The Plank’s Constant

… continued …

In the US, political parties have what is called a “platform” which is a list of assertions … “we want this” and “we want that” sort of assertions. The “platform” is made up, quaintly, of “planks” with each plank being about one issue. Like for my local Democratic Farm Labor party unit, one of our Planks is to get the damn road fixed over at Devil’s Triangle, a particularly bad intersection down on Route 169. That’s a local plank, but if we go to a party event, and a gubernatorial candidate is answering questions, she or he is expected to know what the heck is being talked about if someone brings up “Devil’s Triangle.”


“… No, no, it’s not in the Caribbean. It’s in Maple Grove …. At the lights, on 169 …. you know, that place with all the traffic…”

You often hear that party platforms are not important, but nothing can be farther from the truth. Once an issue gets plank status, that issue is on the table and can be brought to the floor even if you are not a chair. In other words, any Joe six pack or Sally minivan can bring a plank issue up at a committee meeting, public meeting, whatever, without looking like a dork or a crazy person by saying “I’d like to refer to an item in the state convention’s platform… bla bla bla”

This is because the planks are given credibility by the process. They are suggested and voted on at caucus meetings, and then passed on to committees, and eventually combined and winnowed down, and voted on again, and so on and so forth (it’s complicated) so that many hands have touched them, similar ideas have been combined, and the ideas have been refined.

That’s the Minnesota version. Every state has its process, some more accessible by the average citizen, some less so.

I have three reasons for talking about planks and platforms and such in a post on Earth Day.

1) Parties have platforms. Independent candidates do not, and some parties like the Independence Party don’t either because they don’t believe in them. But platforms are good. Party politics is potent. If you have believed the oft repeated rhetoric and think parties are bad or dead or old hat or ineffective, then you’ve been convinced to get out of the way and let others do the policy building for you. Don’t be chump. Decisions are made by those who show up. At your party’s platform meetings!

2) Which simply leads to the conclusion that you must think globally and act locally. On this Earth Day, please spend some time finding out what you need to do to become involved locally with your party. Local planks become district plans which become state planks and some of those planks go to Washington DC. No kidding. If enough people in your state organize (and this can be done with 20 people or so if they know what they are doing) they can get a plank to the national convention that says “No genetically modified crops ever, for any reason.” Or “Fund homeopathy as well as you fund regular medicine.”

3) Which leads me to my third and final point: When it comes to woo, there is a significant parallel between the environmental movement and health care. Well, to be exact, there is a lot of woo in both places, and it exists in these political discussions that happen locally and that make a difference. But you can manage that problem. If you are a skeptic, you need to become a locally active politically operative skeptic.

Get involved in the plank building process, and build meaningful planks that will persist.

For the Earth.

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