Friday, August 12, 2011

The lifeblood of parties

What a great blog post at digby's tonight. The post was about intra-party critics and their usefulness, in light of much of the Democratic generated criticism of Obama of late. These two last paragraphs in particular were notable, on a grassroots group that heckled Mitt Romney in Iowa yesterday. The group prompted his "corporations are people" gaffe, one that is likely to hound him from here on in.
These are the sorts of activists who are persistent and get things done. They're the sorts of activists who will be there on behalf of Democratic principles come rain or shine, come Republican or Democratic Administrations. All the Democratic Party needs to do is have their back, and they can make magic happen. Iowa CCI just did more for the Obama re-election campaign than $50 million of advertising dollars could ever hope to do, against the candidate whom all the polls show would likely be Obama's most formidable opponent in the general election.

The truth is that Iowa CCI isn't stabbing the President or the Democratic Party in the back through their criticism of the Grand Bargain. If anything, the President and the Party are stabbing them in the back, even as they continue to do the sort of work that helps get Democrats elected--even if that work doesn't necessarily come in the form of phonebanking or door-to-door canvassing. The Democratic Party needs both the ideological progressives and the careful team player shock troops, and it forgets that lesson at its peril.
The incident and the blog post prompted a few thoughts. First, for all the craziness in the American system right now, at least it was a good example of no-holds barred democratic interaction that we Canadians are seeing less and less of these days. Good luck getting such a group near our Prime Minister to challenge him. He was cloistered in notoriously pre-screened rooms during the federal election and isn't likely to be putting himself in any kind of comparably open forum in the near future.

Second, despite such limitations in our system, the work of this Iowa group is a clear example of party-coalition building in action. Having such groups in your party tent is, to be trite, how you can get your members elected. They're electoral muscle. Liberals need to have it on the radar to a much greater extent. We read a lot about membership, fundraising, etc. these days in reporting on Liberal party goings on. This is the stuff that's missing though.