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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006


advice to John Cole

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, November 01, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
John Cole really bares his soul in a lamentation about the state of the Republican Party. His party loyalist bonafides are sterling, yet he feels profoundly betrayed. And in his summary of his feelings about where his party has gone, he says something very familiar to me, indeed:

And it makes me mad. I still think of myself as a Republican- but I think the whole party has been hijacked by frauds and religionists and crooks and liars and corporate shills, and it frustrates me to no end to see my former friends enabling them, and I wonder ‘Why can’t they see what I see?” I don’t think I am crazy, I don’t think my beliefs have changed radically, and I don’t think I have been (as suggested by others) brainwashed by my commentariat.

Now, the analogy to extremist Islam simply leaps off the page here. And where I would take issue with John, in defense of his party, is the same way I defend Islam: by noting that there is actually very little evidence (and in fact plenty of counter-evidence) that by and large the rank and file of his party is as extremist as the ones driving it off the cliff.

How do extremists gain control? Is it because of a failing of the mainstream? Is it because of a flaw in the underlying ideology? is it because the majority tacitly approves? I answer no. It is simply because extremists see that thing which we in the mainstream value, as a means to an end: power. Control. And therefore they are the ones who are most motivated to opportunistically game the system in their favor. We in the mainstream don't want to game the system, we just want the system to work. So we are at a fundamental disadvantage.

What's the solution? Simply, localization. We must assert control at the local level of our institutions. Whether it be the party precinct or the local masjid, we must focus inwards and ensure that they meet the expectations and standards of our values. And we, who are articulate enough to write and argue and persuade, must be active in that local community as well, as guardians of those values. This applies to virtual commmunities as much as it does to physical ones.

One reason I am optimistic about the future of the Democratic Party as both a wide tent and as being more immune to the corruption that both the GOP and the Dmeocratic party underwent during their respective periods of single-party rule is because of the 50-state strategy that Howard Dean is laying the ground work for. In essence, Dean has destroyed and upended the centralized structure of the Democratic National Committee. He has sent millions of dollars to local state organizers instead of to the central and nationalized party organs like the DCCC and the DSCC. He has paid for field activists and prganizers and district leaders to begin grassroots organizing in the reddest of red states, such as Utah. In ten years' time, should the Democrats find themselves in single-party rule again, they won't find these state organizations subservient to the diktats of Washington DC. This is a powerful shift in paradigm that I sincerely pray - for the good of our country and the sake of our nation - is mirrored by the GOP as well.

John, your party is ultimately irrelevant. What matters is your community. You can put whatever label you want on it, but find it, or build it, and lead it. That's how we safeguard our democracy - next week, next year, and in the next decade to come.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.