Thursday, May 26, 2005

Rossi said any party? Really?

Maybe Greg Stephens should call Dino Rossi, cause Dino has this crazy idea that anyone can join any political party they want! And, apparently, when he said that, he meant that when they join they can do things that other people sometimes do while members of just any old party. You know, like run for some office.

The Sitting Duck in Olympia doesn't have a website, so I'm going to have to type this. But, trust me, Dino said it:
(Good ol'Dino) disputes the notion that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the far right. "Anyone can join any party they want," he shrugged, adding one could just as easily argue that the Democratic Party has been hijacked by radicals on the left.
This entire people joining any party they want thing is some pretty heavy stuff. Someone should call Chris Vance to reel in Dino's way out there rhetoric.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Am I not a Democrat?

The Seattle Times has an interesting story about Greg Stephens, who is trying to challenge Jeff Sax at the Snohomish County GOP convention for a council seat. The problem is that if the county party doesn't think he's a Republican, so no dice.

The Stephens story illustrates the wrong logic that is going around our county and state parties, that is leading us to sue to overturn the Top Two primary. Our parties, the only way regular people can become active in politics, should not become closed groups, paranoid of people that take up their banner. They should be a lot more open than this.

Apparently, they can stop Stephens from speaking at the convention (the only way to get the party nomination is this crazy post Top Two world) if they think he's not "a real Republican."

But, just saying you're a member of this or that party ain't enough for these guys, which just shows how crazy the opposition to the Top Two and the state of the parties really is. They're so paranoid that he's a Democrat interloper, that they want to close the party to him. Look, if you don't like the guy, and you think most active Republicans won't, what's the harm in letting him speak?

Says the SnohoGOP chairman Steve Neighbors, using his extra stong powers of logic:
"[Stephens] knows that we can't just let anyone say they're Republican," Neighbors said. "We can't have a Democrat speaking at the Republican convention; he wouldn't win anyway."
I wonder why most people in Washington don't want to be registered by party? If someone isn't pure enough for the leadership, they don't get in.

In a way, I'm glad to see the Snohomish GOP acting like this, at least its not us. But, I know that given the chance, we might send a not so pure Democrat packing.

As Democrats, we should let everyone who wants to call themselves a Democrat speak. Let them live and die politically by their ideas, not by who they have supported in the past. Party labels are not that important that they should rule our politics.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Top Two lawsuit backlash backlash

Both horsesass.org and Andrew over at the Progressive Institute take swipes at efforts in Washington, and now in Oregon, to reform the election systems.

Before I get too far into this, I want to point out that I'm not exactly a huge fan of the Top Two specifically. I was a big fan of our old Jungle Primary and was annoyed when our political parties, especially my Democratic Party, sued to get rid of it. I had a wry smile on my face when the Top Two passed, and I thought, well... they learned their lesson. Apparently not, when they sued to get rid of the Top Two, which was the second most popular initiative last year and won in every single county.

The Top Two, or any other really open primary system, where we don't ask the people to pay for the parties' nominating process will be bad for the parties, as they are today. I'll admit that. But, the parties aren't doing much today to bring people into the politics. We ask our supporters to write checks and vote, not much else. We should ask more, our parties, especially the Democratic Party, should be an agent of increasing civic participation.

In Oregon, they are talking about moving a number of state-wide offices to non-partisan. This may be where we are going in Washington if the parties don't back off. Preemptive Karma is having a great discussion on this.

Since the McGovern reforms, political parties have become too t.v. centric when reaching out, and people have been driven out of the process. Yes, parties are raising more money today, but that money is increasingly coming from businesses and other political action committees. Actual personal participation in political parties is dropping through the floor.

When people talk about going back to the days of the smoke filled rooms as an effect of moving back away from closed primaries, I think of last year's Presidential caucuses. Granted last year was special with Dean, the Iraq War and general anti-war feelings. But, it showed that people could be interested in politics, and in a real way. The multi-purpose room at Margaret McKenny Elementary school was not a smoke filled back room, but rather a great example of participatory democracy.

Friday, May 20, 2005

RE: Chris and Paul's Ugly Baby

It starts out with a great headline, and it gets even better.

BlueWashington
has a great post on how not smart it is for the Washington Democratic Party to go along with the GOPsters to sue to get rid of the Top Two primary:
...Chris and Paul also want candidates to use their parties’ labels only if they win their county conventions. Typically, convention attendees of both parties are more extreme in their positions than average voters and this will make it harder for moderate candidates to win.

...What we don't need in the legislature right now is even more extreme positions from both sides of the spectrum. Requiring party nominations to run will do that.
I can break off and get to my point with this part of what BlueWashington has to say, that the Top Two "diminishes their abilities to control who runs and who wins and they view that as a bad thing." In a way, this is all about control, the ability of the parties to control the political process.

It shouldn't be about the parties controlling any aspect of the political process, it should be about letting the people have control. The parties should be about helping people get involved in the process, instead of trying to become closed organizations that have a leg up on the scene, angling out anyone else.

John Kerry the spammer

It might not actually be as bad as spamming, but using an old email list of 3 million supporters from his 2004 Presidential run (emmetto@post.com included) may not actually be that great of an idea. I sort of made this point a few weeks ago, but other folks make it sound so much better. Take it away, Chip Griffin:

I agree the marginal cost is low (though not zero), but the claim about degradation of the base is pure baloney. Owning a mailing list of past supporters does not guarantee that they will be future supporters. Certainly, it's an asset to have, but it would only permit a delayed entry if a large portion of those people could be assured to be with him in the next primary.

How many of those names were there before he was the Democrat nominee? The names that he picked up during the primary might be considered a base, but the general election names only preferred him over Bush ... not necessarily over any other Democrat.

For example, of those 3 million, how many are also on Howard Dean's list? Or John Edwards'?

Email lists from previous campaigns are valuable, but they'll only take you so far, especially in presidential politics where voters tend to be more fickle.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Oly Dem Meetup June 14: Lakoff and Framing

The Olympia Democratic meetup will discuss George Lakoff and how to frame issues from a progressive point of view. Linda and Kent Sternhill Davis, two regular meetup attendees, will lead the discussion on how not to let conservatives control how we think about politics.

For more information on George Lakoff, go here.

Tuesday, June 14 from 7 to 9 p.m.
Olympia Center
222 Columbia St NW
Olympia, WA
Room 101 (first floor)

The Olympia Democratic Party meetup is a meeting for Democrats in Thurston County who want a "low impact" informative meeting to discuss topics of the day and to get more involved in the Democratic Party.

Monday, May 16, 2005

The future of parties

I was thinking today a lot about my recent postings on the Top Two primary, and the efforts of the parties to get rid of it, and the entire thought process crystalized for me when I read this from Andrew Rasiej, who is running for Public Advocate in NYC, and who spoke at the Personal Democracy Forum this morning:
We techno-politicos should instead be focusing on how we can restore health to our civic life — and in particular, how we can get more people connected to each other and their government to raise issues, share ideas and solve problems.

After all, there are lots of good reasons that most Americans hate politics. It’s been taken away from them and turned into a cynical game that is more focused on winning elections than getting things done, where tearing the other side down matters more than lifting ideas up, where people are treated as commodities, and the only ones who get any attention are the people who can pay to play.

Just replace "techno-politicos" with Democrats, and that is my point. Democrats should be all about getting people involved in civic life.

If you accept the theory (I got this from Bowling Alone) that because political involvement for most people has been reduced to check writing and voting, and that parties have been taken over by career proffesionals, then this passage from the NW Progressive Institute, arguing against the Top Two:
Voters should bear in mind that political parties provide important services to the democratic process (and that's why all democracies have them). Some of these services include organization, fundraising, candidate recruitment and training, and the development of stands on issues (a party platform) and the ability to help voters identify candidates with a particular set of positions.

If the parties wither away, other institutions will step in to fill the void.
It is true that parties play an important part in politics, democracy and civic life in general. But, if parties continue to push people out, that, not a type of primary voting, will kill them. What we need to do is not keep closing our doors, but take this opportunity to engage and move our party back into the public. The NWPI answers the question of what kind of institution will step in to fill the void of the parties:
...elections will degenerate into personality contests. Candidates who already have, or have the money to buy name recognition will enjoy a much greater advantage. Incumbents, celebrity candidates, and wealthy individuals will become more powerful. And the media would be in an even stronger position to promote their favorite candidates.
Forget Arnold, the future of campaigns won't be celebrity beauty contests. That would be true if the parties died off during the tv age, but the party-less campaign for the next age has already happened, and it work for a few months in 2003. People Powered Howard was a well funded example of how opening a campaign, and I would suggest an entire political party, would actually help that party.

No opposing the Top Two primary, or just opening up the nominating process and accepting the non-partisanship of Washington elections, is a step in that direction.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Set the Scalpers Free!

I first started blogging and had my only ever letter to the editor in the Seattle Times published, because during the dream season of 2001, the Mariners started going after scalpers. Never in my life have I ever heard of the Ms hiring off duty cops to arrest their own fans. Especially for doing something, that if the Mariners weren't amazingly good that year, wouldn't have mattered one way or the other.

The hight of the hipocrasy was that the Mariners themselves were scalping their own tickets! They used to run a service called Mariners Ticket Marketplace, were fans could resell their tickets at a high prices and the Ms would get a cut. At the time, fans like me were not happy:
The trend is troubling for many baseball enthusiasts, particularly Mariners fans. Check the "Fan Forum" section of the Mariners official Web site, and the concerns are real. "You want to see real scalping?" wrote one fan. "Last year dozens of $6 [centerfield] bleacher seats were being offered out at $89 each for some games. It's funny how you have to be a season ticket holder to sell through this forum, yet the Mariners don't sell bleacher seats as season tickets! I guess having a 16-game pack could have its privileges."

Another fan wrote, "While the Mariners ask police to stop illegal ticket scalping in Seattle outside Safeco Field, they profit from inflated prices they 'legally' sell from their ticket agent's computer."
Anyway, it looks like the Seattle City Council is getting around to changing their outdated scalping law. The new law would allow just normal guys like me to stand on the side walk muttering "Got two?" And for the more serial scalpers, the guys that make money off of it, would require them to get a business license. Ah, the best of all worlds.

In the last few years, when the Ms and the Seahawks have been good, the actuall were arresting scalpers, but finally a judge saw how crappy that was:
In January 2004, Seattle Municipal Court Judge Jean Rietschel held that two men accused of scalping Mariners tickets were the victims of selective enforcement because the baseball club was doing the same thing online and no one was bothering them. At the time, the club was paying off-duty cops to patrol streets surrounding Safeco Field and bust people for scalping. The city appealed Rietschel's ruling.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Townhall.com leaving meetup.com, creating own tool

It is sad that a conservative group, not the DNC, not even DFA is the first to leave meetup.com and create their own tool:
Regrettably, we were recently shocked, as many of you were, to learn about the implementation of Meetup group fees – $19 per month ($228 per year) to be paid by each of the group organizers.

Moreover, I was notified of the change only one day prior to each of you. As a paying and longtime customer, I was not pleased about how this was handled. This is not how Townhall treats its readers and I certainly don’t want Townhall’s good name to be associated with such practices.

...The response we received was unanimous!

Effective this Thursday, Townhall.com will officially end its relationship with Meetup.com. In place of Meetup, Townhall will begin developing a custom solution to better cater to the needs of our Townhall Meetup members and organizers

You can expect the following improvements:
  • Easier and more intuitive interface.
  • Conservatives only! No Deaniacs, no liberals.
  • Greater integration with Townhall.com.
  • Tools to facilitate action and coordination.
Come on DNC! While your at it, tell the DNC to get with the game and fill out their meetup.com survey.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Take the DNC meetup survey

It looks like the DNC is gathering info on Democrat meetups.The DNC will only develop a new tool to replace meetup.com if we tellthem. Let your voice be heard!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Here's what I just posted at the DemMeetupHosts yahoo group:
Last night at our meetup, after we had a great discussion on election reform, the Olympia Dem meetup group decided to cut our ties with meetup.com and organize, at least for the time being, on Yahoo groups. We're also working with our county party to see if we can organize on their website.

The reasoning has been the same that as what we've been discussing here recently, that the decision to institute fees was just too much. In Olympia, we are already paying $24 a month for our room.

Personally, I would still like to see the DNC step forward with a grassroots, meetup.com-type organzing tool that county and local parties can use to organize meetups. We're seeing a real interest here to use the meetup as a sort of "entry level" meeting or forum for people who want to be more involved in Democratic politics, but don't quite have it in them to make a county party business meeting.

For those that are interestd, here's a link to the new yahoo group for Olympia, Washington:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/olydemmeetup/

Monday, May 09, 2005

Great op-ed in the Seattle Times today on the Top Two.

...The party bosses didn't like Democrats picking Republicans, and vice versa. They won their lawsuit, and last September, for the first time in 70 years, Washington primary voters were confined to candidates from only their chosen party.

People hated it so much that, two months later, voters adopted by initiative a primary that is all but blind to party. Next September, voters will go back to choosing among all candidates for a political office. The top two highest vote-getters advance, regardless of their party.

...They can convene all they want, but the result will amount to nothing more than an endorsement. Washington voters have embraced a "qualifying" primary and rejected the parties' nominating primary — the parties should respect them.

If Vance, Berendt and their party cronies don't like it, they have only themselves to blame.

It doesn't get to all the points I would make, but it gets the argument out there. I would actually contend that dropping opposition to the Top Two would actually be good for the Democratic Party.

And, here is why. The Times article puts it right out there: " The party bosses didn't like Democrats picking Republicans, and vice versa." From the point of view from people inside the parties everyone is either a Republican or a Democrat. Taking this point of view a little further, if you don't choose a party, you can't vote in a primary.

And, as my logic train chugs on, since most people in Washington don't see themselves as either Democrats or Republicans (or, if they do, they sometimes they like the Democrat over a particular Republican) closing up the primary will close these folks out of the political system. And, as Democrats, this is the last thing we want to do.

Open parties, open ballots.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Restore The Democracy in Washington State

If I was running against Paul Berendt for state chairman earlier this year, I would have made my campaign all about one thing:

The Democratic Party should support the will of the voters of the state of Washington and not sue to overturn the Top Two Primary.

In fact, we should embrace it. We shouldn’t be in this lawsuit along with the GOP to overturn a popular initiative. Even if its not perfect, it represents what the people of Washington want, not to be driven to choose a party.

Most Washingtonians, if you asked them, would probably say that they were Democrats. But, it’s not as simple as that. Most Washingtonians don’t want to be labeled, and as Dino Rossi showed us last fall, we would rather go with the less partisan, less Olympia, less establishment guy.

The top two isn’t about “I don’t want to be labeled,” it’s about not wanting to be part of the establishment. Democrats used to understand that:
Known during the 19th century simply as “the Democracy,” it all but invented the repertoire of mass politics with such innovations as storefront offices, precinct captains, and torchlight parades. The party embraced immigrants, Catholics in particular, who were set upon by “anti-Papist” mobs and moralists who tried to outlaw their saloons. Most Democratic stalwarts were male, and nearly all were white. But they still proudly considered themselves the bone and sinew of a “people’s party.”
So, why are we joining arm and arm with the Republican Party, to make our party look even more like a bunch of establishment hacks? If the GOP wants to walk that way, fine let them. If our state leadership actually sees some functional good in having a closed primary, then let the Republican Party carry that fight. Every political party in Washington will reap the benefits (by the way, where are the Libertarians now?) but, only the GOP will have to lose that public relations debacle.

A couple more arguments for supporting the Top Two as a Democrat:

1) If the primary is all about choosing a party’s nominee, why should the taxpayers have to pay for it? There is not a good answer for that.

2) I had a lot of fun at the Presidential caucuses last year. Tons of people came out, it was invigorating to see so many people involved. And guess what? It wasn’t a close primary, it was an open caucus! These things work, and they work great if we’re trying to bring people into the party from the grassroots. So, lets have more of these.

By embracing the Top Two primary and Washington State’s anti establishment feelings towards elections and party affiliation, we can actually help build the Democratic Party in Washington. I know it sounds counter intuitive, but as Joe Trippi once said to Howard Dean,

We don’t have to be the party of exclusion. We don’t have to be the party that tells people, “We decide who is a Democrat.” We can be the Democracy.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Oly Dem Meetup update

As you can see from the homemade link to the right, I'm already thinking about ditching meetup.com for all the fun they've been having raising rates and such. Yesterday I sent out an email to our more active Dem meetupers to guage their response to moving on from Meetup.com and becoming a lower case meetup
Date: Tue, 3 May 2005 10:08:20 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Emmett O'Connell"
Subject: Possible changes to our meetup

Hello everyone,

By now you probably recieved the announcment for this month's meetup, including a short discussion on the changes that meeutp.com is making. Right now they are charging $9 a month for their service for meetup hosts, which in the past had been free. By 2006, they will raise that rate to $19 a month.

We are already raising $24/month for our room at the Olympia Center, and I feel $9 and eventually $19 a month for the service meetup provides is not worth it. I was wondering how everyone else feels about this.

I've talked to John Cusick with the county party and he feels ok using the TCD's website (thurstondemocrats.org) to organize the meetups. We also have an existing yahoo group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/olydemmeetup/) that has a lot of the same functions that meetup.com has.

So, there are option out there if we want to move away from meetup.com. What do you think?

Thanks,
Emmett
The replies I've gotten so far have been encouraging, so this time next week, we might be looking at officially ditching Meetup.com in Olympia.

Kari does a great job organizing what has been going on out there into a good post at politicsandtechnology.com, and he point us to a really good article on the entire meetup "kerfuffle" at the Personal Democracy Forum.

ALSO, next week, Tuesday, May 10, the Olympia Democratic Party meetup will be discussing Election Reform! With this weeks signing of several election reform bills by our Governor Chris, this should be an interesting one.
Using your old general campaign email list to run again in four years? Spam.

Can anyone else see what is wrong with this picture?
"Democratic insiders" say that Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) "unprecedented direct access to so many current and onetime supporters" -- through a database of 3 million voters he compiled during last year's presidential campaign -- "is a huge advantage heading into the next Democratic presidential primary," The Hill reports.

"Only the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and MoveOn.org can boast of contact lists as large, say Democrats familiar with Kerry’s database."

Meanwhile, "the political team Kerry has hired to staff his new leadership political action committee, Keeping America’s Promise, indicates that he is gearing up" for another shot at the White House.
I signed up for Kerry's email list back during the pre-convention general campaign, not because I like Kerry (even thought at the time I did), but because he was the FREAKING nominee! And, the email list was one of the best ways to feel involved in the campaign. I'm still getting emails from this guy, and that's one of the reasons I'm not using that particular email address.