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The grip of political parties in Europe stifles grass-roots involvement.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:35:26 PM EST
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No ability to work from within the parties?  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:48:23 PM EST
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The stifling of dissent by only promoting like-minds prevents this. Grass roots with new ideas are frozen out from any position of influence and involvement.

Nowadays it's worse as there's a professional political class who have been working as advisers and media consultnts for years till they get parachuted into safe constituencies. Jobs for the boys (and it usually is boys)

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 03:56:13 PM EST
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This professional caste of politicians gets started in the youth sections of the parties, or in student associations, and quickly graduate into the party apparatus. Many young rising stars of many European parties have never been involved in anything other than partisan politics or the party apparatus.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:05:57 PM EST
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(Yes, because the girls marry the boys and get the money without needing to work for it.)
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 06:50:40 AM EST
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Not really.

Party membership is very small and it's really hard to join and make a difference because the local party will essentially be a clique (or a few of them).

Also, note that party membership implies paying dues. There is no equivalent of partisan voter registration and voluntary involvement from outside the party is minimal. And, in addition, public finance of campaigns means that parties don't need to (and often can't really) reach out for donations.

A question about the US: what is the difference between a sympathiser, a registered voter, a volunteer helper, a donor, a dues-paying card-carrying member, and a member of the apparatus of the party? Which categories are important and which are not (or are even nonexistent?)

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 04:04:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]

A question about the US: what is the difference between a sympathiser, a registered voter, a volunteer helper, a donor, a dues-paying card-carrying member, and a member of the apparatus of the party? Which categories are important and which are not (or are even nonexistent?)

In my time, I've been a registered in

  • the Democratic Party,
  • no party,
  • the Green Party
  • the Peace and Freedom Party, and
  • the Libertarian Party.

Having recorded my voter registration with the State (Nebraska, then California, now Nebraska again), I am a member of the party. My citizenship (along with my age and my lack of felony conviction) is my dues. (Some people would say that their taxes are their dues, but —unless you lose the franchise through a felony conviction for tax evasion— that's actually irrelevant.)

I'd say that I sympathise, in various ways, with the Green Party, the Libertarian Party, and the various small socialist parties (which include Peace and Freedom), although none of them really represent my views. I might also say that I sympathise with the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and (somewhat) the small-government wing of the Republican Party, even though I certainly don't sympathise with the parties themselves.

I have been both a volunteer and a donor; ironically, all of my party volunteer work was before I was 18 (voting age), so I was not a party member. For that matter, most of my donations have been to candidates of different parties. I've never donated to any party's campaign committees, but the Democrats keep asking me to, and I'm sure that they'd accept my money even though I haven't been a Democrat for years. (I even got a solicitation from the Republicans once, even though I've never been a member. Clearly these people are just using rented mailing lists, like the charity solicitations I get.)

As for member of the party apparatus …, you should talk to somebody from Iowa about that.

by Toby Bartels (toby+8190809933@ugcs.caltech.edu) on Wed Jun 27th, 2007 at 09:29:08 PM EST
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Hi Toby, welcome to ET. I hope you will be commenting here without Migeru reminding you. :-)
by Fran on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 01:35:19 AM EST
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Thanks, Fran!

by Toby Bartels (toby+8190809933@ugcs.caltech.edu) on Tue Jul 3rd, 2007 at 11:27:48 AM EST
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Partisan voter registration seems like a terribly dangerous privacy violation from a European perspective. I don't know whether that's because Europeans have a stronger memory of political repression or what, but it would be unthinkable to introduce that system in Europe.

The converse is making European parties closed dues-paying social clubs, which raises a lot of eyebrows among American ETers.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 06:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
difference between a sympathiser, a registered voter, a volunteer helper, a donor, a dues-paying card-carrying member, and a member of the apparatus of the party?

Sympathizer:  Anyone can sympathize with whatever or however many parties they choose.  Though mostly there is little sympathy for any party.

Registered voter:  Anyone who votes.  I believe the laws vary by state, but often you have to choose a party if you want to vote in the primaries.  All this means is you tell them what ballot you want.  You don't have any obligation to whichever party you choose.  Some states don't ask you to declare a party at all.  The problem with this is that it can lead to abuse of the primary system.

Volunteer helper:  Anyone can volunteer for any candidate they choose. They can also go to their local party organization and ask to volunteer, to do precinct work, canvassing, etc.

Donor:  Anyone can give to any party they want, though there are limits on how much you can give.  Or you can sidestep the party and give directly to a candidate.  Again, there are limits on how much you can give them.

Dues-paying card-carrying member:  I am not aware of any "dues."  I do know that if you donate any money at all, you get on a mailing list.  I don't know if you get a card, but I don't think it really means anything if you do.  The card doesn't give you special access to people.  Connections and money do...  

Member of the apparatus of the party:  Depending on your role, you can be elected or appointed.  It varies widely from area to area, and from the local party to the national party, from position to position.  It's really confusing.  I think in most cases you can just start going to meetings, and after you've committed so much time, you can become a voting member, and then you can run for chair of your local party and be elected by fellow voting members.  Technically, anyone can do this.  Then there is the state-wide party.  I don't know if seats in it are elected or appointed.  But they don't really do anything either...   Then there is the national party: RNC, DNC, etc.  You can be hired as a staffer or elected as a voting member.  The DNC members I know are basically go-getter politicians.  Like the dif. between being a diarist and nd admin at ET.  Either way, the main role of the national party is fundraising and nominating a Pres. candidate, which is a formality anyway because this is decided by primary elections.  The main role of the local party is fundraising, precinct organization and sometimes community organizing.  But all of this varies widely from place to place.  The party apparatus is composed of self-organizing entities which are usually devoid of any organization...  Bylaws?  What are bylaws?  sigh....

Then you have every variety of caucus: by region, race, creed, gender, special issues, etc. etc. which can represent a party.  I could set up an organization called "Chicago Democrats to impeach Daley" and it would be perfectly legal.  The party goons here have no respect for the law, so I might end up with bricks tied to my feet at the bottom of the river, but I could legally do it.

So far as party organizations go, outside the national level, it's really the wild wild west.  Which means they can be as corrupt as they want to be and disenfranchise everyone, but you can also start your own organization if you don't like the one you have.  This does happen and sometimes these organizations become very successful.  But the party apparatus really is a fundraising, gate-keeping entity which few regular citizens ever have any interest in or contact with...  

For the average Joe, parties are like sports teams.  You pick one and root for them and hope the other team loses.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:48:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I could set up an organization called "Chicago Democrats to impeach Daley" and it would be perfectly legal.  The party goons here have no respect for the law, so I might end up with bricks tied to my feet at the bottom of the river, but I could legally do it.

You're lucky the party goons haven't caught on to the possibilities of trademark law. The Democratic Party could decide that they want to defend the use of the label "Democrat" as a trademark and defend it by sending out cease-and-desist letters.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 11:53:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could no more do that than trade-mark the term "Catholic" and regulate the use of it...  

People can identify however they want.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Jun 28th, 2007 at 12:04:11 PM EST
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Well, if you can patent Yoga I wouldn't be too sure ...
by Number 6 on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 07:12:10 AM EST
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You can't patent Yoga. What Bikram did was copyright a sequence of Asanas, that is postures or exercises. He postulates that it is unique, however the postures are not his creation just the sequence in which you do them. Ridicules in my opinion. He was able to do this in the US, so I don't know if this is acceptable in Europe or India.
by Fran on Fri Jun 29th, 2007 at 11:07:38 AM EST
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