Here’s a question for everyone to think of today, as we’re awaiting news on our next party chair from the smoke-filled halls of a hotel in Atlanta.
How many people do we think should get a vote? 477, or 4,770,000?
Right now, it’s 477 and only 477.
There’s been lots of debate about the race, and plenty of strong feelings, but almost no discussion over whether this crazy process is even the way we should be doing it — especially for a party supposedly of the grassroots.
And especially of a race that’s generated enough interest and headlines for a freaking CNN debate.
Here’s a change I think the Democratic Party should make: Instead of having 477 people vote for our party chair, do what the UK Labour Party does and put the thing up to a general vote.
Furthermore, as a party that I think should completely reject corporate money, let’s move the Democrats to a model where we tie voting to an annual dues. Have a $25 annual dues, and mail everyone who pays their dues a ballot.
Think of how this Party Chair race would be playing out differently if that was the model. Instead of people fearing and dreading the choice, feeling like it was completely out of their hands, they’d be registering as Democrats and paying their $25 dues. Instead of having party big wigs capping each other at the knees, we’d be having them campaign their constituents and fans to register as Democrats and pay their $25.
Imagine how many people would be writing checks, taking out their credit cards and registering as Democrats if Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton were emailing all their supporters with their endorsements, with links on how to vote?
If a million people voted, that’s $25 million in party resources (minus expenses). That’s enough to provide each state party $15,000 a month in funding to help establish a 50 state plan, and *still* have about $15 million for other DNC expenses, including targeted campaigns.
Even if only 250,000 paid the first time, that’s $9 million, which could pay that $15,000/month figure to state parties (if barely).
Heck, if Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama — as well as every prominent Democrat across the country — all had their choices, and campaigned their lists hard, maybe we hit that 4,770,000 figure — or $119,250,000.
That sounds like the beginnings of a grassroots revolution to me.
And it would build a small dollar grassroots funding model, with a strong list of donors to come back to every election time (or even on a monthly basis), one that could compete with the GOP’s big edge corporate funding.
But the big, important thing — for any of this to really work — is the party would actually have to cater to the people, and not the big banks or billionaire donors.
Yet, if we really make that commitment, make people a real part of the process –and show that their support has value — we wouldn’t need to, either. And instead of this party chair fight being seen as something that saps energy, it would be something that drives it — and channels it as a device to power the party to victory in every state and at every level.