The Democratic Alternative: Areas of Inquiry

Our present task at the Democratic Alternative is to work to answer the questions and flesh out the ideas raised in the Democratic Alternative Intervention, which laid out a vision for the future of the Democratic Party– a vision that stands for a stronger people and a more open nation, premised on our democratic faith in the constructive genius of ordinary citizens. We have organized the policy areas arising out of this vision into four projects: The  Open Democracy Project, The Open Economy Project, The Strong Citizens Project and The Strong Communities Project.  Below, we explain the ultimate goals of each project and elaborate on the questions each project aims to elucidate. Our hope is that this post serves to guide new members in deciding what research and analysis would be useful in advancing the Democratic Alternative mission. Continue reading “The Democratic Alternative: Areas of Inquiry”

Greg Watson at “Beyond Sanders and Clinton”

This past February, the Democratic Alternative co-sponsored “Beyond Sanders and Clinton: Visionary Futures for Democratic Economics” at Harvard Law School.  Here is the video of Greg Watson’s speech at the event:

Greg Watson is the former Commissioner of Agriculture of Massachusetts and now the Director of Policy and Systems Design at the Schumacher Center for New Economics. He has been a public voice for sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, new monetary systems, equitable land tenure arrangements, neighborhood planning through democratic processes, government policies that support human-scale development, cooperative structure, and import replacement through citizen financing of new enterprises.

Gar Alperovitz at “Beyond Sanders and Clinton”

This past February, the Democratic Alternative co-sponsored “Beyond Sanders and Clinton: Visionary Futures for Democratic Economics” at Harvard Law School.  Here is the video of Gar Alperovitz’s speech at the event:

Gar Alperovitz was legislative director for Rep. Gaylord Nelson and is now a Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland. He is the co-founder of the Democracy Collaborative, which aims to develop practical, policy-focused and systematic paths towards ecologically sustainable, community-oriented change and the democratization of wealth. He has spent recent decades aiming to answer the question: “If you don’t like corporate capitalism and you don’t like state socialism, what do you like?”

Against Mansion Politics

At a $500-a-head fundraiser in Charleston, South Carolina yesterday, Ashley Williams, a Black Lives Matter activist, confronted Hillary Clinton about her support for the 1994 Crime Bill as well as for her comments at the time parroting the racist media hype that some youth were “superpredators” who needed to be brought to “heel.” Clinton — who in a public speech in Harlem in the past weeks said that “White Americans need to do a better job at listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers they face every day… practice humility rather than assume that our experience is everyone’s experiences” — did not answer the protestor’s questions, acquiesced the crowd’s boos, allowed someone to escort the protestor out of the mansion, and then said, “Now let’s get back to the issues.” See the video here:

There is a lot that is going to be said about this clip, which should be widely seen. It’s best for others to comment about what this clip says about the Black Lives Matter movement or Hillary Clinton’s campaign. However, I will say this: this incident is a perfect example of the campaign finance system’s distortion of politics. Continue reading “Against Mansion Politics”

Laughing at Losers: The Trumpification of the Democratic Party

Everybody loves a winner. That’s the Donald Trump theory of politics: vote for the winner; everyone else is a loser (or, more specifically, a “true loser,” “total loser,” “stone-cold loser,” “real loser,” or “major loser”).

i. The Party of Winners

There’s always been a Party of Winners in American politics. Their pitch: only the winners are capable of wielding power; if we empower the winners, they will ensure order and progress for the rest of us during uncertain times; the winners are the only ones we can trust to lead the battle against the enemies we have been taught to fear; the winners will turn our frightful foes into losers and we may share in the glow of their victory. Continue reading “Laughing at Losers: The Trumpification of the Democratic Party”

Beyond a West Wing Democratic Party

A few months ago, the great localist blog, Front Porch Republic, published an essay I wrote on being a recovering West Wing fan and how the insider mode of politics that the show promoted deeply miseducated our generation about what serious political engagement means.  We re-post it here for its parallel message to ours: that the Democratic Party has been stuck in an insider mode and can only be revitalized through promoting a message of strong people and an open nation. Continue reading “Beyond a West Wing Democratic Party”

Strong Citizens Watch: A new kind of vocational school for the new economy

A key tenet in the Democratic Alternative program is education. As discussed in the Intervention, the Democratic Alternative calls for reform in the American educational system so that each individual is adequately equipped to engage the economy and world. In America today, there is a two-tiered educational system, where an elite section of the country has access to the best schools that teach critical thinking and knowledge-based skills necessary for the new economy, while the vast majority partake in routine standardized testing and rote memorization, which leaves individuals ill-equipped and unprepared to partake in—not to mention lead—the most advanced sectors of the economy. Not only must the first-tier model be universalized so that everyone has access to the same top-quality education, but job-training programs also need to be created for people to develop transferable skills for the knowledge-based economy. Continue reading “Strong Citizens Watch: A new kind of vocational school for the new economy”

Open Economy Watch: Uber and the freelance economy

The meaning and nature of employment is changing in the US, and as it does, new contests are arising over what it will become. The recent ruling in California in favor of Uber drivers, for example, enables some 160,000 drivers to open a class-action lawsuit against the company. Drivers claim they are treated as employees, not contractors, and thus should receive benefits, such as health, vehicle insurance, and mileage. Uber’s success, of course, has been built on the fact that it claims no financial or legal responsibility to its drivers, and that it merely operates the technology and market that connects riders with drivers. Uber calls their drivers independent contractors who set their own terms of work.

Although Uber will be the defendant in the imminent lawsuit, the debate implicates the state of the emergent freelance economy (also called the “gig economy,” “on-demand economy,” and “digital sharecropping”), whereby workers are treated like on-call contractors. Employment once symbolized security, benefits, and high wages for a majority of the working population; but it has now begun to morph into low-paid contractual work with neither stability nor benefits for workers. The model of corporate welfare—where the firm looked after the livelihood and welfare of its workers—has given way to self-employment and self-management through networks enabled by new technology. Ford Motors in the mid-twentieth century is an example of the former arrangement, and Uber of the latter. Continue reading “Open Economy Watch: Uber and the freelance economy”