Moving from “governing by abstraction” to relational, real-world people stuff. From paulsimmons, an elaboration on an old Mike Dukakis riff — read the whole thing — heck, print it out and keep it handy:
Simply put progressives have to relearn grassroots ward-and-precinct politics.
One of those little irritations in my life is that we as citizens have ceded too much power to outside structures – the fact that many of those structures operate with the best intentions is moot – to the detriment of community-accountable grassroots politics.
Over the past forty years, structured Party organisms have been allowed to wither on the vine, the result (in my opinion) is a tendency to govern by abstraction. Corollary to this is a tendency to think of electioneering as synonymous with marketing. A direct result of this was the shifting of resources from permanent, locally-based, volunteer-staffed field organizations to media operations and paid operatives.
The elite political wisdom at the time of Keverian’s Speakership was that there was no need for Party-centric grassroots structures; that elected officials should govern as individuals, with power bases comprised of organized advocacy groups reinforced by media buys. It was this cultural corruption that created chaos in the House. In this context I use the word “corruption” in the software sense, not morally or legally.
The result of this was an elitist culture that soon morphed into class bigotry. It is no coincidence (as the commies used to say) that the first systematic privatization of State services in the Commonwealth occurred in human services, particularly in mental health. We are in something close to a zero-sum game, where average citizens have little to no knowledge of the politics and personalities that are in play on local, state, and national levels.
A first start for progressives would be to get adequate information about the actual dynamics of state politics. THis would require a division of labor, wherein folks who know the actual internal dynamics can obtain accurate information about (for example) the chances of a given bill getting out of committee and why. This requires the ability to relate to the worker bees on various staffs, and the sense to keep confidences when necessary.
Thus, political approached can be premised upon real-world dynamics, not infantile morality plays. for example, it would not hurt to have people capable of reading the text of a bill and analyzing line items and translating same into understandable English. (A good source for the latter is the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.)
On the ground, we have to come to terms with the facts that the most credible surrogates for issues and candidates are neighbors and other folks who can establish organic ties to voters. These are the people who need to be recruited and nurtured for successful progressive politics.
In particular folks have to understand the difference between mobilizing and organizing.
As a class, progressives are competent mobilizers, but crappy organizers; in fact I’ll take that one step further: As organizers, progressives often default to Orange Hatting, and thus operate as right-wing outreach mechanisms.
So, as a first step, I would suggest taking the time to ask people outside of one’s geographic and social comfort zones what they think the problems are. If a congruence of interest exists, allow the locals to organize each other.
At the local level in, for example Boston, all development has to go through zoning. It never hurts to get on the mailing list for the Zoning board of Appeals.
The same goes for city council/town meetings. One can empower people by providing access to public notices in a timely matter. “Timely” is defined as before the fix is in. Most local and State policy information can be obtained – either directly – or indirectly (through developing relationships) .
Back to the Legislature. The prime duty of Leadership (as perceived by rank and file) is to protect incumbents. That, not abstract political beliefs, is what all the post-Keverian Speakers had in common.