While the national news media muddles through its quadrennial ritual, a political conspiracy involving hundreds of thousands has gone unreported this fall.
Only twenty-five days after Chicago, the defeated anti-Administration forces--referred to as "the people" by McCarthy officials--are attempting to take over the party, precinct by precinct. Never again will the party be so unresponsive to the will of the people, if the liberals have their way.
They justify their conspiracy on the theoretical grounds that they are only instituting the New Politics--that policy is only legal and action only justified when the people participate in making the decision. In reality it usually means involving the previously apathetic white middle class and the black and brown (Mexican-American) communities in partisan politics.
While Hubert campaigns, his convention enemies write him off. He has lost; they know it and he reportedly knows it. 1972 is the only goal worth fighting for. Ted Kennedy will probably be the nominee--at least that is the only relevant fact on which "practical pols" can base a discussion. The only question is what kind of people will nominate him.
This question the New Politics conspiracy is attempting to answer with action. In New Hampshire they answered it two weeks ago when the old McCarthy organization captured just under fifty per cent of the party in a primary to choose precinct leaders. They will be answering it on Thursday in Maricopa County (Phoenix--about half the state's population), Arizona when party leaders will be selected.
Though a national conspiracy, the movement is surprisingly self-initiated by anti-Administration liberals in each state. Few state leaders know what is going on even in neighboring areas; the reason lies with the radically different political realities of such similar states as Wyoming and Montana. In the former, Senator Gale W. GcGee is the Democratic Party--liberals won't challenge his leadership, while in Montana a strong McCarthy movement which brought thousands of previously non-political people into the battle and came very close to winning in 1968 has left a liberal militancy unknown to this state before. The party organization tried to put down the McCarthyites and used some heavy handed tactics while doing it. Instead of retreating back to their apathy or into the insignificant minority they were in the past, most Montana liberals believe it's time to change, and are mad enough in many cases to do the dull party work necessary to pull it off.
A survey of the fifty states (see p.3) revealed that the main problem at this point is to persuade discouraged liberals not to "leave and let the old hacks do the party work for the next four years and then get mad when the hacks choose their man," according to a Philadelphia ward boss. But this is very much the Old Politics.
In order to bring about a new type of politics one must do more than mouth vague generalities, one must seize the decision-making process and consciously change it. In some states that means building up--precinct by precinct--an organization in order to wrest control. Then turn around and render it useless by changing the state election laws to permit open primaries in the place of party nominating conventions.
The danger is obvious, once in control few want to give it up. In most cases the leadership is cognizant of the dangers and trying to operate on the basis of the New Politics theory.
In many states this has already meant a distinct change in the style of politics. Where minority group votes have literally been bought for decades in Texas--usually by the conservative machine--the new militancy within first the black community, then the brown community (Mexican-American), and now the student community have forced a change. Each minnority is making its own decisions about its goals and needs whether in minority caucuses at conventions or in community elections.
In the wake of this change, the old liberal goal of a unified group of insurgents of the early '60's has been scrapped in states with significant minority groups. The new goal are coalitions. Forming a coalition is a touchy business for the context in which it is formed usually determines its degree of success:
* A coalition must be a joint effort from the very first meeting or else one group feels slighted and may create problems at a later time.
* Any platform must include the wishes of each element of the coalition, not the wishes of the majority. For a true coalition is only the sum of majorities of each element of the body.
In Minneapolis last weekend a group of about fifteen prominent anti-Administration politicians met to try to tie together what has happened since the convention and what might come about in the future. Among them were a few of the new stars of 1968 like Allard K. Lowenstein, the New Yorker who founded the Dump Johnson campaign and put together a McCarthy-dominated Coalition for an Open Convention last summer with some Kennedy support, Julian Bond of Georgia, and Donald O. Peterson, the Wisconsin delegation chairman who refused to buckle under to Mayor Daley.
Perhaps the most important man at the meeting was Jack Gore, an economist from Boulder, Colorado, who has become the moving force behind the liberal challenge. While Lowenstein is flamboyant, Gore is a quiet, hardworker.