Centrist Democrats Who Believe In Magic Words

In an article describing how progressive lefty types plan to target non-voters, there’s a very telling comment by a Third Way New Democrat (boldface mine):

Some Democrats have poked holes in this “emerging majority” strategy on logistical grounds. “I don’t think there’s a secret progressive nonvoter bloc that, if we just say the magic words, is gonna show up and, voila, fix the Democrats’ problems at the polls,” said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, the vice president for social policy and politics at Third Way, a think tank advocating for center-left ideas. Nonvoters, she said, are going to be hard to engage. “Is it easier to activate a whole bunch of people that haven’t voted in 20 years or persuade the people who are already showing up?”

Hatalsky is right: there aren’t any magic words. What there is, however, is movement building. The hard work of banging on doors–and motivating said door bangers. Instead of viewing politics as a contest between dueling brands–iOS or Android–progressives belatedly are starting to realize that, to win, Democrats need to be something more than just an item you purchase with your vote (or your campaign donations). A brand isn’t enough to win a political war, especially when your opponents are highly motivated. But as some asshole with a blog noted, there are downsides to this approach–for some Democrats:

It’s not just a matter of “investing.” To be blunt, organizations, including the Democratic Party, will have to learn to relinquish–which is to say, lose–(some) control to their rank-and-file. Otherwise, your organization is just another consumer product that can be dropped when something shinier comes along.

When the Democratic Party was strong, rank-and-file Democrats had direct and indirect ways to influence the party. Third Way Democrats never understood that, and to the extent they did, they actively damaged the formal and informal institutions that could influence the party, such as labor unions. Because the Iron Law of Institutions is how New Democrats roll:

What he’s overlooking is that the Democrats operate according to the Iron Law of Institutions. The Iron Law of Institutions is: the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution “fail” while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to “succeed” if that requires them to lose power within the institution.

Not so good for the rest of us.

And the congregation responds: This is yet another reason why we can’t have nice things.

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