Friday, May 15, 2009

Sab is right: Fight the platform

He's pushing to thwart some of the American-cheesiness of the proposed platform. I hate to take a public stand against this year's proposed platform, but it must be done. I really respect John Walsh and can see why he's trying to water down the platform. Past platforms came complete with such prickly things as actual positions and ideas and stances... those are all things that, if one is focused on the negative, can lose a few supporters and challenge the political elite to actually reflect the people who put them in office.

Furthermore, from a campaign perspective, speeches are better when a politician keeps them broad, allowing people to see the picture they want. It's always more exciting to a crowd when you say, "I believe in a fully-funded, high quality education system from K through college." No one will disagree with that -- it can mean anything and sounds fantastic. If that same politician talked about how such an idea included capping charters, revisiting the MCAS and a dozen other proposals, people in the crowd will disagree with at least some of it. Or they'll be lost in the technocratic details.

It's easy to see how one can go from understanding that a broad speech is better to make the jump that a broad platform would be, too. Perhaps, if the goal was just to elect more democrats, damn whatever kind of democrat they are, that would be a correct assumption. The problem with that, though, is Massachusetts has no problem electing Democrats. Our problem is in making sure that the democrats we elect reflect the progressiveness of this state. So, when John Walsh set out to create a broader, more accessible document -- in a lot of ways I see how it could make sense. That is until one realizes a platform isn't a campaign tool. A platform is far more important as a means to organize the base or talk to elected officials than it is in electing more democrats.

Moreover, even if we agreed with John Walsh that this document should be broad and accessible to everyone, it's still an 11-page whopping failure. Nothing is accessible to the general public at 11 pages. So what does that leave us with? This platform will not only be a massive failure in the recruiting department, it will now fail to do the few good things the current platform can do. As a statement of the party's beliefs, it's a weapon against DINOs -- not the best weapon, but one of the few against powerful incumbents. With a neutered platform, constituents can't even talk to their elected leaders and tell them that they're going against the party. Furthermore, for people looking to seek political office, the current document can serve as a basis for ideas. If it's watered down, there's no ideas in it from which to borrow from.

What we have left is an abdication of responsibility. Maybe that's the real purpose? This is a free pass for DINOs to continue to be DINOs. This is a party deciding against providing a base from which new candidates can decide to campaign on, should they actually seek to represent their party. This is a party deciding to run away from what we actually believe in, act as though our ideas are something to be ashamed of. This is the exact sort of thing that's gotten us in a lot of trouble in the past. Republican-lite and bland wishy-washy crap never won us a congressional seat: standing up for S-CHIP, stem cell research and an end to the war in Iraq did. American cheese is a philosophy of failure. We don't need more evidence.

While speaking broadly from the stump can be great, the best candidates have backed that up with powerful, technocratic ideas and position platforms. Both Deval Patrick and Barack Obama armed themselves with detailed, lengthy plans online and available to everyone -- even as their rhetoric was one that was open to everyone. If asked questions, they could be downright wonkish when they needed to be. If we lose our core ideas and beliefs, we will lose our spirit -- and subsequently support. We can do better and, for that reason, delegates should oppose the platform as currently constituted.


Anonymous said...

I must admit I was worried what would happen when Deval was elected. I love the way he's standing up to the Beacon Hill machine so far. Reform before taxes has become his mantra, who'd have thought he'd have the cojones. Barack so far not bad, keep the military tribunals, increase troops in Afghanistan, can't wait till we put troops on the ground in Pakistan, long overdue.

Anonymous said...

When G.W.B. campaigned, it was filled with meaningless, scripted speeches, canned buzzwords like "Compassionate Conservatism."

We saw how "Compassionate" he was leaving office and taking no action as Americans became unemployed and homeless.

Much the same can be said of Senator McCain.

Democratic candidates, on the other hand, made themselves available to answer questions, deviate or explain their "script" and offer specifics. I don't agree with many of their positions, but when they are able to offer well reasoned arguments for their positions that go beyond "party platform," that's what matters.

After 8 years (and continuing) of watching the Congressional Republicans repeat, verbatim, "party platforms" that are unyielding, no longer functional and repeated without thought, voters need specifics.

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