Can We Build a Strong Democratic Party?

strengthIn a Facebook dialog about “The Future of the Democratic Party,” Joseph Wilson said he could not envision the Democratic Party, “as currently structured,” becoming an activist organization that serves local needs and fights for its platform year-round. He said, the Party needs to become “rooted in the community, relevant to it, and accountable to it.”

The Party’s lack of accountability is highlighted in a recent Robert Borosage post, “Does the Democratic Party Platform Matter?”  Though Borasage affirms the value of the platform, he acknowledges:

Candidates are not required to run on the platform. They are free to contradict some or all of its planks. They sculpt their own message and their own agenda.

That is the heart of the problem. The result is an incoherent Party. No one knows what it stands for.

In a prescient 2011 essay about risks associated with populism, “The American Political Parties Are Breaking Down,” Walter Russell Mead warned:

American political parties are increasingly being reduced to flags of convenience…. The decline of party structures leaves our politics less coherent and more subject to rapid mood swings [and the potential election of an authoritarian populist!]…. [When] our parties start to stand for something less superficial and knee-jerk, party structures may regain some importance.

To build a strong Democratic Party, the 2016 platform should stipulate that the Democratic National Committee will only back candidates who support its platform.

Incumbents will resist any such move. Most of them prefer not to be bothered by constituents or any structure that would hold them accountable.

Nevertheless, rank-and-file Democrats can make the Party a real, coherent, activist organization that holds its leaders accountable to promoting its mission.

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