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 Alterantive mission.
The Open Democracy Project
We want to participate, but our democracy is closed, serving the interests of insiders. Washington’s endemic inertia has made political change dependent on crisis. Even proposals that garner wide support are shackled by partisan politics and industry insiders. As money increasingly corrupts the legislative and administrative process, the capability to make political change becomes evermore limited to those with the money to buy results. Tired of the gridlock and corruption, Americans limit their political participation to the minimal act of voting, or opt out of politics entirely. As popular participation and experimentation declines, the range of acceptable ideas narrows, and elites with special interests define the scope of political thought and debate. That is why we must work to build a more open democracy.
1. Eliminate the corrupting influence of private money in politics
Question: How can we eliminate the corrupting influence of private money in politics?
Issue Areas: Campaign finance reform; Ballot access; Voter participation; Revolving door
2. Increase popular engagement in politics
Question: What policies increase popular engagement in politics and civic life?
Issue Areas: Funding civic life; Building infrastructure for civic life: spaces and technology; Civic education efforts; Deepening representative government
3. Develop mechanisms for resolving gridlock
Question: What policies can resolve government gridlock and restore vigor and responsiveness to the legislative process?
Issue Areas: Congressional functioning; Alternative resolution mechanisms; Bipartisanship; Direct democracy: ballot initiatives, referenda
4. Empower local and sector experimentation
Question: What institutional reforms would increase government innovation and foster new alternatives?
Issue Areas: Federalism for experimentation; Agency autonomy for experimentation; Smart government; Charters beyond schools (ex. non-profit charter prisons)
The Open Economy Project
We want to be producers and innovators, but our markets are exclusive. Although the internet has inspired startup businesses, most dreamers are still shut out. Access to financial resources, regulatory know-how, technical skills, and industry connections are limited to a few. We have left our farmer and artisan roots to become a nation of employees. For most, becoming one’s own boss remains out of reach. The cutting-edge workplace cultures that blur the line between management and labor through fluid roles, continuous education, and distributed authority are still confined to a few industries. Meanwhile, multinational corporations unceasingly homogenize the economy, not only eradicating regional differences and small businesses, but also crowding out alternative economic forms, such as worker and consumer cooperatives, municipal utilities, and other forms of the commons. That is why we must work to build a more open economy.
5. Ease the path to entrepreneurship
Question: Which policies lower the barriers to becoming an entrepreneur?
Financial Resources: Wall Street and the real economy (finance for production); Broadening access to venture capital; Public venture funds; Crowdsourced venture funding
Non-Financial Resources: Small Business Administration; Startup cooperation: shared offices, shared land, etc.; Startup incubators and accelerators; Worker cooperatives
Access to Government: Streamlining startup and small business regulations; Streamlining startup-government liaisons;
6. Make stable employment resemble entrepreneurship
Question: Which policies lead to empowered employment, blurring the distinction between employee and boss?
Issue Areas: Vanguard workplace culture (ex. Silicon Valley); Employee innovation; Unions; Automation to eliminate repetitive work; Employee stock ownership; Worker cooperatives; Continuous vocational education
7. Preserve and encourage economic diversity
Question: How do we promote and encourage alternative economic forms?
Issue Areas: Public-private partnerships; Alternative currencies; Commons; Place-based industry
8. Break up monopolies and end cronyism
Question: What policies disentrench economic power?
Issue Areas: Anti-trust; Regulatory capture
9. Promote conservation and sustainable development
Question: How do we square a dynamic economy with sustainability?
Issue Areas: Climate change; Conservation; Sustainable development; Intersection of environmentalism and labor
The Strong Citizens Project
Our spirits are strong, but we are not adequately equipped. Despite having generated enough per capita wealth to eliminate economic insecurity nationwide, the innovative potential of tens of millions of Americans is hampered by day-to-day fears for financial survival. A singular focus on ‘creating jobs’ has failed to address the fact that millions with jobs are dis-empowered at their workplaces, resigned to see work as only a paycheck rather than a means to innovate, create, and empower. Furthermore, those who try to improve their prospects through higher education become burdened with immense debt. Our school system is two-tiered: some Americans have access to high-quality education while others are closed out. One tier provides the analytical, problem-solving and imaginative skills that empower individuals to adapt to and reinvent the world. The other emphasizes rote memorization and specific technical skills, which trains children to reproduce a world that has already left them behind. Moreover, despite progress in recent decades, racial and gender stigmas still linger, inhibiting individuals simply for being who they are. This is why we must work to build stronger citizens.
10. Fortify Economic Security
Question: How do you ensure the floor of basic citizen security necessary for creative participation in the nation?
Issue Areas: Health care security; Food security; Housing security; Safety; Basic income; Unemployment security
11. Decentralize Capital for Productive Use
Question: How can we make more capital accessible from more sources in more ways?
Issue Areas: Public venture funds; Public banking; Access to credit; Access to investment; Concentration of economic power
12. Increase Revenue Streams for Security and Empowerment
Question: What will fund the political program of strengthening people and opening the nation?
Issue Areas: Increasing the tax take; Sovereign wealth funds; Land-value taxes; VAT taxes; Modern Monetary Theory
13. Broaden Educational Opportunities
Question: How should the funding and distribution of education be structured?
Issue Areas: School funding; School accountability; Charter schools; Untying school funding from property values; Adult education; Vocational education; Mid-life Re-training; College debt
14. Promote Empowering Pedagogy
Question: How should the pedagogy and curriculum of education be structured?
Issue Areas: Progressive pedagogy; Skills-based learning; Project-based learning; Education for empowerment; Education for innovation
15. Fight Entrenched Discrimination and Stigmatization
Question: How do we ameliorate historic disparities and disentrench historic stigmas?
Issue Areas: Race; Gender; Sexual Orientation; Disability; Mental Illness; Ageism; Religious freedom; The formerly incarcerated
The Strong Communities Project
We desire stronger communities, but are lacking in meaningful connections. Local communities throughout America have eroded as more and more people find the places where they live as spaces devoid of meaning and relationships. As American towns increasingly rely on distant corporate supply chains for their communal survival, a nation whose power grew from its multiple centers now feels centralized and managed from afar. Groups that could benefit from dense, varied, and empowering community networks are herded under corporate, media, and government bullhorns, unable to talk back in significant ways. On the national level, social solidarity is limited to cash transfers, as we pay the government to pay others who are in need, rarely meeting our fellow countrymen in authentic ways, and thus resenting the payments. The once-communal labors of caring, teaching, healing, feeding, sheltering, and serving have been bureaucratized and hidden from view. This is why we must work to build stronger communities.
16. Revitalize Local Communities
Question: How do we strengthen neighborhoods and local communities?
Issue Areas: Community engagement; Neighbor-to-Neighbor connections; Social Capital; Placemaking; Localism
17. Increase Communal Self-Reliance
Question: How can communities become more economically independent from distant power?
Issue Areas: Reviving post-industrial cities; Cultural centers outside of major cities; Localized food systems; Localized economics; Localized and community-sponsored agriculture; Localized energy; Community economic development
18. Create Participatory Counterbalances to Corporate and State Power
Question: How can we better organize currently-unorganized power?
Issue Areas: Online organizing; Consumer cooperatives; Consumer unions; Organizing interest groups; Community organizing; Participatory organizations; Federated societies; Tenant unions; Fan unions
19. Humanize the Caring Economy
Question: How do we re-center care in public life?
Issue Areas: Participatory care; Hospitals; Mental health centers; Homeless shelters; Prisons; Daycare centers; Immigrant and refugee hospitality
20. Build Programs for National Solidarity
Question: How do we build a national community?
Issue Areas: National service; Diversity and inclusion; Cross-cultural exchange; National cultural institutions: sports, art, music, etc.