Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Party conventions in the U.S.----sound and fury

Yet another problem with American party politics. Conventions are where party platforms are worked out, which are then publicized and become part of candidates' campaigns. But here conventions happen every four years and come up with documents that no media outlets report on and that are never mentioned by people who are either in office or who are running for office. I can look up the platform of the German Social Democratic Party and see a relation between what they say there and what some of their prominent members have in the past said, but after downloading This, the Democratic Party Platform of 2004, I'm left wondering just where exactly all of these ideas went. How soon after the delegates to the party conventions agree to a platform and send it out to representatives does it get thrown in the trash? Here is a concrete 43 page document that you can actually analyze and argue over, but it's been MIA since 2004.

Funny thing though, the document makes reference to John Kerry and John Edwards, the 2004 candidates for President and Vice President, talking about the principles that the next four years will embody but all this was decided after people had already chosen which candidate should be the nominee. Really convenient. While people are campaigning they only have their own platforms, or lack of them, and make no reference to some sort of grand party platform but after they've been selected through the primary process suddenly a bunch of people representing the candidate come together and churn out a series of policy statements based on the principles of the winning team that will supposedly govern party politics for the next four years---on top of being binding on the Presidency if it's won.

What a joke.

The solution would be to have the convention that decides on the platform and the primaries in different years. The conventions would gather together and discuss what the party as a whole should stand for, then come up with a basic document. It would be public and publicized. Candidates could choose to either go with or against the principles, no "party line", but it would make it really obvious whether someone was a Democrat, Republican, Green, whatever in name only or if they really believed in what the party stood for.

But to have that happen you'd have to have a coherent grass roots structure that played a part in selecting the candidates for representatives and senators, who could provide people to go to conventions and also provide the people that the delegates would represent. In other words, you'd have to have some accountability to voters programmed in their along with interest by people at the ground level in non-election years about things like social justice and not destroying the planet.

Party machinery in the U.S. is completely non-existent. Nothing that would be necessary exists.
The best way to understand American politics and how decisions are made is to read sociologist C. Wright Mills' book "The Power Elite", which talks about how deals sealed with a handshake happen between captains of industry and political operatives.

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