Analysis of the state of the Democratic party presupposes the existence of a national Democratic party. But the fact is, as Gertrude Stein once said about Oakland, there’s no there there. Millions of people call themselves Democrats and several hundred thousand show up at Democratic state and national conventions. A Democratic National Committee raises money. But there’s no real national Democratic party. At least nothing like what the Republicans have: a network of conservative think tanks, a boatload of money to market the ideas that emerge from them and spokespeople to sell them. They recruit and train prospective candidates. And they have discipline-they decide on a party line and stick with it. They even have oligarchs-the Republican Powerful who gathered together in 1996 and decided George W Bush was going to be their candidate in 2000. What do Democrats have? We have conferences on “The future of the Democratic party,” where we debate whether we should move rightwards to the Republican-lite centre or back to FDR, then we go off and do whatever we were doing before.
The only time there’s even a semblance of a national Democratic party is when Democrats come up with a presidential candidate, but Democrats don’t actually come up with a presidential candidate. Instead, several dozen men who call themselves Democrats come up with themselves. Thirty months before election day, they let it be known that they’re considering running. Each then starts endless rounds of visits to New Hampshire and Iowa, talks to all the interest groups (unions, teachers, environmentalists, identity organisations), chats with the media, meets with donors in Hollywood and other bastions of Democratic money. Twenty months before election day, a half-dozen such entrepreneurs are still running. At this point, the same old Washington-based Democratic political consultants, pollsters and marketers decide who they want to back. And the race is on.
So the first thing we need is a real national party. Something with grass roots, with the capacity to think new ideas and market them. We need a movement that embraces all the people who have been left out, who have been screwed both by big corporations and big government-people who are working their asses off but aren’t earning much more than they did a dozen years ago, who are cynical about every institution in American society but still love the US with all their hearts.
But we can’t have a…