Transcript: How Do We Take Back The Democratic Party? - 15 November '16
Thom Hartmann: Okay, we've got a serious crisis on our hands here and I want to lay out two different ways to do it. The first, well, let me lay out the crises first. Obviously there are multiple. I mean, you know, there's thousands, hundreds, probably thousands of large and small issues that are at stake. You know, from the future of social security all the way down to whether we're going to protect our waterways under this new administration, but, and with Republican control of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
But there is a larger issue and that is that 33 state legislatures are now controlled by Republicans. It only takes 34 states according to the constitution to call for a constitutional convention and literally rewrite the Constitution. The Republicans are one state away from what I believe is the final goal of the petro-billionaires and, well, broadly the billionaire class and the corporate class of rewriting our Constitution.
You'll recall that David Koch back in 1980 when he ran for vice president on the Libertarian platform, that party platform which you can easily google, you might want to plug Bernie Sanders' name into the Google because he's reprinted it over at his website at sanders.senate.gov. Anyhow, the platform calls for "the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid. The repeal of federal campaign finance laws." I'm reading verbatim from the Republican, from the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran for president on. Keep in mind the Republicans would not control today the House, the Senate, the White House in my humble opinion without David and Charles Koch and without all the money and all the groundwork over decades that they have spent preparing for this.
"Deregulation of the medical insurance industry. Repeal of the fraudulent and oppressive Social Security system. Abolition of the governmental postal service. We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation" - there goes the 13th amendment - "including capital gains taxes. We support the eventual repeal of all taxation. All criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately. End the minimum wage. Complete separation of education and state. Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended. The abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency. Abolition of the Department of Energy. The abolition of the Department of Transportation. Privatization of public roads and our national highway system."
"End the FDA, the FAA. We oppose all government welfare relief projects, aid to poor programs. Privatization of the Inland Waterways. Repeal of OSHA. Abolition of Consumer Product Safety Commission. Repeal of all state usury laws." That's laws that say that your bank and your insurance company can't charge you too much interest, can't exploit you.
That's what David Koch ran for vice president as on in 1980 and I would say everything I've seen up to this point indicates that, you know, he and his brother still believe in this. You know, the original Charles Koch Foundation is now called the Cato Institute which continues to advocate as far as I know virtually all of these positions.
So, we are one state away from the Constitution being rewritten. If the Constitution is rewritten, it is going to be rewritten by Republicans who are beholden to these petro-billionaires and this is the agenda.
So, how do we stop that?
Back in 2009, 10, 11, back in the day when the Tea Party was in the process of taking over government, taking over the Republican Party, anyway, because that's how we got here, right. How do you take over your state Republican Party; that's that was what the Tea Party was concerned about. How do you now take over your state Democratic Party and make it more progressive and make it more active and make it more successful? How do you do that?
There was a group called the Concord Project, concordproject.org is their website. They put together a series of youtube videos that, and that were distributed also I believe on CDs to conservative Tea Party activists around the country telling people exactly here's how you take it over and this is, and by the way they did this, it was successful, and that's why we're where we are right now.
I want to share this with you. I went through this four years ago on this program at great length. A lot of you weren't here four years ago. I want to reprise this. So, we've got some of those videos. I'm going to share them with you. This is just pieces of them. This is from one of the Concorde project's videos explaining where is the real power in government. This is video 2 part 1, Troy. Here it is.
What's the most powerful political office in the world? It is not the president of the United States, it's precinct committeeman. Why? There's three main reasons. First, because precinct committeemen and only precinct committeemen get to elect the leaders of the political parties. If you want to elect the leadership of one of the two major political parties in this country then you have to become a precinct committeeman. What's the most powerful political office in the world?
Thom Hartmann: That was the end of that one, OK? Alright. Great. Here's another part of that video. This is part 2, Troy.
Second, precinct committeemen and only precinct committeemen can vote in internal party elections to endorse candidates in the all-important traditionally very low turnout primary elections. If a candidate wants to win the general election he first has to get onto the general election ballot. To get on the general election ballot he has to win the primary election. And the best way to win the primary election is to get the endorsement of as many party committees as possible.
Precinct committeemen are organized into committees. For example, every county has a party committee, every state legislative district has a committee. Legislative districts elect the people's representatives to the state legislature.
Thom Hartmann: See, this is true of both parties, by the way, and here is part 3 of that. This is continuing that video.
Now the third reason that you want to become a precinct committeeman is because in some states when a vacancy occurs in a state legislator office, precinct committeemen, and only precinct committeemen, not registered voters, get to nominate three nominees to fill the vacancy. The county board of supervisors then select the replacement. If under a system like this a majority of the precinct committeemen are conservatives, then all three nominees will be conservatives and the eventually selected replacement will be a conservative. That's real political power.
Thom Hartmann: You get that? I mean, that is real political power. If in your congressional district the majority of the precinct committee persons, the precinct committee chairmen or whatever they call them, there's got to be a gender-neutral term, but maybe not. There probably is in the Democratic Party. But if the majority of the precinct committee people, and maybe even a 51-percent majority are progressives, then they can say, 'okay, every single person, you know, we'll have a primary with as many candidates you want - two, three, five, ten - no problem, as long as they're all progressives. We will only vote for progressives for primaries.' Because the precinct committee people, the party, determines who gets to compete the primary. That way, no matter who wins the primary, you've got a progressive going into the general election. You understand this? This is very straightforward stuff.
Back to Concord Project videos. This is part, this is video one part 1. Here's a little more riff on this.
How does one become a precinct committeeman? Bottom line, every state has different rules and procedures for becoming a precinct committeeman with full voting rights within the parties. And each party within each state may have different rules. In Arizona, for example, you must be elected to the office of precinct committeeman, but you don't have to get more than ten signatures of registered voters from your party or from independents to get your name on the primary ballot. Precinct committeemen in Arizona are not required to pay dues. Ohio's system is similar to Arizona's. Other states require dues and require precinct committeemen attend meetings and sign pledges to support the party's candidates.
Thom Hartmann: Keep in mind, he's talking about the Republican Party. Here's another clip from that.
So how do you find out how it works in your state? The best way is to contact your state or county political party organization and find out where your local party committee meets. Get on the internet and find it. Use the phone book. Call information. Then contact your party organization and find out when and where they meet. Then go to the meeting and ask how one becomes a voting member of the party.
Thom Hartmann: And all across America, whether they were living in a trailer park or a mansion, conservative Republicans, Fox News watchers, people who, you know, Rush Limbaugh listeners who were exposed to that video or videos similar to it or that message, said, 'okay, cool, I'll do that. And the Republicans, and from the ground up, literally from the precincts, the Congressional precincts, or the the precincts within the congressional districts, from the precincts to the congressional districts to the states, the Tea Party, the Conservatives - they now call themselves the Freedom Caucus but it's all still, you know, this thing that's funded by the petro-billionaires - they have taken over 33 state legislatures - both the House and the Senate in 33 states.
They need one more state to call for a constitutional convention and completely rewrite our Constitution and basically end the
American experiment, in my opinion. Now, they would say that they're taking us back to the original values. I mean, that's a whole other debate. But we've got to get active; that step 1.
Step 2, I'm gonna talk about after the break, which is, how do you influence your existing members of Congress. Stick around, we'll be back.
Announcer: This is the Thom Hartmann Program.
Thom Hartmann: So get, you know, call your local Democratic Party and say, 'you know, I'd like to participate, I might even want to be a precinct committee person, how do I do it?' They'll tell you.
Thom Hartmann: So we just talked about, you know, how to take over a political party. It's not particularly complicated or difficult, it just requires you to call a local, your local Democratic Party and say, "hey, when's the next meeting? I'd like to show up, I'd like to participate and ultimately I'd like to be a committee precinct person", because they write the platform, they select the primary nominees and thus indirectly they're determining every single person. You know, they're determining who's going to go to Congress.
This is literally the most powerful job in the United States in aggregate. I mean, you know, when you take all the precinct committee people together. So, we just talked about that, and I'm gonna put this up on the internet and I hope, you know, it gets widely circulated.
In the meantime, Emily Ellsworth, who was a former Republican congressional staffer, she's out of Salt Lake City, she used to work for Jason Chaffetz and she did this very interesting series of tweets that attn.com summarized. But, you know, it's, and I want to share with you, I think it is absolutely brilliant.
And by the way, these perfectly echo comments that Bernie Sanders has made over and over and over again on this program. He, Bernie on this program, people call and say, "what can I do about my congressman?" Bernie says call the local office if you live in the state, don't call the federal office. You know, send email certainly, but emails tend to get ignored compared to letters. You know, send letters. When you do, keep it to one issue. They can really only deal with one issue at a time. They have like checklists and spreadsheets, right? One issue. You got three issues? Call three times.
But anyhow, here's, and, you know, and Bernie talked about and rent a hall and invite a bunch of people and then invite your member of Congress to come and speak to your group.
So, but here's what Emily Ellsworth said. She said, "First, tweeting or writing on Facebook is largely ineffective," and keep in mind, she worked in a congressional office, "I never looked at those comments except to remove the harassing ones. Second, writing a letter to the district office (state) is better than sending an email or writing a letter to DC. But, the most effective thing," Emily Ellsworth writes, and you can follow her on twitter, by the way, @editoremilye, "But, the most effective thing is to actually call them on the phone. At their district (state) office. They have to talk to you there."
She said, "We repped half a million people, it was impossible to read and respond personally to all letters. Impossible. This was something in particular that I cared about as a staffer and worked very hard on, but the sheer volume of emails is overwhelming. So, we batched them with computer algorithms and sent out form letters."
She said, "But, phone calls! That was a thing that shook up our office from time. One time, a radio host gave out our district office phone # on air. He was against our immigration policy and told our constituents to call. And they did. All. Day. Long. All I did all day was answer phones. It was exhausting and you can bet my bosses heard about it. We had discussions because of that call to action. If we started getting a pattern of calls, I called up our DC office and asked if they were getting the same calls and we talked."
"If you want to talk to your", and so, you know, call. From time to time I'll be sharing my suggestions on that, but you can figure this out yourself. Finally, she says, "If you want to talk to your rep, show up at town hall meetings. Get a huge group that they can't ignore. Pack that place and ask questions. We held town halls consistently that fewer than 50 people showed up for. And it was always the same people. So, shake it up."
And then finally, she says, "Are you noticing a pattern here? The staff are the ones who run the ground game for Congress. Work on helping them understand and learn." She writes, "I loved getting out of my office and meeting with advocates in immigration, healthcare, education, science." She said, "Invite staffers on "field trips" and show them what it's like in your communities. Show them the work you are doing. It works." She said, "Because, if the staff knows you, when they have a question," you will be the one they call.
It's absolutely brilliant. And it's solid.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.