", or they need to be replaced. I started to draft a series of articles then as I thought about how you go about strengthening a party and putting the little "d" into the Democratic party, effectively. I wrote that series of posts. But the more I read and wrote, the clearer I got on what was needed. But it all comes back to the same vision. I also lost interest in Thom's show. I still feel so close to him in some ways, but I think he's off track on others. I learned a lot from him. But it was time to move on.
- * I just wanted to throw a shoe at the TV. But I would have broken it, so I just fired up my blogger instead. About half the list above were inspired by that shoe.