Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A Soup and Salad Analysis of Madison Politics

Analogies are fun, and sometimes they can be a useful way to explain complex ideas. Here's how I see the conflict between Progressive Dane and the Dane Dems expressed in terms of soup and salad. Yes, it's silly and oversimplified, but it also gets to the heart of the matter. Please feel free to weigh in on this in the comments.

Once upon a time there was a soup store (the Dane Dems). They were part of a huge national soup franchise that sold reasonably good soup, and by virtue of their sheer size they dominated the market. So one day a salad store (Progressive Dane) opened up across the street. The founders of this new store had looked at the market and recognized that, despite its size, the soup store just wasn't filling people's desire for salad (consistent support for progressive candidates, involvement in local issues, membership participation in critical decisions, and providing the best possible support to candidates). Therefore they believed there was enough room for them to jump into the market.

The soup store ignored the salad store for a while, but eventually the soup store manager noticed that a lot of people who came in to buy soup would then go across the street to buy salad, and some people just bought salad without buying any soup at all! This made him really mad.

He figured that the money customers spent on salad could have been used to buy more soup, and therefore he reached the somewhat justifiable conclusion that the salad store had been cutting into his profits.

So the manager came up with a brilliant strategy. He decided that the answer was to harass his customers if they bought salad:

"What the hell's the matter with you? You want salad with our soup? Isn't our soup good enough for you? If you buy salad I never want to see your sorry ass in here again!" (unless you can muster a two-thirds vote at a membership meeting)

Naturally this had an effect on customers and profits. Unfortunately it wasn't entirely positive.

Now, it seems to me that in this sort of situation it would be far wiser for the soup store to either cut a deal with the salad store or just start selling salad itself.

But what the heck do I know about soup and salad.


proletariat said...

Nice. Yet, I'd add that many people who had boughten salad had not boughten salad or soup before. While some of those were happy with just a salad, some wanted both soup and salad.

One morning the owner of the soup bar came to the realization that his sales had drastically increased. He realized that while he would like all those bought salad to also get soup, he had more customers than he would have without the salad bar.

Russell Wallace said...

Proletariat, are you really agreeing with my analogy between the soup and salad capitalist free-market and the Madison political scene? Wow, I must be doing something right! I'll turn you into a Democrat yet...

proletariat said...

Well capitalist free market and competition are not one and the same. I do however think PD / Greens have been good for Democracy and the Democrats have been a big benefactor of that.

Point being the Democrats are a better party because of PD / Greens, and certainly would become worse without them. In 1998 Democrats got 53% share of the Dane County vote, in 2006 70%.

Russell Wallace said...

I agree with you that third parties are a necessary and important part of our democracy, and that they benefit the major parties, although perhaps not in quite the same way you think.

Third parties provide negative feedback to keep the major parties from drifting too far from their base. They are the canaries in the coal mine of American politics, and the major parties are forced to adjust their positions whenever a third party grow beyond a percent of two of the electorate.

Grammar Teacher said...

"Boughten" is not a word.

jody said...

I like the analogy too.

However I disagree that the role of any third party is limited to the canary in a coal mine analogy anymore. That may have been true in days of yore, but I feel the days have come when a global economy and globalized cultural influences will mean a realization that many countries ("civilized", european ones!) are not limited to two behemoth parties as the only real contenders. And I think that down inside the two biggies have thought that through as well.(It's why they're so nasty - you don't freak out and obsess on Non-threats)

I think the transition is going to be long, drawn-out and painful as hell, but the two party system will not stay as it has been forever in the US.
Alternate parties will IMHO increase, both out of frustration at not getting "needs met" and as an unforseen side effect of globalization - "explorers are always doomed to bringing "contaminants" back when they go out seeking their own gain in other lands. Could be a virus, could be the Green Party - both seem to be met with equal glee.

But I am wondering - can Nate say ANYTHING without SOMEONE crawling up his ass? "Boughten" is a regional dialect that may not be found in your Funk and Wagnalls I agree, but Good Golly Miss Molly!Do you hit someone if they are thristy and ask for the location of the nearest "Bubbler"? Was an official vocab list distributed by Lefty Blogs? I missed that, if so.

I know I'll be able to identify a Dem blogger because they walk around with Nate Ass all over their face, they all spend so much time chewin' on it! Jeez!

Anonymous said...

"silly and oversimplified? How about ridiculous, embarassing, and wildly self important?

Really, the only thing I ever read about here is your war on the actual Democratic party and on Democrats that get elected and make policy.

While I see occasional lip service, progressive policies seem like a very small footnote to the main message of haiting the Democratic party and those Dems who get and stay elected. The arrogance, self-importance and condescension are also regular features.

Given my committment to progressive changes in policy, this is all very depressing.

Russell Wallace said...

Interesting take, Anonymous.

Let me count the ways I hate the Democratic Party: I'm a vice chair of my county party, an alternate member of the DPW Administrative Committee, actively involved in several current Democratic campaigns; over the past couple of years I was a ward captain for the coordinated campaign, a volunteer for many other Democratic campaigns, a delegate to the '04 national convention, and I've personally brought dozens of new members into the party. I'd be happy to provide references if you'd like...

But I'm also a strong-party Democratic reformer who places the good of our party as a whole above that of any particular Democrat. So when I think that a Democrat, any Democrat, is doing something that damages our party, I'll say so.

If you're not satisfied with my response I'd be more than happy to discuss it with you, publicly or privately, either online or in person. You can reach me at russwallac@aol.com.

These issues are critically important to the future of our party, so I look forward to hearing from you.

Anonymous said...

no, you're just a hack. you do more to damage the party than help it.

Helena Handbag said...

Gosh, Russell, why do you hate America? Don't you know if you want to open up party politics to the hoi polloi then the terrorists have won?

I think Anonymous works for Fox Noise Channel.

Anonymous said...

Russell, you are an idiot ... no offense, but if you believe you are helping a party you need a new brain.

Russell Wallace said...

I figured Anonymous was a cut-and-runner. Too bad in a way, these issues really are important.

Jody, sorry I didn't respond to your comment earlier. I have to disagree with the idea that third parties will play an increasingly important role in American politics. But it has nothing to do with all the issues you brought up, it's simply that in a winner-take-all political system, like ours, the biggest party almost always wins.

Any faction that fractures into multiple parties gets crushed at the polls, eventually forcing them to reunite under one party. Therefore third parties always have, and always will, survive only in the margins under our political system.

This is the reality. Whether it's good or bad is a debate for another time...

Anonymous said...

Cut and runner? I think that you need to realize that what you are doing as a blogger is causing dissent when you write uninformed pieces like the last three I have read.

Anonymous said...

Where is there ignorance or misinformation from what Russell has written? Instead of vague, ad hominem attacks, how about presenting an argument based on facts and logic?

And further, you say "dissent" like you're some sort of John Ashcroft of the left, policing liberals and progressives from getting too far out of line. Yes, dissent has its place, even within the political spectrum of those who are liberals, progressives, Democrats, etc. There are challenges to be addressed, and what works and wins will be birthed from a robust discussion of ideas, and not simply a get-in-line attitude from those who'd like to maintain a status quo that has at times been an utter failure for building and consolidating power and influence for a broader movement that seeks positive social change.

Remember, "the party" of which you accuse Russell of doing damage, is not some monolithic beast of entrenched, establishment types but instead of a broad array of those who ideally seek to be an electoral vehicle that places above the interests of the few that of the many. And building for long-term effects sometimes means having struggles between camps along the way - and never has there been a successful part of the progressive movement that simply got behind the desires of the establishment of mainstream types.

Get some history, do some reading, look at a broader picture than what you see as being the current situation. I hope you'll find that people like Russell who are agitating and working for a progressive and electorally successful Democratic Party are doing so with a vision for the future and for the long term, instead of breathlessly chiding those who might seek a couple of chips in the kitty in the short term.

Anonymous said...

Oh Russell is a communist!!! Oh Russell Oh Russell!

Anonymous said...

that's funny... it seems to me like russell is the one who is trying to win a couple "chips in the kitty" in the short term, by attacking anyone who organizes against him or disagrees with him.

the bottom line is that people like russell wallace aren't happy unless they are losing elections. i don't mean to be a bitch. that's just simply the best way i can find to characterize their attitudes toward political realities.

Anonymous said...

I'll refer you to this article as just one example from the past few days that proves your notion incorrect.

Most of us progressives (although not all) do not seek ideological purity, but we do know that running as progressives wins. On the state and national level both. Local politics are much more about personalities, including in this fight about the Dane Dems.

People who actually study political science instead of gathering their information from fellow hacks, and those of the former variety that put it into practice know that how you run a campaign and the ability to resonate your message with the electorate are much more important than where one falls on some sort of false ideological spectrum.

Those of us fighting for a stronger and better Democratic Party do not have a personal professional career stake in aligning with an establishment that has ossified to the point that it took a miserable failure of a president to actually get a Democratic win in 2006. From running the "electable" candidate in 2004 to spending over a decade in the political wilderness trying to be some sort of faux-Republicans, the current party establishment across the board has failed those with Democratic values who get up every morning, go to work, and then come home and spend some time on politics because they are passionate about the possibility of it to bring about social change.

Russell's not doing this for a career, and neither are most of us who have been working to build and strengthen the Democratic Party (part of which I might add, includes running and working for progressive candidates who buck the ever-present trend of shedding any ties to the progressive base). So you missed my point or didn't pay attention to language. Instead of shilling for the 'moderates' or the incumbent Dems, we progressives are in this for no personal gain except the satisfaction of affecting real change.

While repeating the same kind of Fox News political analysis of Democrats losing because of being too liberal for their districts or whatever, you negate your credentials as anyone with a sense of political strategy. And in doing so, your intellectual dishonesty or ignorance comes through.

And yes, you're coming across as a bitch.

Anonymous said...

And if you're looking for just a few examples from just this past election cycle, I'll refer you to:

Jon Tester
Jim Webb
Sherrod Brown
Kathy Vinehout and the rest of the Senate Democratic pick-ups
Gordon Hintz and the rest of the Assembly Democratic pick-ups
Bernie Sanders
Tim Walz
and many more - remember, the single most enlarged caucus in the US House from 2006 Democratic pickups was that of the Congressional Progressive caucus, not the Blue Dogs and not the New Dems.

But don't limit yourself to just those, go get a book, read some journals, subscribe to a magazine, and educate yourself.