Liberals Disagree

Liberals disagree, and yet we have to work together to make change. This section includes some advice on how to build an organization that can include more than one ideological brand of liberal, allowing us to be more easily united around our common goals.

1. Representing all liberals.

A student liberal organization, in order to be most effective, must aim to represent all liberals on campus, from the more progressive to the more moderate and conservative. This is true for the following reasons:

This is not to say that you should aim to keep every single Democrat on your campus in the organization, sometimes people are just too difficult to work with on a team, and you shouldn't build an organization that works to keep those people inside it. This is an argument for finding institutional solutions for incorporating and coordinating liberals of different ideological stripes within the same organization.

The main case for why your organization must aim to represent different branches of liberalism is one of unity. Although not every liberal on campus may want to take part in every event, there will be moments when you will need to rally everyone together for a big event that all can agree on. For example, any of the four annual events of the activist council, like the campaign trip, would and should gain the universal support of your membership. If you kick some ideological branch out of the organization it is unlikely they will come back and help when you need their help.

2. The problem (and solutions) for representing all liberals.

Yet eventually, after the organization expands enough, ideological disagreement will seem to get in the way of making statements or taking action. For example, what should you do if some of the students in the organization decide that the institution has to do more to support Israel while others don't want to be part of an organization that so adamently supports Israel because they think that the nation's military ventures have been illegal and immoral?

Theoretically, you want these members to disagree over Israel, but not let this disagreement get in the way of your other and more important projects. The College Democrats is also in charge of putting Democrats back in charge of the country. This is a large task. It involves the ability for Democrats of every ideological calling to come together and act in a unified way at certain moments throughout the year.

Institutionally, you can set up your institution as an umbrella organization that allows members to go in different directions as much as possible, but organize certain activities that can very consciously put this larger and more diverse community together when you need to. This would very much look like an in-house institutional model built around the organizing principles discussed in the chapter about the challenges of liberal activism.

An umbrella group system can solve conflicts over which ideology should be in charge. It allows individual members to start organizations and plan events under the College Democrats umbrella in line with their ideas, while the general body acts as a check to make sure that the umbrella group is still generally promoting mainstream Democratic ideas.

The other unifying branches of your organization should then aim to work by consensus, for example, the Activist Council will organize the large events that all of your member will be want to support. Indeed, this becomes an institutional solution

3. When is too little central control, too much?

That is, how much control should the organizational leadership have over the umbrella groups?

When the leadership forgets that it can only put Democrats back in charge with the help of their organizations members, and thus micromanages an umbrella group that it feels is hurting the chances of the Democratic Party being put back into power, the result is that members end up feeling alienated and the organization won’t be able to achieve its goal in the first place.

However, the Executive Board should not have control over the Umbrella group, it can obviously offer advice, but that is it. The independence of the Umbrella group from the E-Board is necessary in order to make sure that all members of the Democratic Party on campus feel represented.

But there has to be some control over an Umbrella group just in case they do something really outside of mainstream Democratic ideology? Yes, there is, an Umbrella group can be disbanded or controlled in the same way it was put together – by the general body.

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