Coalition Building – Federalism vs Self-Determinism

Much of the symbolism and metaphor of this site has been drawn from federalism. Old and outdated methods of doing things must be left behind, but that which is old, and still true, must abide. The actual function of federalism, though not necessarily the concept, is as old as the arbiter, the mediator, the courtroom judge, in whom two conflicting parties willingly invested the power to decide over their mutual affairs, in order to avoid might makes right. Though an old idea, it remains the only means by which peace is possible. Peace is not an absence of war or conflict, but the presence of mutually agreed upon and functioning mechanisms for resolving conflict and for achieving positive goals. It is the antithesis to self-determinism.

The proposal for a People’s Coalition itself is a suggestion to federate the third parties to achieve their specifically defined common goals, centered around a Coalition Platform. All things unrelated to the common goal are left to the respective parties and organizations, freeing them up to focus more intensely on these at a more fundamental and local level. Thus, coalitions increase their powers to achieve the goal of the union, while also gaining new ability to achieve all other goals not related to that union.

Federalism works. Parties, as isolated and competing entities, now vie for support, membership, media recognition, etc. What no one of them is saying is that this is actually survival of the fittest. That kind of competition might be healthy in another world and were we not in a crisis. Right now, this is nothing but infighting, mild and benign as that may seem, and in the very presence of a devouring, double headed serpent!

Self-determinism

In pushing for Coalition, the People’s Coalition has heard on several occasions the same refrain, “We are an established party. We don’t need a coalition. We are already doing that. Join us.” Everyone wants to be in the driver’s seat but few are asking why the members of other parties are not joining this or that party.

One size does not fit all, and none can expect to convert the entire membership of other parties over to one’s own. It would be like Californians expecting New Yorkers to all move to California in order to enjoy the fruits of the state. It just won’t happen. The population of New York can however join them in union.

It is true that in this Coalition, the parties will have to give up some of their power to determine their own courses. This is the great barrier to all such coalitions. It always is. It was for the 13 colonies, which, after the Revolutionary War made an attempt at a loose union of self-determined states. And each, determining its own course, went to war by various means, refusing to recognize the currencies of the others, threatening with soldiers on one another’s border, erecting tariffs against one another’s goods, etc. Just as nation states do today. They nearly went to war with one another with bullets because, in self-determined fashion, they had no mediating power higher than themselves to resolve conflicts.

Coalition As Federalism

This proposal is not the loose union of self-determinism, but one of federal union around a political platform of mutually agreed values. It is this concept of federalism that allows for unity without uniformity. With federalism, there is no “get in line” mentality. And in fact, agreeing on just a few essential points together actually grants us more freedom to disagree in all other areas, yet without might makes right in play.

What federalism does is clearly define the roles of entities in relation to one another. By giving up some power to decide into the hands of the collective or common body, each group then liberates itself for further action.

I bears repeating. We are talking here about uniting parties around a core set of values for political action. Everyone wants clean air and water, and so the progressive third parties to the left of the Democrats ought to be able to unite around this core value, stating it clearly as a common area to fight for. Everyone wants good wages and working conditions, and so, the various parties and organizations ought to come together and define in the coalition platform definite goals for minimum wage and the strengthening of unions.

It will always be so that a plurality of voices is noise without some greater defining goal that turns them into a chorus. Plurality in and of itself is not music.

Third parties can and sometimes will unite to enhance their unique potentials, and in unison further those ends that they discover they overlap on. But until they do, they will continue to attempt to drive their own respective cars, this one without gas, that one without wheels, the other without sparkplugs. All with the same roadmap, and none to get us there.

The hour is striking.

People's Coalition federalism

 

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Why We Need A Coalition

In art, variety is essential to beauty. Similarly, in politics, diversity of opinion is indispensable to strength. What is being proposed here — a coalition of third parties of the United States as one voting bloc — will not be easy, and the author of this blog bears no illusions that it will be other than challenging. But the achievement of a coalition will be the beginning of real political discourse. In pushing for a coalition, an appealing vision of what it can potentially be needs presenting. Nothing adds weight to the pursuit of an idea like augmenting its vividness.

Why A Coalition?

I draw again from the National Democratic Institute report, Coalitions: A Guide for Political Parties, p. 20, as it remains an authority on coalition building. I also draw to an extent on organizingforpower.org‘s pdf pamphlet Alliance Building Guide. These are the incentives of forming a coalition:

  • Increases vote share – this is where we encourage members of all parties to vote as a bloc to secure seats in office, and augment our ability to pass legislation.
  • Combines forces and resources – it bears repeating that it is easier for 10 parties to gain ballot access for one candidate, than for 10 parties to gain ballot access for 10 candidates.
  • Manages cleavages (e.g., ethnic, religious, ideological) and broadens participation – our diversity is our strength only when we unite. It is a vice when we do not find common purpose. A coalition strengthens the vision of a common purpose and gets people involved and in contact.
  • Mitigates weaknesses and multiplies strengths – A coalition tends to be seen collectively. And rightly so. It is a powerful entity compared to the separate parties acting on their own and for their own isolated gains. Again, a coalition is not the mere sum of our parts.
  • Improves public opinion – parties working together all increase their favorability among the members of all other coalition parties. This is so simply because these other member parties are seen as allies willing to work together.
  • Increases experience – what can’t be said of this? Teamwork is perhaps the most important lesson we can learn in life, and there is no more profound way of gaining this valuable experience of team effort than working to serve one’s constituents, while simultaneously deferring self-determinative party interests for the sake of the group!
  • Associates success – the public may associate individual parties with coalition successes, helping to increase support.
  • Solves problems creatively – the pooling of minds and resources is the setting of the stage for new and unique solutions to problems.
  • Enhances public awareness – the coalition organizing body becomes a clearinghouse of information about the activities of respective member parties, which increases awareness of member candidates and common legislative goals.

These benefits outlined above are of course generic. The specific situation in the United States will yield unique results, such as a shift of the discourse slightly left, the strengthening of progressive voices, and the increase of offices held by coalition members outside the two main parties. This last point alone will create greater potential for alliance formation and cross-party collaboration even among Democrats and Republicans. Two good examples of this potentially happening is when Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Ron Paul drafted a bill to audit the Federal Reserve, or the Floridians for Solar Choice coalition, in which Republicans, Libertarians, Liberals and Tea Party members joined forces to push for a solar energy sales bill. Examples like these are innumerable, in the United States and all over the world. In other parts of the world, in fact, coalitions are long standing phenomena, and do not generally fade with the passage or failure of a single piece of legislation.

This is the vision of what a coalition of US third parties could be and achieve. I hope you will join in reading the proposal for a People’s Coalition and spreading this blog and its cause.
#LeftCo
People's Coalition - Third parties. One voting bloc.

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E Pluribus Unum

No one is an island. The achievements of any one of us is an achievement of all. The success of any one person, organization or political party to further the ends of freedom is a success of all others. This proposal for a coalition of third parties itself does not live in an isolated vacuum, but a landscape of successes and failures. It is not a proposal to replace any other worthy objective, but an effort at enhancing the power of good people to achieve valuable ends and in just ways.

Three Fronts

The battle that we are fighting must take place on three fronts. These have their merits and demerits, but none of them should be ignored:

  1. Reforming the Democratic Party & Replacing Congress.
  2. Draft Bernie
  3. The People’s Coalition

Reform

Some of us cannot go back to the Democratic Party. This writer is one. We have waited impatiently upon a Democratic Party to realign itself as the so called party of the people, yet this has not happened. In many ways and in numerous circles, the Party is entrenching itself in a refusal to acquiesce to the obvious. There are however some who are working for this change. Among them are the Justice Democrats, now aligned with Brand New Congress, in a progressive push to transform the Democratic Party from the bottom up. It is a worthy effort to strive and work towards that end, to reform an institution caught in the doldrums of political pride and wealthy donors. That is one approach to victory for the people, and we should encourage those who are attempting this reform. We may have finally refused the Democrats, but the more of its numbers that join the ranks of progressive ideology, the better is our strength. We will need allies within that party as well as outside of it. Therefore, we should encourage those who are attempting that work, even should we regard that Party as a white sarcophagus, outwardly clean, but full of dead men’s bones.

Draft Bernie

This is our hope, and it should be a main effort of every individual reading this. Sign their petition to Draft Bernie now! Yet it is not enough. Should Bernie Sanders not be swayed by this initiative–though I am of the strong opinion he will–then we cannot be left with but one option of reforming the Democratic Party or replacing Congress. We cannot be dependent on any one man or woman. If Draft Bernie succeeds or fails, we will still need to reform the Democratic party (to supersede it) and we ought to still work to coalesce the third parties of the left as one voting bloc.

Coalition

A coalition of third parties is necessary. We must fight on this third front simultaneously while working with and for one or both of the other two fronts. The third parties of the United States must form a singular voice. Even should we shift local Democrats to the left, a coalition of third parties would make for a powerful statement of solidarity. Below is a more detailed description of the proposal for a coalition of third parties.

Legislative and Electoral Coalition

Third parties, one voting bloc is not an unattainable ideal. Coalitions of various kinds are a fact in numerous nations, just now a necessity in the United States. There is even a bipartisan coalition rising up between Democrats and Republicans at the State level in the Wolf-PAC. Do look them up, as they are a shining example of the power of coalition!

The Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress itself is a coalition, what they themselves call the Coalition of the Winning. It is based around a progressive platform:

But to what end do we create a coalition of the left, termed #LeftCo? And in what form? This proposal for a Coalition of third parties is specifically to achieve an electoral alliance as well as a legislative coalition, as defined by the National Democratic Institute in their pdf report, Coalitions: A Guide for Political Parties, pp. 14-15, 18. Wolf PAC itself is a legislative coalition. Its goal is to achieve the singular reform of legislation: money out of politics, state by state, until a quorum of states is reached to force a Constitutional Convention on this one issue, to amend the Constitution to overturn Citizens United. The alliance works because they have a clearly defined legislative goal they strive to enact. Party dogma falls away in this singular item, so that Republicans and Democrats can work side by side. They do not lose their identities in any other way. The Wolf PAC organization acts as a coordinating body, without dominating the two parties in any way.

A legislative coalition of third parties requires a Coalition platform (or some goal of legislation) in which coalition parties agree on some key point or points. This is proposed here, and is the foundation for voting as a bloc on various issues, as well as for forming the basis for consistent candidate vetting across party lines within the Coalition.

An electoral alliance is a coalition specifically geared to gain seats, to gain office. This is not unlike the goal of the Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress, an electoral coalition, only that the proposal here is of third parties work together to coordinate candidates, vet them on a consistent basis around the coalition platform, and help one another in signature drives, ballot access, rallies and the sharing of information about one another’s candidates.

These two forms of coalition constitute a voting bloc of legislation and of candidates. This is powerful. This will gain more seats than any one party can do on its own, and will push harder on legislation related to the Coalition Platform than any one party can achieve. This is the beginning of the breaking of the deadlock of the illusion of choice that the two party system shackles us to.

The Fight

The fight must take place on all three of these fronts. We cannot do any one of these and hope for complete victory of the people. This is the fight of our lives, the lives of our children, and the life of the planet. Support these efforts.

E Pluribus Unum

People's Coalition - Third parties. One voting bloc.

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The People’s Coalition

A house divided cannot stand. And yet that is where Progressives, Independents, Greens, and other third parties find themselves, despite having so very much in common politically. Every time third parties try to organize, we only create one more party, among the plethora of third parties. The formation of new parties is clearly not working. We split our power so that the majority of the electorate comes to nought. In this we become disillusioned and our low voter turnout is the only form of political power we have, albeit, a negative form in our absence at the polls. We are a fragmented movement. This is, and has always been, to the advantage of the two major parties. These two parties continue their dangerous drift to the right without any concern that something might blossom in the power vacuum that remains. This situation tends toward lesser-of-two-evil jargon, leads inevitably to the illusion of choice, and brings out the baser side of all involved, at the expense of the American citizen and the real issues and problems we all face.

The People’s Coalition

The writing is on the wall. In singleness of purpose, we are not the mere sum of our parts. Our voice is our power, and it grows by organization. If we stand together, our power is multiplied, our voices are louder, our solutions are wiser. The time has come to form a coalition, The People’s Coalition, what the Rev. Jesse Jackson and later Senator Bernie Sanders would refer to as a rainbow coalition.

That Which Unites Us

What follows then are suggestive structures that, in this writer’s opinion, are essential to a successful coalition of third parties. Before outlining these, it should be made clear that we can have unity without uniformity. We need not look alike, live alike, or believe alike to unite as one in our various problems. We are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper, and it is in the extension of the terms, brother and sister, to apply to every human being that we find real allies and in which we fight against oppression and disenfranchisement everywhere it is found. It is a shallow kind of morality, in fact the basest kind, which requires homogeneity to have ethnic, political or religious peace. Believing that we are virtuous enough to find alliances within, and at times despite, our diversity, the following coalition structure is outlined:

I. The Coalition Platform

The participating parties of the Coalition must first assemble and create a common platform of political issues that seem both vital and immediate in their impact on our lives. An issue based platform allows from a strong statement of collective intention, makes political decisions a moral issue, and unites people in ends, if not in means. We must avoid lofty moralizing and empty platitudes and instead create a platform that defines discrete policies that go to the heart of the issues, that are at once strong, moral and yet broad enough to be adaptable according to individual parties. This is not a watering down of all parties with a resulting loss of party identity. This is the creation of the hub of a great wheel. The Coalition is not a party. It is this Platform that the parties create.

II. Coalition Candidate Vetting

Having created the Coalition Platform, no small task, we can begin in earnest to work in unison, as a large and diverse bloc of voters. The Coalition must provide a web based resource for vetting of Coalition party candidates. Having a Coalition Platform that is clear and issue based gives us the ability to quickly describe in short order where a candidate in any given party of the Coalition stands on, say, the ten key issues of the Coalition Platform. The result is that we increase our ability to vote as a bloc. As individual voters, we will still vote as we choose, but by voting over party lines where possible, we are collectively voting for the Coalition Platform. This is no small achievement. Pause to consider it.

III. Coalition Clearinghouse

In addition to vetting candidates from all member parties consistently and concisely, and in all levels of government, the Coalition must provide information on propositions, laws and regulations that are being proposed at all levels of government, as they relate, and only as they relate, to the Coalition Platform. If a proposition in California or a law in Congress touches upon, hinders or forwards the Coalition Platform, those with a vote need to know of it. Protests, rallies, town hall meetings, marches, inquiries and hearings must, to the best of the Coalition’s ability be available should they touch upon the Coalition Platform. This is technically possible via zip code.

Strictly Platform Based

Parties are going to disagree on various issues. Candidates within parties may disagree on issues. Two candidates may, for instance, have different stances on student debt and how to solve this problem. However, if it is not an issue of the Coalition Platform, the Coalition has no basis for acting, has no ground for vetting candidates. This allows an added measure of diversity of thought, opinion, and solutions to reign, and allows both parties and candidates to diversify, angle themselves and appeal to the varied needs and hopes of voters. But in the Coalition Platform, we vote as a block. There is risk that should the Coalition stray from its exclusive focus on the Platform, it might end in bias for or against a given party. There is also risk that the Coalition will become watered down and lose sight of those things all member parties collectively deem crucial. Stay the course.

Coalition As Potential Mediator

When two candidates from different parties within the Coalition run for the same office, the Coalition could potentially act as the host of a debate (or several) between these two, previous to the actual election. The loser of the debate(s) and intermediary election would agree to drop out in support of the other candidate. Voting methods would have to be worked out, but this would serve as a way to avoid splitting the vote over against candidates outside the Coalition. This would have several other positive consequences to both parties as well as the Coalition.

Unique Opportunity

Member organizations need not be political parties. They can be politically oriented organizations, but in all cases must be politically oriented in purpose, and abide by the Coalition. By joining the coalition, they are gaining a voice in the chorus, and have the right and duty to affect the Coalition Platform to an extent. Those parties that field candidates should have the greater say.

Ballot Access

It is easier for 10 parties to gain ballot access for one candidate, than for 10 parties to gain ballot access for 10 candidates. The Coalition must act as the coordinating body of the respective member parties. The Coalition acts to coordinate resources for gaining ballot access, increasing the number of signatures needed for a given petition, etc.

Vision

The portrait that is being painted here is one of incentive. The People’s Coalition proposes to federate the third parties. As the Coalition gains in strength, credibility, legitimacy, more third parties will wish to join. It will be beneficial to do so. The goal is a diverse body of member parties, working together on agreed upon core issues, adding voice where there once was none. In attempting to create lift, the People’s Coalition is applying added pressure with increased numbers, and in organization, is moving the fulcrum to increase leverage.

If we unite, we win.

People's Coalition - Third parties. One voting bloc.

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