Posts about democrats

The YouTube convention

Tragic circumstances forced them into it, but the Democrats created the first democratic convention, the convention for citizens.

It is the YouTube convention, with all the intimacy and directness the medium of the age demands: click on Michelle Obama and she speaks directly to you and no one else: not to a cheering crowd, the mass; not to delegates who are included through patronage and politics, to the exclusion of everyone else. YouTube is one of the mechanisms of the public conversation the internet provides and the Democrats had to learn how to use it.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump pines for the roaring crowd, the now extinct kind of convention that was an institution of television and mass media: the really big show, the firepit for enthusiasm and anger and, in its dying breath, authoritarian adulation. Now who’s going to sit home in front of a laptop chanting “Lock her up!”? Fools, that’s who.

The internet is far from finished. In this early phase, it has been built to speak — so, at long last, voices too long not heard in mass media finally have microphones of their own. I celebrate that. But the net has not yet been built to listen, to converse, to cooperate. TikTok, just a toy still, is the first net tool I’ve seen that’s designed for public collaboration, for taking someone else’s sound or video and responding or reinterpreting. It’s a start. It also befuddles Donald Trump as TikTok is not built for fanning hatred; this is why he hates it. On the prior net, on YouTube, in newspaper comments and forums, in Facebook and Twitter, what passes for conversation is reaction. And so this Democratic YouTube Convention will be an unfinished artifact of a transition out of Gutenberg’s age of hot text and McLuhan’s age of cool television, out of the primordial internet into the age of whatever’s next. [You can tell I’m working on a book.] This event is not a conversation, not yet. But moving down from the rostrum to the humble webcam forced the Democrats to speak eye-to-eye, at a human level, and to find something to say that is worth listening to. That can be the start of conversation.

The YouTube convention doesn’t supersede just the hoary delegates in the hall but also news media there: television and print. I say this, too, is a good thing. In years past, news organizations wasted huge money on institutional and individual ego, sending 15,000 journalists to “cover” the conventions where nothing happened that was not known and scripted. It was a show of access — of savvy, as Jay Rosen would say. The pols and the journalists put on shows for each other, not for the nation. The journalists and pols got to be inside and the rest of us were left out. They danced, pranced, pontificated, prognosticated, and predicted and never listened to us, the public. Now that’s over. Good riddance.

The Democrats have missed a few beats. I wish they put every single speech into their site and YouTube channel so we each could remix and share our own conventions the morning after. David Weinberger calls these Citizen Cuts. I wish they had invited YouTube videos from citizens to talk about the issues and expectations we have — messages produced by citizens, not producers. But still, it’s a start.

1 man, 0.89967 vote

CJR’s Clint Hendler does an admirable job showing just what a mess Democratic primary math is and demonstrating that we have no idea what the popular vote count is. To put that another way: we have no idea how many citizens’ votes are not being counted.

There’s the mess in Florida and Michigan, with the DNC disenfranchising their own Democrats there (fools!). And this:

The Democratic party’s nominating process is a kaleidoscope of caucuses, conventions, and primaries, sometimes all in the same state. And there’s no obvious best way to estimate a popular vote from it all.

And this: The news organizations and the campaigns, of course, all count the alleged popular vote differently.

This is shameful: undemocratic and unDemocratic. We must reform the primary system in a unified way. This idea that each state can and should do its own idiosyncratic thing is a leftover of a disorganized and unconnected past and it is hurting now.

The principle for reorganization is simple: Every citizen has a right and an opportunity to vote in a meaningful way in the primary process. One person, one vote, damnit.

Tearing open the tent

I sense — or perhaps just hope — that the left (you say progressives, I say liberals) is grappling with the need to open its tent. That’s because I’m starting to hear those who fear — on the eve of possibly cashing in the greatest gift certificate in recent political history, the botched Bush administration — that the closed orthodoxy of a chosen few could shrink the party just when it need to grow.

See today’s Washington Post on Democrats’ efforts to reassess.

Those in the middle of these events share a similar conviction, which is that for too long Republicans have been winning the battle of ideas (and often campaign strategy) in American politics, in part because conservatives invested in what is now a well-funded infrastructure of organizations that have produced ideas, thinkers, publications, strategists, and politicians who now control the White House, Congress and increasingly the federal judiciary.

There is also a belief shared at least by some of the participants that Democrats have ridden for too long on what are the fumes of the New Deal and the Great Society, which sustained Democrats for half a century. . . .

Doug Hattaway, a Democratic communications consultant who worked for Al Gore’s presidential campaign in 2000, recalled a moment of epiphany during a focus group of Democratic operatives and marketing professionals he attended last year. The participants were asked to say what Democratic accomplishments they were most proud of. Their responses filled several pages on a flip chart set up in the focus group facility. “We all realized there was nothing there within the past 30 years,” Hattaway said.

That is painful but necessary reassessment. See also Russell Shaw lecturing fellow progressives at Huffingtonpost:

But reading some of the posts and Comments here and in other Blogs, I notice a key fault shared by many of my fellow progressives. A fault so endemic and irritating that it ignores the realities of politics and human nature. A fault that turns more people off than it converts.

Just as with the true believers on the right, the overarching fault of too many of the left’s true believers is a combination of rampant self-righteousness and a lack of respect for other positions that may happen to differ with yours. Differ greatly, or differ slightly.

A fault that fuels articles, posts and comments that ring with the wrathful tone of I am right and if you are not 100% in agreement with what I say, you are a right-wing lackey of the Rove Administration. And in being that, you are either horribly naïve, or getting paid by them. . . .

The best trajectory for change is to convince those who may not agree with you on everything, but agree with you on some things to side with you on those things you both agree on. That’s how alliances are made, and sometimes, how minds are changed.

My fellow progressives, when you scorn everybody who does not agree with everything you say, a process inimical to human nature ensues. When you shout people down and call them names, they tend to get defensive and either shut down or shout back at you. When an ultra-progressive (of which I bear some traits) tells a moderate liberal “you are full of shit, fuck you,” that’s not the best way to get buy-in on any of your ideas.

Not the best way to engage your fellow citizens. For if you go down this absolutist path, you lose the opportunity to engage, and change, the minds of those whose critical mass we really need to change things about what is wrong with our nation and the world.

I’ve been on the other end of those silly and ultimately destructive efforts by a few to kick some of us out of what they think is their club if we don’t copy everything they say about every issue and candidate: a political party as a high-school clique. In the end, of course, that’s not going to stop me from voting for the candidates I want (though in their skewed logic, voting for Democrats Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman makes you less than a Democrat) but I fear it will affect the ability of the party to get the right candidates and to get them elected. If they take this too far, the Democratic Party will act like a third party with no second party inbetween.

The Democratic Party, of all parties, should be inclusive and open to debate. And I’m glad that debate is underway.

: Something similar is happening in the UK with the Euston Manifesto (see posts here, here, and here).