Work Within the Democratic Party?
UPDATE 5/2019: This chapter was written back when George W. Bush was still in power. It is very obsolete!
Since this was written, the Democrats have become considerably more authoritarian on matters of free speech. On the other hand, one of the candidates, Andrew Yang, is voicing some ideas similar to those on this site. But at the moment he has no discernable traction.
As I write this , the Democratic Party is struggling. The Republicans control all branches of the federal government and are also doing quite well at the state level.
A party in trouble is a party in need of new ideas. Well, here they are!
Bill Clinton said, “The era of big government is over,” and was a popular leader as a Democrat. He was most popular when he ruled from the center, when he reformed welfare, was tough on crime, and cut the budget deficit. When he tried to rule from the left, nationalizing medicine and admitting gays in the military, his party was clobbered and the Republicans took over the House.
This rule from the center did not always sit well with his liberal base, and during the 2004 presidential election, the party went with a hardcore liberal – which led to Bush winning a second term.
On this site you can find hardcore liberal ideas that shrink government. It is possible to appeal to the center and accomplish many liberal aims. Instead of compromising with the Right to stay in power, it is possible to steal their thunder by becoming the party of smaller government. It is even possible to regain the Christian moral high ground; see “God’s Welfare System” and “The Law of Liberty.”
If you are a Democratic activist, you can serve your party by pointing out these ideas to volunteers at party gatherings, to candidates, and their campaign workers. If you are someone who shows up for meetings, works a precinct, stuffs envelopes, helps with fundraisers, etc. the powers that be in the party will listen to you. You don’t have to be a big donor (though that works too). This is especially true at the local level. If you want to sway a presidential candidate, you have to work your way high up into the party hierarchy.
That said, you will also be rebuffed at times. Many of the leftwing ideas on this site are new and alien to those who grew up on socialism as the path to equality. Also, you have to deal with the special interests. Every party in power has them. Small government means no special privileges for special people.
Your best chance to make a difference is in a district where the Democratic Party is currently weak. There, the current leadership is more likely to be open to new ideas and/or the leadership is weak enough that the local party can be taken over. Conversely, you chances of making a difference within the Democratic Party are small if you live in a liberal district. The party will be fat and happy, with plenty of special interest money, and you would have to unseat an incumbent in a primary, which is not a way to make friends in the party.
So, if you live in a conservative district, your best chances for making a difference may well lie within your local Democratic Party. The party will be ripe for new ideas, the primary will be open to new candidates, and leadership positions will be available for those who are willing to work hard for the party under such adverse conditions. Then again, if your district is extremely conservative, the stigma against the Democratic Party may be so strong that a third party approach might be better in the long run, even though your local Democratic Party is currently stronger than any existing third party.
As I have already stated, many of these ideas on this site would also be useful for Democrats at the statewide and presidential level, but I cannot give good guidance on how to affect such races. If you work hard enough and long enough within the party, you might get the ear of someone running for president, but this is not an easy task. Then again, it might be easier than I think. The club of people who actually do politics is smaller than most people realize. And the big national players get that way by making contact with the grassroots activists…