The Party’s Over

Tempting as it is, an exhaustive history of political parties in America has little place in the discussion we need to have.

I’ll put the vital part of what America’s political parties formerly did in this short paragraph:

Neighborhood precincts from all over the nation ran the political system of national government before 1948. Precincts were far more interested in the matters of American life than the “great issues of the day.” The citizens in the precincts wanted potholes fixed, street lamps repaired, better schools, fair taxes, clean government and officials who did what they were told. That message, telling politicians what to do, came in the form of political platforms, the planks of which were first fashioned in precinct wishes and then refined and strengthened at county, state and national conventions where they became Party Law. The deal to politicians was this: “If you ran as a member of a political party you pledged to support the platform. If you failed at that the party kicked you out and you lost the next election.”

As with all simplifications, the power was in the details but all we want to establish now is there once was a system of government in America that was driven by the citizens of this nation. They formed the country that won World War II, brought reclamation to enemy lands through the generosity of the Marshall Plan and a patient oversight of Japan that enabled the world to fashion an economy that — in today’s sad terms — made greed worthwhile.

It needs to be noted early that a party system did not require huge donations from corporations or individuals who needed great favors from government to do business on the scale that was being imagined. It was not inviting to the rich to foster campaigns for candidates who — when elected — were going to give their attention to the needs of the people in those precincts, districts, counties and the nation who had agreed so publicly on what was wanted.

There had been a number of social problems brought to the fore by World War II. One was to find a way to help returning veterans build homes and careers that served their families and communities.

[For more: “The G.I. Bill (officially titled Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, P.L. 78-346, 58 Stat. 284m) was an omnibus bill that provided college or vocational education for returning World War II veterans (commonly referred to as GIs or G.I.s) as well as one year of unemployment compensation. It also provided many different types of loans for returning veterans to buy homes and start businesses. Since the original act, the term has come to include other veteran benefit programs created to assist veterans of subsequent wars as well as peacetime service.” ]

As you examine this history you may wonder — as all of us should — why the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan seem to lack this vital concern. Think on it.

The nation was totally involved in the aftermath of World War II in resuming American life as we knew it. Cost was not measured in what was required to rebuild our lives but, rather, in the more and unthinkable cost of not rebuilding, to have been defeated at home though we had won a war in the world. A nation with its heart and mind in life thinks that way, it solves problems as we should do today with health care, for example.

Those issues are only ignored when a government is elected by rich campaigns that promise nothing but personality and more of the same. To get to that point in American’s history we had to remove the connection that allowed the people of the nation to run government rather than sit wondering year after year why the great problems before us only grow worse. That’s what this blog will seek to answer.

In case you wonder, my wife and I have been active Democrats for a long time. We had just about run out of steam trying to keep the principles of the Party alive. We saw candidates being elected without any pledges to their party and short memories about anything they might have mumbled as a promise during campaigns.

Then along came Barack Obama. Mostly his campaign was run outside the new Party structure. In the old days they didn’t have primaries that were open to anyone who signed up to be president or any other officer of the land. They had party conventions where nominations were made by voting delegates based on the candidates who were most able to return what the people of the party wanted as already expressed in their platforms. Those platforms were from the grassroots of America. If you wanted to be nominated you had to both pledge to support that platform and demonstrate that you were capable of creating the nation it drew for us.

Today’s primaries are run before there are platforms. Did you ever notice that? The voters at primaries go down to halls in state after state and work for their candidate based on his or her perceived ambitions but without any memory on whether those candidates were saying different things in the state where the primary would move next week. This is important.

The Party was too far gone to do that service to the nation in 2008. Barack Obama saw that very early on. Without  party precincts he chose to gather national momentum behind a consistent and and universally stated set of principles that remain alive today. Yes, the reality of the world today requires some priorities to drive the moneychangers from the temples and repair the horrors left in the White House laundry rooms by the departing administration. But overall he has remained consistent on matters such as health care, an energy policy for today’s technology, education that will allow our children to participate in building the world rather than wasting their lives in frustration and despair.

He has done this openly in a manner that might have escaped your attention. His campaign organization is no longer Obama for President. It is now “Organizing for America” and its headquarters are in the Democratic National Committee offices in Washington D.C. You can — in other words — participate.

Because the Party did not have the opportunity to elect only candidates pledged to support their popularly based platform, there is a new system to convince Congress to do what is necessary to solve our problems. And that’s where we will present your homework, an excellent article on how Obama is shaping policy in the House of Representatives and Senate of the United States.

Read this as your interest allows but keep the link because you may want to go back and examine some points later.

[Taking the Hill by Matt Bai, New York Times Magazine June7, 2009. ]

And join us back here with your comments soon. Aloha from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Bill Eger

Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 10:00 PM  Leave a Comment