Welcome to the launch diary of the new Caucus Project at Daily Kos. For all those who wish to participate, this diary provides the general outline of the idea and some basic ground rules for how the Project will work.
Many of us on Daily Kos are getting very tired of the constant flame wars, which are at this point actively impeding our ability to have any other kind of productive conversation on this website. To address this, I would like to propose a new kind of diary: the Community Caucus Diary.
Premise: When the Progressive Caucus meets, the Blue Dog Caucus is not permitted to keep opening the door every 5 minutes and yelling insults into the room. Nor are they allowed to bring a polka band into the room and sing and play so loudly that discussion is impossible. This is also true, obviously, in reverse: when the Blue Dog Caucus is meeting, I am not allowed to enter their meeting room in the Longworth Building in a purple tutu and do an interpretive dance/performance art piece representing the percentage of GDP that goes toward wages.
There is a place in politics for mosh-pit style debates, but there is also a place in politics for discussion amongst like-minded people. Such discussions are generally focused on setting goals, discussing strategies and tactics, and planning actions rather than on debating ideology, values, and the characters of individual politicians.
The Problem on Daily Kos:
We don’t have a way to have these sorts of discussions amongst like-minded people without being swarmed constantly by those who don’t agree. It is, practically speaking, very difficult to have strategy or tactics discussions, or goal-setting sessions, on Daily Kos at this point.
Follow me below the orange squiggle for our proposal on how to deal with this.
Proposal: The Caucus Diary.
Diaries labeled “Caucus” in the tags, with a block quote of text at the bottom stating the rules for behavior in a “caucus” diary, will provide for a space where like-minded people can discuss the how of politics rather than just debating ideology. These diaries will provide a space for people who share the same values to set goals, debate and discuss strategy, and even plan actions, without endless flame wars.
In a “caucus” diary it is not acceptable to argue against the moral or policy premise of the diary, because the function of the diary is to focus on and formulate strategy, not to debate policy. Anyone may, if they wish, publish their own separate diaries which argue against the premise of the “caucus” diary and debate policy there. Commenters in the caucus diary will consist of people who concur on an issue, and want to take action. Commenters who wish to debate the baseline premise can go to the diary which critiques the premise of the caucus diary.
Secondly, the Caucus Diary Project is opposed to the idea of “one size fits all.” There is no one special or perfect strategy or tactic that magically works in all situations. We consider that sort of idea to be a kind of fanaticism. We are dedicated to the proposition that movements and campaigns generally benefit from multiple strategies being used toward a common goal, and even where that is not so, there is no one tactic or strategy that is a panacea for all political issues and problems.
How the Community Caucus Diary Works
Here’s a hypothetical example of the way I envision the Caucus Diary working.
Situation: A Kossack is upset about the Zimmerman verdict, and wants to organize some kind of response, preferably some kind of ongoing response that might make a positive difference in the lives of black youth who have just been told that their lives aren’t worth much. But she doesn’t have a very specific notion of what to do, how to do it, etc. Hell, let’s go all the way and say perhaps she’s white and living in a pretty segregated part of Maryland, where not a lot of black people live, and she noticed that there were no pro-Trayvon events in her county when the verdict came down.
She doesn’t want to have another fight about whether or not the verdict was legal according to the laws of FL. She doesn’t want another fight about whether SYG played a role in the case or not. Nor does she want to have to debate the character and merits of the jurors. And she definitely doesn’t want another debate about whether Rachel Jeantel presented herself well to the jury. She wants to do something. She wants to turn to the community for its ideas about what might be done. So she writes the following Community Caucus diary:
Community Caucus Diary: I Disagree with the Zimmerman Verdict—What Next?
The first step in her caucus diary is informing her readers of what I’m calling the baseline of her diary. It’s a way of letting readers know the boundaries of the discussion, and it might go like this:
Baseline: The discussion in this diary is for people who disagree with the verdict and want to do something about it. If you agree with the verdict, or want to defend it, or want to debate about whether it was right or wrong, please publish your own diary doing so. That includes debating the character, merits or morals of the jurors, laws, legal teams, judge, Zimmerman, or Trayvon.
The second step is to write the body of her diary:
There were no Trayvon Martin events in my county. I would really like to see if we can establish some kind of ongoing effort here that will help black youth in these really rotten times, both in terms of increasing their physical safety and in terms of helping with the distress and anxiety this judgment likely caused. However, it seems to me that at least some discussion needs to happen, because it’s not really appropriate for a middle-aged white woman to decide what black youth “need.” What would you all suggest might be a good way to open up the conversation so that black youth can say what they need? I was thinking of perhaps talking to the heads of some of the black churches and asking them what they thought might be useful. I’ve also considered trying to work through my local Young Democrats, but suspect most of them are white—which isn’t necessarily bad in the sense of having them involved, but it’s hardly where to start. Have any of you had any experience in doing this kind of cross-racial (interracial?) activism? Because the only experience I’ve had is when the black community and I happened to show up to the same protests, as in FL 2000, or at voting rights events, MLK events, etc. Ideas, pointers, or even just telling this white woman to stuff it in her ear because it’s not her issue would all be listened to with respect.
The third step would be to post a generic blurb linking to the initial diary describing caucus diaries and how they work (this diary!)
Boilerplate Blurb for Bottom of Diary: This is a Community Caucus Diary. Its purpose is to bring people who agree on an issue together to set goals, debate strategies, and plan actions. In a “community caucus” diary it is not acceptable to argue against the baseline premise of the diary, as established by the diarist. If anyone wishes to debate the baseline premise, they should publish their own separate diaries in which to do so. Please abide by these ground rules while you are in this diary. You may link here for an extended description of this type of diary and its ground rules.
The final step would be to add the tag “Caucus” to the diary tags.
What to do when people break the rules?
Some degree of self-moderation will be necessary to keep these diaries constructive. We have already seen variations of this work in other Community Diaries. I think this can be done relatively informally.
A. Hijacking, intentional or unintentional: Either diarist and/or a Caucus Participant (CP) chosen by the diarist at the beginning of the diary will politely inform those who initiate a thread outside the established baseline of the diary that they are in a caucus diary and are disrupting the process.
1) Restate the baseline established by diarist.
2) Provide a link to this launch diary.
3) Call attention to hijack attempts only once per commenter.
4) If a commenter refuses to desist, or initiates more than one non-baseline thread, they will politely ask him/her to leave the diary.
5) If hijacking commenter refuses to leave, s/he should be met with so-called “silent HRs,” or HRs without further comment. Any Caucus Participant can participate in this stage of moderation.
B: CPs who get drawn into responding to off-baseline comments: When CPs respond to comments that are outside the baseline of the diary, either the diarist or a CP chosen by the diarist at the beginning of the diary will/may “self-moderate” by tapping them on the shoulder and reminding them gently that this is a caucus diary, and that, by entering it, they have agreed to stay on the baseline topic. Ask them to disengage and come back to the main discussion, where their voices are needed.
Phew! That’s it. That’s the idea. Please join in comments below to share your support for the idea, your thoughts, your suggestions, and your questions. Let’s get the ball rolling and have a productive caucus-style conversation starting now!