Sallow Depressives on the march

Bob Salladay gets charming with the party activists yesterday:

For both parties, the honor of delegate status normally attracts sallow depressives who enjoy debating meaningless bylaws more than, say, interacting with human beings. In politically manic places such as San Francisco, people actually campaign and spend money to get the awful job.

Mr Salladay writes here as a spectator. It’s fine to poke fun and god knows a lot of bloggers (including me, I’m sure) need it, but it’s important to get the story right, too. And in this case, Mr Salladay (uncharacteristically) misses it. The degree of new energy being aimed at the party in this state over the past few weeks is unprecedented, even while it’s a clear and linear continuation of processes that have been happening for at least four years now…

There was quite a bit of new energy going into these Assembly Delegate meetings two years ago. I was doing a lot of thinking about and publicly making the case for getting involved in the party around then, and I may have been the first person ever to have liveblogged a meeting where this was happening. But this was crazily uncoordinated compared to now. Compare my scant backwater posts from two years ago to now: the front pages of big sites like dailykos, mydd, calitics have all been buzzing with this.
Mr Salladay’s snarkiness is also interesting because it goes towards the threshold at which the progressive movement becomes recognized as such by the corporate media. Two years ago, the lack of coverage felt insulting but was perhaps understandable. The new energy coming in was simply too isolated. It arguably wasn’t news. Now, it still feels a little insulting, but we have the capacity to fire back. Something like half a million people have read SusanG’s reaction up on dailykos.
The party is important for so very many reasons. William Greider’s formulation is that the party represents the “connective tissues of democracy.” The thing about Mr Salladay’s post is that it just doesn’t fit with my experience of reality; it’s just not even close. While serving on the Santa Barbara county committee, we certainly had a number of debates over the picayune but we also discussed matters of great societal import, too; that was the first time I got involved at all in the debate on health care, for one example. The party’s organization isn’t perfect, but while electronic communications are doing a lot to augment how it works, there’s still an irreplaceable face-to-face component to the process.
And the people were neither sallow nor remotely depressive. There aren’t many forums in American life where people of different ages, races, classes and walks of life get together. It’s weird how stratified and segregated our society is for a lot of people. Growing up in upper middle class suburbs and working in the tech industry gave me an experience typical of many Americans: I had hardly met many folks who were, say, in a union, let alone talked with them about their experiences. And they hadn’t met too many whippersnapper tech industry 20 somethings, either. My life is far, far richer for the exposure to this diversity, not to mention getting a chance to understand some of the basics about how democracy works. Things like vote counting, coalition building and parliamentary maneuvering are quite critical to a functional understanding of how the system works but can’t easily be understood without experiencing them.
Mr Salladay wraps up this hit piece on democratic participation with another bit of negativism:

Don’t expect a revolution or a leftward shift for the party. The establishment is too organized to let that happen.

New uncoordinated involvement like we saw two years ago might not do much, but an organized, persistent and vigorous progressive movement will. The amount of play the assembly committees are getting on the weblogs alone is a sign that this energy is lasting and in the process of getting organized.
Party activists are bucking long odds. The almost entirely unchecked power of special interests, the noise of capitalist society, and snarky disaffected despair like Mr Salladay all work against them. But large and growing numbers of people are making the choice to rebuild the American democracy anyway. It’s too bad Mr Salladay missed that story.