On the death of national committees
Well, we can never have nice things for very long, can we?
Say what you will about Bernie Sanders, but when he published his half-baked revolutionary ideas this year, he mostly stayed away from relitigating the 2016 primary. Of course, he didn't have to; he had a cadre of the disaffected ready to pipe up at any moment "Bernie woulda won!"
Yesterday saw Donna Brazile — she of the failed chairmanship of the DNC and of keeping Al Gore at arm's length from his popular boss — flogging her book, in which she excoriates Hillary Clinton, the primaries, and Barack Obama. The takeaway from her screed is that "Bernie wuz robbed!" Just as the worm is turning on Trump and the GOP, she, of course, had to throw this bomb in in an attempt to remain relevant. Senator Elizabeth Warren chimed in in agreement. Needless to say, real Democrats gave them the what for.
This is not to say, however, that Brazile doesn't have a couple of salient points — i.e., the decimation of the Democratic National Committee.
Nancy LeTourneau of Washington Monthly had a piece up yesterday after the Brazile story broke. She asks if both the DNC and Republican National Committees are nothing more than husks. Both Howard Dean and Barack Obama mobilized millions of supporters/donors outside of the traditional party structure. On the GOP side, you saw 17 candidates, all backed to various degrees by billionaires. The national committees seemed to have no influence or utility, save as clearinghouses for donations.
As an observer of foreign (read: European) politics, the Democratic and Republican parties have always struck me as odd. In Europe, being a "party member" means, literally, being a member. You pay dues. You attend meetings. Sure, most voters don't sign a party membership card. But even there identifying with a party means a bit more.
In the US, are we seeing an atrophying of party loyalty? Berniecrats are loyal to Bernie, Hillarybots to Hillary, and of course Obamabots' main focus is on preserving and building on Pres. Obama's legacy. Trump's followers would burn down the GOP if he woke up one morning and decided to leave the party. Party loyalties seem to be at an all-time low.
Are we in the beginnings of the demise of the party system, where loyalty is given instead to charismatic figures? I certainly hope not. A party structure indicates that there is something greater than any one individual. Once we begin to put our faith in the man (or woman) on the white horse, we end up with Napoleon, or Stalin, or Hitler. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama have built cults of personality around them. The same can't be said for Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump.
The parties are justly derided. But we need revivified parties so that people like Trump can't rise again. A strong party acts as a check on excesses. A strong party also acts to unify disparate threads. We speak of the DNC's weakness; as LeTourneau wrote, however, the RNC was so weak that it couldn't prevent Trump from snatching the nomination. It is also so weak that it has been taken over by Nazis, essentially. This is not good for American democracy.
Rather than saying "a pox on both your houses", party structures serve a useful purpose. In an Age of Trump, they need to be strengthened, not weakened, in an effort to marginalize the extremes. A politics based on movements around personalities almost always leads to disaster.
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