Monday, January 14, 2008

A report from this weekend's SDEC Austin conclave

... from Open Source Dem. He provides as always a biting yet cogent view:


As usual, the SDEC meeting was … dysfunctional and dismaying for Democratic candidates and supporters -- for any citizen or patriot who might have witnessed it.

Please forgive me for not getting as depressed at this as some, but my son is dealing with the problem of self-government in northeast Baghdad. Now that is much worse. But don’t pity me, or him. He is young, fit and welcomes the challenge. He may be foolhardy but he is also learning political cunning and small-unit leadership skills.

It is winter here now, but republican democracy can blossom in Texas overnight. That is not true in most of the world, where our armed forces are being squandered by GOP idiots and Democratic cowards.

No business of consequence was conducted publicly in Austin Saturday. No big surprise.

The good news is that Lloyd CRISS got a precedent-breaking resolution past the Palace Guard. It is not an silly plea but a directive from the SDEC to its staff to mount a statewide GOTV campaign. That is not what the DLC/DCCC want. It is what they should have done in 2006. But it is also a precedent in demonstrating both the power and responsibility of the SDEC.

Otherwise, underneath the time-wasting and empty ritual, the Praetorians killed everything and began hinting at a new quest to kill off various “caucuses” that threaten professional control of the party. An exciting new concept was unveiled: not adopting, amending, ignoring or enforcing rules -- not even the usual ignorance, especially of Robert’s Rules -- now Rules Committee First Spear Centurion Bill Brannon has introduced the concept of “trumping” the rules with a mish-mash of parliamentary malarkey. This is less the usual mumbo jumbo than outright humiliation and intimidation of SDEC members.

The matter of applying for recognition by and membership on an Advisory Committee established by party rules will be difficult to conclude inasmuch as there appears to be a regular and an ad hoc committee each with the same name and “trumping” the rules. That is absurd, but what is new about that?

Here are my and David VAN OS’ comments at Texas Kaos.

To revisit the complaint, while party insiders claim to be “winning elections”, they actually minimized party performance in the 2006 Blue Wave -- essentially opting out of the DNC fifty-state strategy and adhering strictly to the DLC/DCCC “targeted campaign” effort. The TDP set new $/vote consultant-subsidy records and delivered two new “Bush Dogs” (Nick Lampson and Ciro Rodriguez) committed to prolonging the war in Iraq and extending it to Iran.

The TDP is also collaborating with TEAM implementation. That is the only tool we have for turning out new and unlikely voters. But that is not what consultants do: they are only interested in commissions from “likely voter” media and the Voter Activation Network is the only tool they have. It substitutes for direct TEAM access. So the TDP – solidly aligned behind the DLC/DCCC and governed by a remarkably unsuccessful gaggle of pimp-consultants -- has helped to reverse the “New Direction” promised by Nancy PELOSI and articulated spectacularly by Jim WEBB.

Thanks to a state party establishment rented out to the Texas Trust, Rahm EMANUEL is effectively Speaker of the House and Joe LIEBERMAN is actually the Senate Majority Leader. Matt ANGLE is effectively State Chair(man) and Martin FROST is Cardinal-Protector of the PACs. Super-rich donors -- out of state or, in the case of property-managers and concession-tenders, foreign -- have now created a Congressional majority that mimics the SDEC: it is less popular than even George W. BUSH and a drag on all Democratic campaigns. But the TDP is going all out (a) to maintain that death grip on this party and (b) to tie up and deliver a delegation of mind hostages -- drones, if you prefer -- to the national convention.

In 2008 the party elite are, again, protecting Craddick Democrats, leaving key GOP seats uncontested and remaining indifferent to, if not scared of, the populist uprising evident all across the country. They are using “McGovern Rules” (hard quotas) and sheer deception -- “rulesmanship” -- to hide control of the party by a handful of white male lawyers operating behind a velvet curtain of “inclusiveness”.

The simple fact of the matter is that both the Democratic and GOP party establishments would rather lose elections than lose control of their respective parties.

The sort of populist upwelling of political participation we now see is infrequent -- absent for intervals of 20-40 years -- as most voters pursue lives far removed from the deal culture of elite-controlled, collaborative parties. But, when populism is manifest, look out: populism is culturally driven, interest-constrained, and constitutionally operational. When the people -- in droves, as seen in Iowa and New Hampshire -- return to politics it is out of dire concern, expressed as either hope or anger but focused on what they consider to be their heritage, birthright, and posterity and not the petty, often corrupt, obsessions of political elitists.

Still, the dynamic is different within each party. Today’s GOP coalition of Trotskyites (neoconservatives), Darbyites (religious right), and Thatcherites (tax shifters) is self-destructing and radiating hate-filled absurdity, even as it collapses into a, well, “white hole”. But don’t smugly cheer: the center of the Republican Party today –- the federal, state, and local officials, not to mention a slew of Cold War paramilitary organs -- is now pumped up with 'War on Terror' and Homeland Security funds. These include not a few of the hard men -- absent Generals Rove and DeLay -- who think of politics as war itself, still well-trained and -funded to “do whatever it takes” to hold power, not least to set aside what is left of the Constitution. Whatever polls or for that matter our clap-trap elections say, this hard core of the GOP will not relinquish control gently.

The latent majority of Democrats -- a huge majority in Texas –- are in fact intensely patriotic, more frustrated than angry, filled with hope and not hate, and constructive, patient, and considerate; not destructive, desperate, or violent. Yes, we are confused by and annoyed with our party establishment. Yes, we need to get smart, replace them quickly, and move on to competitive rather than collaborative politics. That takes a real party; not plush offices in Austin, not an official entourage of young, pretty personal assistants, not kickbacks of free hospitality suites and limousines at state and national conventions run as over-priced “beauty pageants”, not a two-bit “likely-voter” campaign tool, scaled for individual House races, where a statewide get-out-the-vote program should be.

Once again the state party establishment is spending capital and mortgaging the future in a bid to boost its individual members up the patronage chain into state and federal appointed positions. They talk about winning elections, but all they are doing is currying favor with lobbies and aggrandizing themselves personally. Theirs is an exit strategy from politics that is, simply, more competitive than collaborative. The state party establishment is not really prepared or fit for competition.

What this calls for is a progressive populist caucus that has a plan and resources to take over the state convention, to inform delegates, to manage their time competently, to exercise plenary power of the state party, to exploit historic developments well underway, and to restore republican democracy to a fine party.

Our party is the first republican party in North American, the oldest democratic party in the world, but a decrepit and nearly inconsequential shell of its former self in Austin.

Sad as that is, parties are very lightweight institutions. All the Presidential candidates are talking change -- the easiest change of all being the discarding of a state party establishment of sycophants, toads, and fools. Actually, it is a good thing to be on the fringe of a party so badly run as ours in this state.

It makes the housecleaning more obvious and vital, for one thing.

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