“In a 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates for corporations and the wealthy to spend unlimited and undisclosed money to buy our elected officials.”
On its face, this sounds just awful—an exclusive democracy for only those who can afford it, all the while not disclosing who is paying for it. This could be the case in American politics, however, the 2010 Citizens United v. FEC ruling (Citizens United) is not the cause of it. To believe otherwise is to give the real culprits a pass. Lack of transparency in federal elections is the fault of Congress and the Republican Party who currently control it. In this article I will highlight how Citizens United is good for transparency in elections. Continue reading Bernie Sanders is Wrong on Transparency in Elections.
Ask most Republicans and they’ll talk your ear off about private initiative and how government can stifle innovation. However, their own party does not practice what it preaches.
Our right of association is protected in the 1st Amendment of the Constitution. People have a right to come together and amplify their voices. This is at the heart of what constitutes a political party and is different from the express constitutional rights reserved by the federal government itself. That said, the Republicans and Democrats—two private groups that are not articulated in our founding document—have become part of government.
There is a story in the June 15th Intercept by Jordan Schwartz that quotes U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders regarding the 2008 Obama For America (OFA) campaign, “ [The] ‘biggest mistake’ he made after running ‘one of the great campaigns in American history’ was saying to the legions of people who supported him, ‘Thank you very much for electing me, I’ll take it from here.’”
I was Chair of the Wahkiakum County Democratic Committee at the time and recall the OFA people. I noted back then that OFA was basically a new party. They even had their own logo. Myself, on the other hand, was schlepping for the Democratic Party. Our leadership was elected under a structure that is established in the Regulatory Code of Washington. The OFA people were political appointees.
It was apparent to me that this arrangement was yet another way to stifle the grassroots of the Democratic Party — which like the GOP is effectively a State Party.
Schwartz writes, “Obama’s campaign had 3,000 organizers who recruited thousands more local leaders, who then helped mobilize 1.5 million volunteers and 13.5 million contributors.” These folks did not volunteer for the Democratic party. I took this into consideration in 2009 when I chose to leave the party and become a political independent looking for a new home. Continue reading They Love You, Then Leave You
Wendy Kaminer writes a good editorial in the June 8 Boston Globe regarding the Citizens United v. F.E.C. ruling. It is a good read. She points out that most of the big donors to campaigns are not corporations but wealthy individuals. Kaminer reminds us of the McCain-Feingold law, which parts were overturned by Citizens United, criminalized showing a documentary on pay-per-view television 30 days before an election. Many bemoan “Citizens United”, however, the ruling was good for freedom of speech—especially on the internet.
Imagine if a documentary about a candidate for public office was banned from YouTube during the election season? The SCOTUS majority that struck down this provision in McCain-Feingold was keen about the convergence of television and the internet. They said,
“Rapid changes in technology—and the creative dynamic inherent in the concept of free expression—counsel against upholding a law that restricts political speech in certain media or by certain speakers. . . . Today, 30-second television ads may be the most effective way to convey a political message. . . . Soon, however, it may be that Internet sources, such as blogs and social networking Web sites, will provide citizens with significant information about political candidates and issues. Yet, §441b would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds. The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.” (Opinion of the Court p 49.)
Kaminer is also correct when she states that those who disparage Citizens United could be manipulative, “[Turning] this complex ruling to a political symbol helps aspiring reformers raise funds and aspiring Democratic presidents organize support.”
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. Continue reading Association for the 21st Century
In November of 2007, I wrote a proposal for the foundation of an Open Source Party. Political noise was being generated about the 2008 presidential election and it looked to be a dreary affair.Most of the essential policy changes that the US desperately needed then (more desperate now) would be ignored. More importantly, systemic questions about how much power US citizens actually have to effect and carry out the policies they would prefer would not be asked.
I saw open source — with its emphasis on the transparency of “the program” — as the best popular (at least among the technologically versed) metaphor for challenging top-down politics.We were (and are) clearly in a system in which representation is, at least, vaguely democratic (we want it more democratic), but policy and legislation is the exclusive domain of the political class and their revolving door of “expert” operatives who drift back and forth between big finance, corporate law and political “service.” These bureaucrats and consultants would continue to serve the moneyed interests and their lobbyists and the vast interlocking state/private complexes (military-industrial, big oil, prison-industrial ad infinitum). These various power centers (there are probably about a dozen of them) have so much power that the US political process was (is) in a state of abject paralysis (I refer here not to the paralysis in which the bought-and-sold politicians from the big parties fail to pass legislation, but the paralysis of the entire body politic crippled by ingrained, legacy, interlocking power centers.).
The United States Open Source (OSP) party is in the process of developing our bylaws and other infrastructure. We are considering existing social networking tools for a collaborative interface with our public democratic process. I want to alert you to such a platform that has a lot of potential. NewGov is interesting as it asks users to pay a onetime nominal fee. This credit card transaction serves to place the user with respect to their political location. For example, by entering my zip code, the NewGov software places me in my State, US House district, state legislative districts, county etc.. What this does is to connect me with other residents of my various political jurisdictions.
This is important as we start to form the Open Source Party. As I wrote in my last post, the political system in the United States is decentralized. The federal OSP is basically an umbrella for local groups to become active in. NewGov could be a good organizing tool if we can figure out how to maximize it. What do you think?
Below is an editorial I wrote for NewGov about a year ago. I am posting it again as I believe the information is salient with what we are trying to do with the OSP. Continue reading Citizens Uniting
In my last post, I wrote about the U.K. election and how the first-past-the-post (FPTP) rules produced distorted results. This happened because a multitude of parties overwhelmed what should be, with FPTP, a two-party system. Still, we must ask why there are so many parities drawing so many votes in the U.K.?
In most of the free world, political parties are private groups. I offer that in the U.S., state controls on association stifle free association and have institutionalized the two major political parties. The result is a system tilted in the favor of political elites. Continue reading The Rules Matter: U.S. Parties