Monday, June 18, 2007

The Democratic Party Must Advance Democracy

An Educated Public Will Vote Democratic

This article responds to comments by S.W. Anderson, of Oh!pinion, about my previous post concerning forming Democracy Clubs in junior high and senior high schools.

SW, Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. If these ideas don’t track well with you, I imagine that other readers share your misgivings. The fact that I am approaching this idea from several perspectives, adds to the confusion.

The Democratic Party, it seems to me, must center itself on advancing a vision of democracy. At the heart of such a vision must be a plan for a dramatic increase of citizens who have benefited from an effective civic education. To succeed in accomplishing such a huge goal, there must be many approaches. I’m suggesting that we start with one obvious approach: finding a way to help public schools become more effective in their authentic civic education efforts. This idea, about emphasizing civic education, is based on the conviction that a public that has received an effective civic education will eventually favor the positions and outlook of the Democratic Party. I am not defining education as process of partisan indoctrination, but rather, education as a process of individual growth, one leading to independent thought.

My conviction is that, right now, neither the Democratic Party nor the Republican Party is all that much focused on advancing democracy -- but rather, these major parties are focused on marketing products. Marketing requires massive amounts of money, and so the central focus of political parties is on raising money for marketing efforts.

It is the damaged vision of our political parties -- that in practice says that winning is everything -- that accounts for much cynicism within the citizenry. A political party that could show, through its actions, that it has a vision that is centered on advancing democracy, that seeks, as I wrote, “to empower the grassroots to effectively participate in their democracy,” I believe, would gain support from voters. I think many voters or potential voters would be attracted to a political party that takes seriously its responsibility to advance democracy.

I am envisioning, maybe "hoping for" is a better term, a big shift in the philosophy and actions of the Democratic Party. Such a shift will take time and much effort -- even in a very small scale such as the Democratic Party in Montgomery County. Eventually, I believe, the public will demand that our society become more democratic and the party that has sees democracy as its purpose will have a big advantage. The shift I am hoping for is all about education and one place to start with the education process is to find a way to help make public education more effective. I wrote, “The idea would be to design a Democracy Club so that it could become the power source for authentic dialogue within the entire school and, in fact, within the entire community that supports the school. Such a Club would need to be designed so as to command the compelling interest of a least a significant subset of the school community.” (Talk about setting the bar high.)

This thinking about Democracy Clubs comes from a general contemplation of how to vitalize the grassroots. My conclusion is that vitalizing the grassroots is synonymous with vitalizing our democracy, and that the Democratic Party should embrace the vitalization of our democracy as central to its mission. I am wanting to write a plan for Democracy Clubs this week -- so I need to get to work.

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