Electing Dominionists or Defenders of Constitutional Democracy?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Apr 27, 2006 at 03:23:39 PM EST
The key to the success of the Christian Right is different, in my view, than what the conventional wisdom has come to assume.  Awhile back I  wrote that, among other things,

The Christian Right has been as successful as it has been, because it has a vision for obtaining sufficient political power to advance it's agenda. The principal way it has advanced it's vision has been via the Republican Party and electoral politics. Therefore it stands to reason that any rejoinder to the Christian Right must include a broadly based engagement of citizens in electoral life. If one accepts this, it then follows that everything else is subsidiary to this focus. Does that mean that everything written or thought about the religious right needs to be processed through a filter of electoral politics? Of course not. However, in developing a political strategy, in my view, there is no substitute.
Many of us talk a good game about democracy. But the embarrassing truth is, many of us don't really do democracy....[Therefore] It is up to... us to learn how to be skilled and knowledgeable practitioners of electoral democracy. If we do not do this, we are ceding the playing field to those who do.

OK. Then, what shall we do? I have a few ideas on the flip.

But first I want to note that I have always been impressed by a political aphorism coined by veteran conservative activist Morton Blackwell. He says that which ever side has the most and best activists, wins.

I think there is not only a lot of truth to that, but that it is one of the not-so-secret secrets of the success of the conservative movement -- including and especially the religious right. Blackwell has specialized in conservative youth recruitment and training via The Leadership Institute. The liberal/left and the Democratic Party is way, way behind in youth recruitment, training and leadership development. But I am not interested here in bemoaning that, so much as saying that while I know that that is starting to change, we have no time to waste, and that it is up to those of us who are aware enough -- to take action ourselves: To seek out the training that we need to become effective electoral activists and to begin to integrate electoral activism into our lives.

Here are some resources. If you know of other good ones, please add them -- with links -- in the comment thread.

Wellstone Action, is named for the late Senator Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila, whose authentic grassroots campaigns defied the conventional wisdom and beat the big money time after time. Wellstone Action seeks to carry forward thier methods and values,and to do so have regular trainings for electoral activists - called Camp Wellstone.

This year there are also a series of trainings on college campuses for the first time.

They have also recently published a book, Politics The Wellstone Way, in case you can't make a training -- or just to get you started.

Politics the Wellstone Way offers a comprehensive set of strategies to help progressives channel that energy into winning issue-based and electoral campaigns.  

From the school board all the way to the White House, Politics the Wellstone Way instructs people on becoming better organizers, candidates, campaign workers, and citizen activists, empowering them to make their voices heard.


The state and local affiliates of the National Women's Political Caucus often hold multipartisan electoral training schools. They also have a book titled: Women Winning Campaigns, as well as a CD.

Progressive Democrats of Massachusetts, an organization I am involved in, is holding a number of trainings around the state in the next few weeks and months.

Many state Democratic Parties are also becoming more oriented to training grassroots activists. Such trainings tend to be broken down into two or three tracks; candidates; campaign management; and campaign volunteers.  

21st Century Democrats, a progressive PAC, has one coming up in Washington, DC June 9-12..

These are the kinds of things those of us who are concerned about the survival of constitutional democracy need to be actively considering as we go forward; increasing our knowledge and experience in electoral politics.


Do you want to win elections -- or just talk about what it might be like?

Shall we seek to defend and advance constitutional democracy by feeling it in our bones, and living it out throughout our lives in the biggest constitutional democracy in the world -- or shall we rue the seemingly inexplicable success of the religious right on the playing field of electoral politics as we watch the results on television?

[This essay is a revised and updated version of one I posted in February]

for actual knowledge of, and direct involvement in electoral politics. It is what citizenship is all about.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Apr 29, 2006 at 03:43:19 PM EST

To get a sense of some California outfits engaged in encouraging progressive electoral organizing, folks might want to look at  this interview with Anthony Thigpenn of Los Angeles, posted at the Progressive Tecnology Project. There is a lot that is being done in pockets around the country; we need to be aware of more of these resources.
Can It Happen Here?
by janinsanfran on Sat Apr 29, 2006 at 06:03:22 PM EST

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