This diary is a follow-up to the Rotting Corpse diary of the other day.  But before I get to the point, I feel compelled to share a personal story.

In 1988 I left the U.S. Army and enrolled at Michigan State University.  That winter I had my first class in political science.  I believe the professor’s name was Cheatham.  Most excellent class.

In the early part of the term, the professor decided to teach us a real world example of “game theory” and “the prisoner’s dilemma” that we had been studying.  He brought in a handout for every student in the class.  I’m guessing there were more than a hundred of us.  He passed them out, and then sat down in the corner of the room without a word.
The handouts had some very basic instructions.  Fill in your name.  And then each student was given two options (check a box).  The first option was for cooperation.  For every student who checked the “cooperation box” a number of points (say ten for example, because memory has long eroded the specific number in my mind) was awarded to an overall pool.

The second box was for destruction.  For every student that checked the “destruction box” a lesser number of points (say two) was awarded to the pool.

If everyone checked “cooperation,” then the points were to be divided equally among those students choosing to cooperate.  Since the class was being graded on an accumulation of points, and not a curve, this meant that if we all cooperated, we could all benefit.

If anyone checked “destruction,” then the points in the pool would be divided only among those students who chose that wicked path.  So basically, if everyone chose to be selfish, then the benefit in terms of your overall grade would be small.  But if only a small number chose to be selfish, then the benefits to the greedy parties would be great.

I was a fast reader and processor of information.  I got the idea quickly.  And I had only recently left the military service, unlike many of my freshman companions, so I wasn’t too afraid to stand up and talk to a group of people.

Once I saw that some of my classmates had gotten the idea, I stood up and explained to the class that we could all benefit if we stuck together and cooperated.  But we had to stand together.

That idea was well received, but immediately debate started about how we could be sure that everyone cooperated, so we all didn’t end up getting screwed over.  “Simple,” I said.  “Everyone mark your sheet now.  Pass them to the aisles.  I’ll collect them and make sure they are all marked the right way.  And we’ll turn them all in at once.”

Good enough.  The group followed the plan.  A couple of kids collected the sheets.  I started going through them all.  It was looking good.  All the marks were as they should be.

But then someone from the class spoke up.  There was uncertainty about whether everyone had handed in there sheet.  Some accusations flew.  It was getting a little ugly.  “No problem I said,” confident that I could count from my days in the military.  “Just have everyone count off, and I’ll count up the sheets to make sure we’ve got them all.”

So, with some instruction to my less militarily inclined classmates, the count started.  People said numbers in turn.  Until about halfway back in the classroom, where a nerdy, fat kid with glasses refused to say a number.  He said, “I’m not counting.  This is stupid.”  He started getting heckled and accused.  And sure enough, the bastard had secreted his form under his notebook.  Didn’t pass it in.  Someone who had suspected him ferreted that information out.

I demanded that he pass in his sheet.  We’d mark it cooperate for him.  And we’d all get our points.  And the kid refused.  He either didn’t understand the benefit of cooperating.  Or he wanted to cheat us all.  Or he was just embarrassed at getting caught.  Or he didn’t trust us.  But he simply refused to hand in his form.  The class was in a state of anarchy.  People were pissed.  As a caveat, proving the rule that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, it was at this point that I had the thought that if the kid did in fact turn in his paper I could mark it cooperate, change my own box to “destruction,” hand the papers in and take the rest of the term off.  But I never got the chance to test my honor.  Because the kid just refused to give up the damn thing.

So I informed the group that I was going to go through the entire group of papers, mark them all as “destruction” so we could at least share together in a couple of points.  Which I did.  And I handed in all the papers, minus one, to the prof.

The prof took to his lectern and said, “That was the quickest rise of a government I have ever seen, and the fastest collapse.”

Point being?  Sometimes I talk a good game.  But for the most part, I lack sustainable leadership skills.  Which makes me a little uncomfortable being the diarist for ideas like this.

But at the same time, I think it is an important discussion.  And that is why I’m back here prattling about it again today.

Forty-seven of you took the time to read, recommend or comment on the idea of whether it would be best to form a third-party or work within the current party system.  Most of the responses were more complex than simple “ayes” or “nays.”  As I suspect they should be.  But I’ve attempted to breakdown where you stand on these issues, and added in my own vote.  I could have misread what some of you were saying to be sure — and I’m happy to make adjustments, but here is what I took away as a roll call vote.

New Party/New Movement (21)
Cali Scribe
chocolate ink
Damnit Janet
James Benjamin
Street Kid
Stu Piddy

Stay With Dems (8)
anna in philly

Abstain/No opinion as far as I could gather (19)
Arthur Gilroy
Grandma M
Madman in the Marketplace
Planet B
Steven D

Granted, that I think this may be one of the most left-leaning places in the blogosphere.  But that is 20 people who want some kind of significant change (either a new party or a takeover of the old party) and another 21 who are interested in the idea.  And I’m thinking that 41 people willing to get involved in a discussion of an idea like this is a big number.

But BostonJoe, are you crazy?  What can 20-40 crazy lefties do about anything?

You may be right.  I may be crazy (apologies to Billy Joel).  But I’m thinking that 20-40 people can make some change.  I’m thinking it could give us the power to carry a message to 20-40 thousand liberals at Daily Kos.  Or a million.  Whatever his numbers are.  You all remember the things we have done most recently here, in terms of Internet activism.  While we haven’t shaken the world yet, we have had number one recommended diaries in the same place where John Kerry and Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama want to post their message.  So I’m saying there is power here.  Let’s use it wisely to make the changes we want to see.

So how are we going to get our dittos to the front of the class in an orderly fashion?

I’m suggesting this.  I’ve taken a few of the ideas that I’ve read in the other diary, and a few from other sources.  I’m going to post them below.  I’m not going to expound on them much, because I don’t know much.  I’d love it if the champions of these ideas, who know them well, could outline really brief plans for their pet theories in the comments below, about how your idea could use the power we have as bloggers to effect the ultimate changes that we want to make.

I’m also going to post a poll at the bottom of this (thanks sjct).  Just to get some kind of unofficial idea of what plan would best suit your own idea of change.  Ultimately, if this were to go anywhere, we would need to find a consensus choice of a model we could rally behind.  That’s my thinking anyway.

So here are the good ideas you’ve already shared.  Options.  Options.  (And don’t hesitate to remind me if I’ve missed some).

Working Families Party (vida/suprsoling)
Sounds like a really interesting idea.  A kind of inside/outside movement where you work within the party to try to get immediate change and build without for the future.  Is it possible to use the power of the Internet to engage this idea, help grow it?  Would love to see a small plan of action on what/how this would work.

Peace and Freedom Party (Ductape Fatwa)
There are some wonderfully great ideas at this site.  In fact, it was this site that made me decide to just STFU the last time I went postal about forming a third-party.  You know.  I read the ideas and said to myself, “If the smart people who wrote this down haven’t been able to make this party succeed, how in the hell am I ever going to be able to form a successful third-party?”  So I quit.  Until this week.  But I love their ideas.  So tell me oh wise DTF, can you sketch out a small plan that might let a few dozen bloggers use the Peace and Freedom Party to make a positive change?

MoveOn Progressive Movement/Progressive Dems of America/Deaniac Strategies (ejmw/myself/and others)

It was weird ejmw.  Not long after reading your comment I got an e-mail from the Progressive Dems of America.  Along the same lines, I think.  I would call these strategies of working within the party shell.  I’ve seen a lot of that in the comments to my diary, and in other great diaries this week.  Taking over the Democratic party.  But what is new about this?  This has been happening for years now, right?  And nothing seems to be changing.  Is there something new we bloggers here could do to make this effort new?  Important?  Could we engineer a takeover ourselves?  I’d love to hear a short plan.  I’ve been pulling my hair out looking into how the DCCC engineered a two Republican race in my district this term.  It is what set me off.  So maybe the answer is within.  I just don’t see how you fight the bastards off.  I mean if they can do Hackett wrong, how the hell are we a match for them?  But I’m willing to listen and learn and try to push on a plan if it has the support of us all.

The sit back and relax, and watch the Rome burn plan (rumi, Ductape Fatwa)
This is probably my favorite plan.  And I’m not panning you rumi, in anyway.  I feel like my own outbursts might be what are making you feel like the window has been closed on you.  I mean, whip people into a frenzy, and then say never mind.  But I’m most moved by yours and DTF’s writings.  Musings.  Ability to sit back with good humor and just say to heck with it.  It is what it is.  And no little group of bloggers is going to change it.  Scribe’s diary this week.  Just accept the death of it all and enjoy.  I am right there.  Might be better than writing these mammoth and pointless diaries.  So, if you outline your plan about how I can be less uptight, I’m willing to give it a try.  As long as everyone else is on board.  🙂

American Solidarity (James Benjamin)
Forgot this one initially. And it is among the cooler ideas. I can’t say I’m well read enough on it yet to tell you how it would work. But it seems to be a movement kind of thing going on independent of any offical party. The idea seems like a cool one. Will have to let JB explain what 20-40 bloggers could do about it though.

All right.  That’s it.  There are still 398 stray thoughts in my head.  But this is all I can let out at once.  Or someone will call the loony bin.

Update [2006-2-17 10:30:48 by BostonJoe]:: Freak February lightning storm blew up my modem as I was typing a response to rumi last night. I’m out of action for a bit. Just at a coffee shot peace meeting. Found this public access. But I will get back to respond ASAP.

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