Thursday, March 10, 2005

What Is To Be Done, II

The Kos has a link to a Democratic staffer in the House who tries to explain the behavior of the 14 Senate Democrats who voted to throw consumers and working families under the proverbial bus on behalf of the credit card cartel.

From an academic, Rational Choice kind of perspective, his conclusion sadly makes some sense--there are concentrated, organized interests with dollars to give on one side, and a disorganized, dispersed, and underfunded mass on the other side. So going for the Big Money isn't totally illogical. Politicians are rational actors, who will respond to various issues based on the balance of interests--and the potential for those interests to provide pleasure or inflict pain on the legislator.

Very well.

But as I posted over at Rising Hegemon, isn't it exactly this inbalance of competing interests and incentives that the political party in general, and the Democratic Party in particular, is supposed to correct?

The problem seems to be how the party's grassroots can apply pressure to the party's leadership, which can then act on the party's governing members. In the absence of organized interests--such as the AARP and others on the Social Security debate--how do progressives connect with the party's hierarchy to, at a minimum, express it's opinion and distaste for a bill such as this, and preferably, impress the party leadership that the grassroots are able and prepared to supply a "stick" should the party or a sizeable number of its members act contrary to progressive principles?

First, there needs to be an acknowledged point of contact. Is this, or should it be a) Dean and the DNC; b) Reid's office or c) Pelosi's office; or any and all of the above? Are either of the congressional leadership offices open to voices of the party's, as opposed to just that member's local or state constituency? If the DNC is not supposed to do policy, as Reid and Pelosi warned prior to Dean's election, what can the DNC accomplish?

Second, to the extent that their is a progressive consensus on a matter before Congress, what incentives or disincentives can be promised or threatened? Certainly to a limited extent, progressives on the web can be a source of campaign resources, or the lack thereof, as well as a source of negative or positive press.

Josh Marshall's TPM has been an illustration of what progressive activism can look like, regarding Social Security "reform". But obviously more needs to be done.

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