Friday, July 17, 2009
Factions Create Democracy
I have called for the creation of continuing groups of UU's to recruit candidates for District offices and Board Trustees: factions. I think that they are what we need to increase democracy in the UUA. I think that they are a better way than focusing our democratic energy into highly symbolic campaigns for the UUA President and Spokesmodel.
Factions create policy alternatives, through a process of competition with others and criticism of existing decisions. Policy alternatives create choices and choices create interest.
Factions orient voters to the overall situation. What I hear is that most UU's think that there are really just two factions: the insiders and the outsiders, and you can't tell one from the other. Actually, I would suspect that there are several groupings of people who have different priorities for the UUA. It would help everyone participate if we were to know who saw each other as allies, and rivals. Most of us use party affiliation as a tool for figuring who's who and what's what in politics. Once you get beyond a small town in which everyone knows each other, people need to know the teams before they can connect to the politics of a community.
Factions create independent non-official voices. Right now, almost all of the media content about Unitarian Universalism comes from official sources. People like blogs because they are independent voices from observers' points of view. But blogs are individual and personal and are not instruments for getting enough power to make something happen. If there is anyone out there who thinks that I make sense, what are you going to do to make what we agree on happen? Nominate me for UUA office? Not a good idea.
Many people are repelled by the state of party politics in the USA, and would wonder why we would want that in the UUA. I have not a shred of fear that UU's would rapidly form themselves into two factions that engage in that level of conflict. My guess is that for every person that aligned with a faction, there would as many that aligned with none and as many who joined them all. Remember we are the religious home of people who seriously describe
themselves as Humanist-Christian-Pagans, Rational Mystics, Christian Atheists and Eco-Feminist Buddhist Jews. Over identification with a group is not our problem. Factions would operate less like gangs, and more like think-tanks.
I think a good model is the religiously identified UU groups. They represent points of view, create material, enrich our theological discussions and make it possible to have panel presentations. They have not gone to war with each other.
Factions break down the insider-outsider dichotomy. I don't think that there is an inner club that is motivated by their particular self-interest. (There was one at one time, when Unitarianism was a Boston Yankee institution, but those days are gone.) There are, of course, insiders, in that there is a group of people who are experienced and knowledgeable about the institutions at the core of UUism. And there are outsiders, people who have not been interested in the past and are just getting involved. And yes, race and class and ethnicity work to keep people who want to be insiders (and some who have been around long enough to be insiders) on the outside, which we work on. But a faction, united around a common goal, is an alliance between some insiders and some outsiders.