Recent events and obvious deficiencies in the Caucus/Assembly process one again expose the establishment manipulation of the process. This article is the first in a three-part series examining the Caucus/Assembly process and the need to end it.
Recent events in various statewide campaigns raise again both the inadequacy and inefficiency of the Caucus/Assembly process for picking the best ideas and candidates for office in Colorado.
The most prominent example is the abandonment of the Assembly nominating process by the establishment candidates for US Senate of each major Party; the Democrat Michael Bennet and the Republican Jane Norton. Obviously, fearing the Caucus/Assembly process is not going to work to their advantage this time, they have both abandoned the process to Petition-on the primary ballot in August. After having wasted an enormous amount of time and energy following the establishment process, the grassroots delegates are being left in the dust by the Party establshment candidates.
This is becoming an increasing trend in both parties in recent Congressional, statewide and local seats. The attempt is both cynical and instructive. A short review of the history of the Caucus/Asembly system is in order.
As a Democrat Party creation during the 20s and 30s the open Caucus/Assembly process is basically incompatible with the needs of a Republic the same as the system that preceded it. Democrats began developing the open-caucus process to expand and deepen the Party’s impact in rural and lower income areas of the country. It was a move designed to devolve the “Party-Boss” and ‘machine’ structure effected during the latter 19th century that gave rise to the “smoke-filled” room concept where all candidates for the Party are picked by powerful and connected insiders. The Party rank-and-file was then left with only those choices to support. Any candidates who attempted to run outside the blessings of the Party-Boss/machine structure was quicky put down. Most times through some fairly ugly methods. It, too, handicapped the adaptation of necessary political change and separated the base from having any real power in the Party. The “Good Ol’ Boys” (and more recently the GOGs) network ruled the roost.
Each time in history it gave rise to 3rd Party movements which quickly took the stage, had temporary impact and then flamed out within the next 1-2 election cycles. The first in the 20th century was T. Roosevelt’s “Bull Moose-Progressives.” The last was Ross Perot’s Independent Party movement in the 90s. The current iteration is the TEA Party movement, oscillating between staying completely outside the Party system, being co-opted by one party or moving towards the establishment of another 3rd party.
As the more open process began to take hold Democrats started seeing much better electoral success. The financial/fiscal crises of the late 20s and 30s helped precipitate that development. Many people believed, (rightly) that the rich and powerful had disenfranchised the rank-and-file. The Democrats quickly adopted more and more of the open-caucus process to speed that success. The success of the FDR Democrats through the 30s and 40s pushed Republicans to use the same strategy/tactics in order to stop successive, overwhelming electoral victories of the Democrats. That did not eliminate the effects of the Party-Boss/machine political structures (no power structure ever gives it up easily). However, it did send them a lot more underground and gave the appearance, at least, of a more broad-based power structure. The dominant, power-aggrandizers were forced to learn new methods. Obviously, they have done that.
By the 60s and 70s the Caucus system came into wide prominence through a series of presidential elections beginning with the Kennedy, McGovern and McCarthy campaigns in the 1968 election. From then on it expanded its use for both the Democrats and Republicans solidifying its hold on the state and national election process. President Carter‘s campaign was the success that really propelled the Caucus system to its widest adoption.
It was an effective tool during a time when distributed communication was not yet in use and centralized mass media (first radio, then TV was added a few decades later) was the rule. Today, the Caucus/Assembly process has been obviated by two factors:
- The advent of the Internet, Cable/Satellite channelization of mass media and the enormously effective, distributed communication and information structure it enables.
- The increasing rigidity of the Party establishments and the centralization of the Party processes in that establishment used in manipulating the Caucus/Assembly/Primary system.
Rigidity and centralization are natural outgrowths of any established system with a hierarchical design structure from the beginning. It is open to further centralization and manipulation by the successive insiders that know the rules and learn to play the insider game. Over time, any system that retains those design features will be comprised in such fashion as the examples we have today illustrate.
However, the initiation of the TEA Party movement has again exposed the rigidity and hindbound nature of the current system. Essentially, with the distribution and speed with which information now moves through the lowest possible level, it exposes just how hindbound and unable to adapt (except to keep their control and influence in place) the Party establishments are in effect.
It is clear that establishment structures are unable to adapt and hear (or more likely, ignore) where the base of the Party is moving at any given moment and over time. It should be obvious too, that the easy willingness to abandon the insider process when threatened, means it should be eliminated entirely to end the inefficiency and rigidity of centralization. Allowing it to remain in place only means the newcomers will more likely be outmanuevered each time, depending on what the establishment sees as in their best interest, continually frustrating the new ideas and the new candidates.
The playing field needs to leveled once and for all by a “back to the future” move to fully implement a petition-only process for selecting and electing candidates. It leaves the Parties in place but truncates more directly the ability to control and manipulate the selection of ideas and candidates that achieve prominence and electoral victory. It will force them to more directly adhere to their stated principles rather than pay lip-service in order to placate the base.
A system of candidate petioning and election will be posed in the next article to explain how that would work. It will also explain how to end the hold Party establishment currently maintain through manipulation of their own system against new ideas and candidates.
The 3rd article in the series will explain the traits and rules of human behavior employed in the process that must be recognized and more thoroughly understood by all participants. In order to successfully work to make the TEA Party movement more effective along the way and ultimately triumphant means understanding all the tools being employed against us.