The Corner

The Dems and Democracy

I guess I’m going to step out of line on  this one. I don’t particularly care whether  the Democratic Party is undemocratic at the margins or in some significant details, and I don’t think they should be criticized for it — beyond the charges of hypocrisy and inconsistency, particularly in the wake of the Florida recount. Weren’t parties far  more undemocratic in the past?  As someone who wishes parties were more, not less, powerful today it wouldn’t bother me a bit if they developed the sort of internal cohesion and discipline that allowed them to impose their will a bit more. I’m not saying either party shouldn’t have democratic mechanisms to gauge and reflect the views of its members, but that’s a prudential point more than it is a philosophical one. It is a category error to assume that parties should behave the way democratic governments should. The Democratic Party isn’t America (nor is the GOP), it is not bound by her constitution in the same way and, by definition, doesn’t reflect the views of everyone (a party that reflects everyone’s view isn’t a party, it’s more like a culture). Expecting political organizations to behave democratically internally makes only marginally more sense than expecting universities, football teams or restaurant staffs to behave democratically. 

That said I think Ron Maxwell’s comparison to the Soviet vote-fixing machinations  is accurate in one sense. When political parties truly take over governments root and branch — as happened in Russia, Germany and China — you can see how dangerous it really can be to confuse party and country.

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