An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Where Have All the Parties Gone?

A Washington Post article over the weekend brought to light recent forays by Lt. Gov. Steele and an Ehrlich aide into fundraising for Democrats. One cannot help but feel at least a bit of admiration for Messrs. Ehrlich and Steele for having the moxie to put everything on the line for a longshot bid for statewide office in Maryland, where Republicans are outnumbered and few have won the top offices in the last four generations. They also should be credited with skill (and that of their staff) in winning, despite other reasonable explanations for why they managed to do so. And the Republican Party of Maryland does seem to have a spark to it that was missing not long ago.

If they can build at the grassroots and reach out to new voters, build their ability to contest a fair number of congressional seats and count on continued disarray and division within the Democratic Party, then it is possible.

In the end, though, if either Democrats or Republicans want to reinvigorate their parties in a way that will lead to a more substantial majority and fight against the trends of voter apathy and decreased interest in parties, they'll have to show that they are still relevant. All too often the parties, particularly in Maryland, seem to be populated by a relatively small number of activists who come out time after time, but have little interest in growing the base, getting others active, or making a real difference in the lives of the people. Sharpening their messages is not a bad idea (The Baltimore Sun today shares that Delegates think that a more focused message, perhaps led by Maryland Democratic Party Chair Isiah Leggett), but is not the solution in and of itself. Unless they realize how important real organizing is, the two party system will continue its slow slide into obsolescence.