From Plunderbund comes an interesting metaphor for the conflict between the grassroots and the entrenched party apparatus:
But last night’s [Ohio Democratic Party] pre-primary endorsement process is an example that the ODP subscribes to the Lawnmower Culture. Candidates who had done a good job of positioning themselves among voters, and voters who had been germinating the seeds of the grassroots for some time, were mowed down in favor of the machine.
Plunderbund argues that the grassroots can defeat the machine by growing so fast that it will choke it. But, while I am a great fan of the grassroots, we must also acknowledge that with the grass you occaisionally get weeds.
The party needs the grassroots. But the grassroots needs the party. Both are necessary components for victory.
To switch metaphors, the party is the hardware while the grassroots is the software. Without the software, the hardware is just a really expensive door stop. But without the hardware the software has nowhere to run.
What disturbs me most about situations like this is that they may be driven by parties who find keeping the party and the grassroots at each others throats as being protective of their self interests. This includes both Republican operatives and entrenched Democrats who feel threatened by shifting power bases.
We can't afford a superior attitude by either the machine or the grassroots. The stakes are to high for that kind of arrogance.