New parties that are built from the bottom up almost always have internal forums to discuss political issues and even vote on some. While this kind of inner democracy can be useful at the start, making every member feel like they own a part of the party, after a point it can be the biggest obstacle to growth. So start moderating your internal political forums. Here are some tips for how and why to moderate:
Start sooner rather than later. The more you wait to start regulating internal forums and enforcing clear rules, the harder it will be to pass them through, as old members will get used to it, while newer members will be socialized through these internal forums. After your party is established on the political scene, and becomes more than a start-up, start managing right away.
Internal forums can misguide party leadership. Just as it is not really advisable to base your policies on comments under news articles, internal forum discussions can also mislead party leaders, even subconsciously. A few dozen overzealous or negative activists can make leaders feel like the party is on the wrong track, which can lead to unnecessary risk-taking. Also, less talented but ambitious members want to be heard within the party, and some may think the comment section is their only option.
Badly managed internal forums can mix operative work with internal politics. Low-level employees or even directors are not free from factional politics. Letting anyone post anything, like open-for-all brainstorming sessions, or heavy criticism of a recent political move, will affect party operatives or force them to respond, making the whole party less effective.
Rules and penalties are essential. A single destructive and overzealous member can ruin the mood of a hundreds of others, which is why a rule book penalties need to be clear and strict. Muting commenters after two comments, or banning them for weeks should be on the table – primarily to send a message to future destructive members.
No strategic-level discussions in internal forums! If a party discusses its strategy in internal political forums, it will eventually be leaked by someone from the ever growing membership. Make it clear that strategy discussions are for the president and the board, not for an online forum.
Introduce new rules after a leadership election. Members don’t like more moderation and less freedom to comment, so party leaders or officials who introduce strict moderation will not be popular. Doing so after a leadership election, at the beginning of a board’s two-year term, is least likely to cause a backlash.
Alternatively, create a less-moderated free-for-all forum at arm’s length. If free internal debate is too rooted in your party’s DNA, a working alternative is to create a new, less moderated, non-official free-for-all forum for members who want to keep discussing politics in comment sections. Make sure that no elected officials comment there, thus minimizing the potential damage in case of a leak.