Monday, June 1, 2009

One does not follow the other

Insofar as I've heard any defense of the draft platform, it is the argument that this new type of platform will be one around which Democrats can organize. For instance, from John Walsh, party chair:

The overall goal is to produce a document that is not put on the shelf for four years. To achieve that, we'll need to understand that while in the past, the convention vote has been the end of the process; we need to be ready to make it only the end of the first step...

Once the platform is adopted at the convention, we'll get on it. In addition to a blog to talk about and "build the case" for what they believe is the next step to achieve our goals, Democrats need to commit to organizing to make it happen. At the convention, the party will be announcing The Community Organizers' Initiative, a program that puts the tools of organizing into the hands of community organizers around the Commonwealth.

DSC member Steven Fradkin lectures activists to

Keep the spirit and intent of the Platform intact, so that it will remain a document that can be used by more elect more Democrats.

Apparently the old platform was making it hard to pick off the dozen or so Republican officeholders of note that we have in the Commonwealth. I guess the idea of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't apply this time 'round.

Frankly, I have no idea how the losing bland-platform argument is supposed to follow from the winning go-organize! argument. Were lots of people saying "I want to organize people to be Democrats, but goshdarnit, there are just too many details! Better to keep it vague!"? Is this the reason nobody runs against Daniel Webster or Susan Williams Gifford, the overly detailed platform?

We're seeing the conflation of two things in this explanation. The first idea, that of bottom-up, activist-empowered organizing, is remaking modern politics and should be the fundament of our state party. Starting from the Dean meetups through the Deval and Obama campaigns, this is a winning approach (which is why I'm trying to borrow it to fight the party elders). These Community tools sound awesome, and I can't wait to reach out to people who recognize the impact standardized testing has on education, an impact that state party leaders now wants to ignore. Kudos to the state party leadership for launching that.

On the other hand is this idea of taking some selected specifics out of the platform. Heck, I'd be happy if I could discern a pattern from which details stay and which are cut (see here). How does this help, again? That old crusher argument on education -- "you should be a Democrat because we oppose the MCAS" is gone. Now it's "you should be a Democrat, well, just trust me that most Democrats don't like the MCAS". Organizing labor as Democrats around the issue of prevailing wage? Gone.

I suppose this platform will make it easier to organize people because now anyone, anyone can feel comfortable being a Democrat now. Carla Howell favors "fair and equitable taxation" so she could sign up, I guess. The platform is so close to the Republican one that it's surprisingly difficult to tell them apart.

This is the strategy of a losing party, not a winning one. Which is why it feels so out of place, and why I wonder where it will lead. As does John Walsh, I favor turning more Democrats into officeholders through organization. However, this draft platform is just an attempt to turn more officeholders into Democrats through redefinition.

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