Sunday, November 21, 2004 House Parties

I hit my first house party today. It was fascinating to suddenly be in the belly of the great juggernaut. Thirteen of us gathered in a house here, and joined 13,000 people nationwide on-line. As each party signed in, by zip code, the site lit up a map of the united states with circles sized to match the size of the parties held within that zip code. The coverage was dense everywhere in Florida and then in a massive triangle covering the most populated area of America, from South Carolina up to the northwest through Kentucky and up to western Minnesota; and then again along the west coast. And there were also a lot of people checking in from the middle of the country, with the only conspicuous absences being places where few people live, like North Dakota, and Colorado being the biggest stronghold.

And what do they do at these things? We talked about what was important: the fearless leaders spoke to us for a few minutes from our computer, and then we talked for most of an hour -- first about what issues we cared about, and then about what strategies we thought would be productive.

Two clear areas of enthusiasm emerged at our house party: a forward-looking interest in reforming all things electoral, which took an early lead in the issues race the moment we arrived, when four or five of the people introduced themselves as electoral reformers. In the formal discussion of issues, the cluster of issues I call corporate malfeasance came up a lot, but it electoral issues were the clear leader. Moving on to strategy, the group surprised me by agreeing that electoral reform is also a key strategy area. [The Republicans would not have won the Presidential election without creating long lines in Ohio's Democratic precincts, so in that sense electoral reform is a definitive strategy.]

But we were even more concerned with my own favorite strategy, developing a clear progressive message. There was also a lot of interest in reforming the right-wing media, and even some interest in taking back the Democratic party from the people who currently run it with such moderate ability. These are also among my favorites, so I felt I was among the sensible people.

The meeting closed with us rejoining the party of 13,000 online, where we learned that thirteen was greater than the asymptotic number of minds needed to reach consensus: the 13,000, too, chose electoral reform as it's favorite issue, and the development of a clear progressive message as its first, most important strategic step. So this is how this grass-roots organization runs. We shall see how successful it is.


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