Association for the 21st Century

OSPBy Krist Novoselic

The United States Open Source Party (OSP) is a national effort in context of a de-centralized political system. I have written briefly about this in my last post. This means the OSP can support candidates throughout the nation. It also means there needs to be state and local chapters of the party.

We aim to foster democratic participation by merging political association with social networking. We believe that the decentralized US political system offers many opportunities to achieve this.

Our pending bylaws establish the United States Open Source Party. These party rules provide concepts to local groups of how to nominate candidates, fuse with other parties or endorse existing candidates. I stress the word “concepts” as I see the party structure articulated in our bylaws, as a model for the new kind of political association. As local groups develop, our bind is a shared respect of the idea of open-source collaboration established in the concepts offered by the US OSP bylaws.

The OSP is a decentralized party, therefore state and local groups are mostly autonomous. For example, the bylaws allow local groups to name themselves. I would like to see an OSP affiliated group in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington State organize under the moniker “Columbia Pacific Party”. Readers should let their imaginations be guided by the needs and values of their region. The idea is for groups to organize under open-source principles of collaboration, while at the same time maintain traditional organizational structures.

The Obsolete Parties

I was chair of the Wahkiakum County Democratic Central Committee for about three years. I also served as a State Committee Officer and Precinct Committee Officer. I met a lot of nice people and did some good things, however, I left the party in late 2009 frustrated with the clunky apparatus of the organization. I believe their party structure  suppresses grassroots participation.

We have state parties in the United States. Rules for parties that qualify under “major party” status can be found in state statutes. I believe that many of these rules could accommodate modern technology, however, there seems to be no will in the state parties to do so. The support for my allegation could be found in the way parties nominate candidates for US president.

Most states have implemented measures to monopolize major party nominations. Nevertheless, individual states cannot control the nomination for the national office of president. A bill in the Washington State legislature for a presidential primary died this year because the Democratic Party refused to allocate delegates to their national convention via a state-administered process. A presidential primary would have only been a beauty contest with no real effect on the nomination outcome. The other major party, the GOP, pledged to allocate half of their delegates from the taxpayer funded and publicly administered primary.

I believe the Democrats made a good call with forsaking the public primary, however, they are still being old fashioned by clinging to their archaic caucus system. Democrats and Republicans expect people—in this day and age—to give up a good part of their Saturday afternoon to participate in something that should be left to the party faithful/activists. This arrangement is also excludes people who work on Saturdays, have a religious obligation or serve in the military overseas. The only reason people attend a caucus is so they can affect the apportionment of delegates for their favored candidate. Instead of making this simple for people, the parties use this lure to corral voters for hours. It is no wonder party caucuses are so poorly attended by voters.

I think the Democrats and especially the GOP can learn from the French Socialists about private initiative. The French Socialist party in 2011 held their own primaries where citizens could come into a location, vote for a nominee, then leave. This arrangement was efficient, inclusive and reflected well on the party.

The good news is that minor parties can avoid many of the statutory burdens placed on political association. (There are other barriers for third parties to get on the ballot) At OSP, we want to use technology to support how we choose our nominees and party leadership. We believe that new tools can allow free association to thrive away from cumbersome state rules and the two state parties who embrace them.

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