Part Two: Creating a Hierarchy of Leadership
Is it possible to create an effective political movement using a shared leadership platform?
The answer is an unequivocal, yes.
In fact, many business models and government programs are now embedding a shared leadership paradigm into future plans because it increases accountability and promotes employ ownership. Cooperative environments simply tend to facilitate productivity better than business models plagued by incessant discord.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the political model developed by Bill Clinton and promoted by Barack Obama was based on triangulation; and the divisiveness it has created has been a windfall for the Republican Party. There has been little reason for the GOP to expend energy and resources attacking the opposition because Democratic members have been very effective at self-destructing.
Barack Obama sold his candidacy based on a faux populist image. He was a master at galvanizing grass roots organizations and motivating them to donate time and money to promote his bid for the presidency. But once elected, he shed his populist image, kicked liberal members of the Democratic Party to the curb, and built a four-group coalition that insured the advancement of his corporate policies.
The four factions -- gays and lesbians, African Americans, Hispanics, and women activists -- were given special status, and the White House promoted their social agendas. In exchange, under the guidance of the OFA, they created a flexible, rapid response force that could be mobilized to counter criticism of Obama’s policies when verbal attacks resonated with the general public.
The president, in turn, kept liberal voters off balance by countering their criticism with populist speeches that promised real reform; but behind the scenes, he developed policies that prevented those reforms from actually coming to fruition. Every “meaningful” program he developed contained so many corporate loopholes it was rendered toothless from the moment of its inception, as was evidenced by HAMP.
Now, six years from the onset of Obama’s presidency, the Democratic Party has reached a crossroads. Progressive choices for maintaining a viable political presence have been so compromised by Obama’s duplicity they are virtually non-existent. In addition, the progressive brand has been usurped by neo-liberals, so much so that Obama’s most unpopular policies are now seen as failures of liberalism, even though liberals routinely opposed those policies. To add insult to injury, the president, the OFA, and DNC leaders exploited the popularity of traditional Democratic values to maintain their grip on power. For example: If the public supported an increase in the minimum wage, neo-liberals made a show of championing the cause, even though their policies promoted the dissolution of unions and helped facilitate corporate interests that depended on access to cheap labor.
For populists, Obama’s triangulation is significant because it alienated four common allies. People that we once called friends, are now attacking us viciously for opposing the president’s pro-corporate agenda, and we are painfully aware that breaking away from the Democratic Party means leaving them behind.
But for many progressives, denigration to inactive status has marginalized the contributions we made to civil rights causes; and it has shown the president’s contempt for the safety net project we helped design; programs that sustained millions of American middle class and lower income families during hard times. And the feelings of betrayal left in the wake of Obama’s lies and broken promises are palpable.
So: “Where do we go from here?”
Creating a Shared Leadership Paradigm
In Part One of this series, I discussed the problems OWS members encountered using a shared leadership platform, but I delayed a discussion of the merits of their original concept --which proved to be quite prescient for the time – until I could make the case for embracing a shared leadership paradigm.
It was a concept in its infancy, and like all new ideas it suffered from “growing pains.” Unfortunately, for OWS protesters, the movement never reached maturity, and the best ideas it synthesized were left buried beneath the rubble in Zuccotti Park.
But if you filter their original concept through current hierarchal prototypes, then you can see the strength of their vision. Traditional business models rely on echelons that assign almost unlimited power to a person at the top. This archetype demands discipline and tractability from corporate personnel; and even though it enhances efficiency, it discourages employ ownership, a commitment needed for the creation of a robust working environment.
A typical pitfall encountered in the creation of a new political movement is the impatience of members who haunt the outer edges; even though their contributions to the project are minimal, they demand quick results, and their constant sniping can create a drag on upward momentum. They usually are traditionalists, a group of people known for their innate resistance to change. And they will be the first members to say, “It’ll never work.”
And therein lies the value of adopting a shared leadership paradigm: It creates the perfect environment for encouraging member ownership, and ownership in turn, minimizes resistance and creates a stronger foundation.
It is time for progressives to sober up and face reality. The current political process is too corrupt to be rehabilitated. We need to create a new political movement that operates outside the corrupt influence of both major parties.
The following brief overview provides an example of how a shared leadership platform might work. It is presented as a raw, simple outline, and needs to be vetted and tested before becoming viable; but still, it shows the original OWS concept had merit, and it might have succeeded if structured properly.
The Cooperative Populist Alliance (CoPA)
· Primary Objective – create a powerful non-profit voting bloc based on a cooperative, shared leadership paradigm
· Objective Two – eliminate platforms that enable or incite contentious behavior
· Objective Three – Provide member organizations a flexible framework that allows freedom to achieve unique objectives, while contributing to the greater cause
· Objective Four – Facilitate formations of like-minded alliances to accomplish common populist goals
· Objective Five – Establish a liaison hierarchy of leadership that encourages member ownership and eliminates power struggles
· Objective Six – create a financial guideline that prohibits corporate contributions from influencing the political processes. Lead a movement to overturn the “Citizen’s United” ruling
· Objective Seven – create a fluid platform that facilitates the creation of temporary alliances with unorthodox coalitions. For example, joining Tea Party members to block the passage of the TPP.
Tier One – The Membership Alliance
The Membership Alliance would serve as the entrance portal for CoPA. At this stage, members would complete questionnaires that identify the new member’s pet projects or political objectives. The applicant’s unique profile would then be added to the database, and other members wishing to create an alliance based on the information contained in the new member’s profile would be free to contact the individual by email.
Tier Two – The Humanitarian Alliance
When forming new political platforms, social causes often generate the most contentious and volatile political interactions because they impact people on a personal level; that is why politicians often use them to create wedge issues. From the onset of their involvement, members will be encouraged to avoid confrontations and concentrate instead on developing humanitarian platforms that offer realistic solutions to mitigate social injustice and human suffering.
Tier Three – The Cooperative Council
The third level of involvement would focus on political and financial processes. From local issues that impact small town residents, to Congressional or presidential policies that threaten national sovereignty, forum members would be tasked with assembling and transforming like-minded alliances into powerful voting blocs.
Each member group would be represented by a single liaison who would be tasked with presenting the organization’s unique viewpoint to the forum. All council members would be given an equal voice.
A three-step process would be employed to resolve differences in a timely manner (A detailed description of the process will be presented in the final installment of this series).
CoPA is dedicated to ending the corrupt corporate influence that has compromised the integrity of our political leaders.
In accordance with CoPA objectives:
· All processes should remain legal and transparent
· Outside agitators and anarchists are strictly forbidden from gaining access to the CoPA environment
· We are a peaceful organization, and any discussion of subjects that might be construed as threats to people or national security is strictly forbidden
· All members are accountable for their own behavior
1. Develop a comprehensive questionnaire and membership package to seamlessly facilitate the inclusion of each new applicant
2. Create a test platform to evaluate the efficacy of the plan’s objectives, structures and processes.
The next section will focus on developing a communications network.