The fight for the soul of the Democratic Party

I am fighting mad. The party I came to know and love is being attacked. I am not referring to the attacks on the Chairman of the party, but, that is implied, I am not referring to the attacks on the grassroots but, that can be implied as well. I am referring to the view I have of the party and how I am angry that good people get pulled down in order for the “corporate democrats” to hold on to power. As a child growing up in my family, my mom did all she could to raise us to be good strong democrats. We helped her to campaign nationally and locally, we helped with precinct meetings, and we were encouraged to be involved, we even were pages. Mom would often talk around the kitchen table of her friend, the state party chair Barbara Allen. And I did not fully understand all that was being done in the name of the party at the time, but, what I gleaned from these conversations and activities was generally warm and peaceful. I could not see that the people in power were out for their own self interests and not the interest of the democratic party as a whole. As I now reflect back, I wonder would my mom have continued to support these corporate democrats? I would like to think she too would have been fighting mad.

Currently, I see a struggle going on within the party at time when we really should be banding together, after all, we are no longer the majority party. I have come to the realization, that does not really matter. What does matter, depends on your perspective. For the elected officials, it is how can I use the party to retain my power? Generally, this group of democrats does not like change and they really don’t like a lot of change. They will fight at all costs to maintain the status quo. The monster you know is better than the monster you don’t know kind of thing. Then there is the party activist. These people fall into two basic categories, the grassroot activists or all of the others. And this is where the fight for soul of the party is taking place. I have watched people, who would under any other circumstances, be strong loyal democrats, do and say things that not only hurt the people but hurt the party as a whole. Since Jerry Meek was chair, the party has been in a bit of turmoil. Part of this turmoil I blame Jerry for, he should of groomed leaders within the party and did not do it. But the larger battle is that of who has the power. I would like to think that the power is from the ground up, I bet you can figure where I stand, but that is not where it happens to be, it is with the money. (Another reason citizen’s united is such an unfortunate ruling.) As it was when Parker was chair, Voller faces resistance at every juncture because “power to the people” is not what the party stands for or so “they” say.

According to the POO, the Plan of Organization, the precincts are the building blocks and make up the foundation of the party. All the power rises from having the precincts organized and active, is a utopian view of the power of the party. The actual power is with the money. And back in the Barbara Allen tenure, that was how it was done. The SEC, the State Executive Committee, was a pretty harmonious group of people. That is not to say they did not have differences but they had one thing in common, they had money. At least most of them did which kept those that didn’t from rocking the boat too much. In 2010 when David Young was chair and asleep at the wheel might I add, the tax check off committee realized they no longer needed to be a rubber stamp and took control of the monies which turned out to be a rather sizeable sum of money. This was the year power was being returned to the grassroots activist. The district chairs divided up the money and went back to their districts and used the money to help get democrats elected. It was a bit haphazardly executed but the intent was well received. In 2011, Parker was elected chair. The beginning of Parker term he was relatively uneventful, he hired Jay Parmely as the ED. The data was being analyzed and the targets were set.I remember the executive council meeting in which we were discussing the races that were of interest. The activist were fully involved in the workings of the party. They were being included and consulted more and more making the paid consultants very nervous. In early 2012, Jay Parmely was falsely accused of sexual harassment. The corporate dems could not tolerate the party being delivered to the activist without a fight. By the SEC meeting that year, Jay had been silenced and a tactical move was made by some of the members of the council of state to impeach Parker. But the activist were not going to go quietly and mounted a counter offensive. Parker emerged from that meeting as a hampered chair but very much alive. If it hadn’t been for the democratic national convention, we would of been more focused and maybe not have lost so much ground. As it was, Parker finished his term beligered and tired.

Both Parker and Randolph S. Voller were considered progressive chairs, but Voller even more so. He was not expected to win. And the corporate dems lead ironically, by the young democrats had galvanized behind Mansfield, a preapproved team player. When he had to drop out of the race unexpectedly citing his mother’s health, there was no one to take his place. The young democrats scrambled to find a replacement. All they could come up with was apathetic Bob Etheridge. Lucky for Randy, or should I say lucky for the grassroots activist, Randy emerged as the chairman of the party. ( A fact the status quo dems do not want to acknowledge.) With the battle lines drawn, the young democrats picked up the fight were the council of state had left off. They were ascending in the ranks the proper way, not shaking the boat while doing it. Randy came in with good intentions and realized that he had a bit of housecleaning to do first. Afterall, Parker though survived the battles it was not without a cost. So when Randy came in, he was surprised, surprised, surprised. Not only did he inherited a ED that was doing the work for the status quo and not much money had been raise. There was not more tax checkoff money even though the committee was searching for a way to stay relevant. And to top it off, the consultants had been running oppositional research not against the republicans but against Randy, Gwen and several of Randy’s friends. The corporate democrats were digging their heels into the sand and were preparing for the long haul. I am not sure if Randy knew the toil this would take, if he would have seeked the position of chair. But he was in it now and one thing the young dems did not calculate, Randy is not a quitter. He encouraged the acting executive director to resign and he started raising money retiring debt that had been on the books for some time. But what bothered the status quo more than anything was his willingness to share responsibilities with the grassroots. It did not help that he went public with the Lexis Nexis research either.

Now fast forward to the present, the POO states that the chair puts forth the name of the person they want to be approved by the executive council for the executive director’s position. Boy, the corporate democrats must of really been threaten by Randy’s choice, Ben Chavis because his name had not even been submitted yet before the “machine” had been put into full gear and the talking points were distributed to all the status quo types and they did not disappoint. Almost in unison opposition to Ben had been mounted due to the firing of the ED that as far as I could tell was an appendage of the Kay Hagan campaign at best and a mole for the status quo at worst. While he has been here just under a year, had not even bothered to register to vote in the state , already missing one election. He had been doing a mediocre job but to hear the YD’s talk he was the best thing since slice bread. He was not at all receptive to grassroots of the party and paid no attention to details. He was rude to and insubordinate both privately and publicly of Randy. He denied doing requests made of him both by Randy and the Council, like setting up the recurring donor program. He would forget to have the Goodwin House open for meetings for example, saying it was Tiffany’s fault. “No , you are the ED, it is your fault.” How much did he cost us for the Sanford Hunt Frye, Reception? Where was that in the budget he presented to the SEC? In general he was equally disliked among the grassroots activist, and the corporate dems and YD’s loved him. I wonder did he sabotage their efforts like he did the grassroots? Many had been calling for his demise for quite some time. And when it did happen, he was arrogant to the point of almost being belligerent. Had he not read the plan of organization (he works at the pleasure of the chair), or had the read it and not believed Randy was serious? Either way, he was terminated. Now, what will the status quo dems do now?

Comments

Power

I don't know who the "corporate Democrats" are. You need to name names. Otherwise this feels like a shapeless, faceless boogeyman.

And let me be clear: I am staunchly against the corporate wing of the Democratic party, a wing that includes Kay Hagan and most of the state apparatus.

But that opposition doesn't blind me to fault on both sides.

I have no problem with the firing of the ED. From what I know, the guy was a rogue agent who had no fiscal discipline. He should have been vetted better, but given that he wasn't he should have been fired with extreme prejudice.

The Chavis situation is different. I don't know a lot, but what I do know suggests it was a bad move for two reasons. First, the trail of controversy surrounding him is too steep. Whether any of the controversy is true or not is a moot point. This position exists in the middle of a public fishbowl and there's no sense giving the opposition all that ammunition. (I know people are innocent until proven guilty, and Chavis has never been proven guilty. This, however, is not a court of law, it's the court of public opinion.)

The second issue is process. From out here, the process looks imperial, counter-productive and secret.

I honestly don't know if Randy can recover from this. I know him and I love him like a brother, so it's really hard for me to say that.

The problem is, I also don't think any of the usual suspects, with the possible exception of Dan Blue III, can mend things. The Party is full of self-serving assholes on all fronts. I wouldn't trust most of the senior officers (including those who have resigned over the past year) as far as I can throw them. And I'd like to throw them very far.

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Seconded

I am staunchly against the corporate wing of the Democratic party, a wing that includes Kay Hagan and most of the state apparatus.

Hagan had her chance and failed miserably.

She will not receive my vote or one breath of support.

To try to scare me into supporting one flavor of corporatist puppet (Hagan) by waving the flag of another corporatist puppet (GOP US Senate) is futile. Those who attempt this only embarrass themselves and ignite my anger.

 

Whoa...

James, I appreciate the compliment but don't single me out on this. I am not the anti-Voller or the leader of the opposition, and I don't want to be the poster child or hero. I have my hands full in Wake County.

Got it.

I apologize for singling you out, Dan.

I understand you're not in this fight, which is exactly why I think you many have unique appeal.

And I didn't mean to imply you are either anti-Voller or leader of the opposition. I'm neither of those things. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that of the two, the opposition is far less appealing and palatable. Said another way, the opposition is a giant part of the problem.

As I said earlier, I've known Randy for a very long time and think the world of him. But I'm also concerned that the party may not be able to recover from these set-backs. That's why I'm wondering (aloud) if there might not be a fresh face that could help us out.

(Somebody said I should try. When I stopped laughing, I commented that I have neither the personality or patience to deal with all the party's bullshit.)

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

No, we're all in this fight.

No, we're all in this fight. But one of the gems I learned from married life is that if you fight to the bitter end, you're eventually going to get to the bitter end. However you draw the lines, at some point we need to realize that this is a marriage of constituencies and divorce will end the party.

Too late on the hero thing, Dan ;)

You've always been a voice of reason, and your reluctance to be typecast on this issue is just one more example of such.

Wake SEC election petition ignored

Dan,

What is the status of the petition against you by several CEC members over ballot tampering and election mishandling (of the Wake SEC delegation)? Linda Gunter and several others (but not me) signed a petition for a Council of Review hearing back in May 2013 and it has yet to be heard. As you explained at May 2013 CEC meeting, ballot tampering was exposed and instead of throwing out the corrupted election, you allowed the improper results to stand.

Was it because everyone you handpicked to be on the two committees to review ballots for scoring and accreditation were also elected? It's very difficult to believe you when you said you couldn't find anyone to handle ballots who were not on the ballots for SEC election. You bungled this election and unfortunately someone you trusted abused your trust in adding votes for herself and friends on others ballots.

It's never the crime, but the cover-up that explodes. Hampering your petitioners by refusing to provide copies of the evidence as you are required to (especially if they are the point of contention, and as evidence, they are the main focus), only serves to lose credibility in your future political career.

No one will blame you for making a mistake, but they will if you continue to cover it up. Please do the right thing.

Catherine

At least Stephanie Goslen spoke up

Where are all the other party leaders who supported Randy Voller's push to put in Ben Chavis as ED? In my phone call with Stephanie on Tuesday, she said 11 of the 13 District Chairs supported that move. Don't those 11 leaders have a voice, too?

The Chavis situation is different. I don't know a lot, but what I do know suggests it was a bad move for two reasons. First, the trail of controversy surrounding him is too steep. Whether any of the controversy is true or not is a moot point. This position exists in the middle of a public fishbowl and there's no sense giving the opposition all that ammunition. (I know people are innocent until proven guilty, and Chavis has never been proven guilty. This, however, is not a court of law, it's the court of public opinion.)

The second issue is process. From out here, the process looks imperial, counter-productive and secret.

I agree with James. I talked to Randy Voller last week, and it was an angry Voller who gave me a lot of reasons why things did not go well on Tuesday. But what I heard was a litany of blame--all of it for other Democrats, whether staff or otherwise. I did not hear from someone who had made a mistake and was ready to admit it and move on. It was all about how everyone else was to blame.

I want to remind Stephanie and others who think they are being ignored, not taken seriously, or opposed without good reason--most of us here on BlueNC.com favored Voller in his election, too. But as I have stated here on the blog and to Mr. Voller personally, my problem is with the promised transparency. I think he is trying to reach out now and to make good on his promise of increased transparency, but only time will tell.

That promise did not appear to be uppermost in his thinking last weekend and Tuesday.

Martha Brock

Me speaking up

Thanks Martha,
I do believe that Randy had good intentions, first the POO says that the Chair provides a name and the council says yeah or neigh. So Dr. Chavis was a neigh, lets move on. Who should be the next ED, Hum, Marjorie or Casey maybe? Please look at my post on what we should be doing, I do not only complain, I am working on ways to change the outcome of this election as well.

Stephanie Goslen

James comments

I agree with you on most of what you say, and really don't put anyone higher than you want them to fall. I also have faith in Randy, I believe he will turn this around. I understand that Dr. Chavis is more than qualified for the position, but with the waters are super charged right now and need to hire someone above reproach.I think Casey would be the perfect person for the job, Marjorie is another good choice, Putting another woman on the board.
And James, no names right now, I do not want to distract readers from what the big picture looks like.

Stephanie Goslen

Are parties still relevant?

Politico has a piece that wonders whether the parties are being pushed into irrelevance with the influx of "dark money" donors into races and the setup of organizations outside of official party structures. NC's Pope-a-palooza is one example the author gives in the article.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/last-call-for-state-parties-103559...

Parties are relevant for sure ...

because they can be bought. Where else can a person acquire a functioning statewide organization with thousands of workers for chump change?

____________________________________

“Don't tell me what you value, show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value.”
― Joe Biden

Of course not

This is a long overdue conclusion.

The fact that an iconic Villager site like Politico even runs such an article only confirms the fact.

 

Gee! This sounds just like the GOP Tea Party dysfuntional effort

George Washington was right ..Political Parties are nothing but factions against the Republic and Americans..

What we should be doing

is fighting for the soul of North Carolina. People always talk about how this election or that election is so important, and of course, every election is important, but I honestly believe that 2014 is the year that will determine whether NC goes right or left for a very long time. And if I'm right, the party needs to be strong, united, and speak with one voice….none of which it is doing now. There's still time to get it right before November, but there's a house that needs to be cleaned from top to bottom, and some discipline and party order needs to be restored. And we need a smart, focussed, grassroots strategy, and we need some serious fundraising. We're in a hole, but….you know the first rule of holes…..

What we should be doing

I agree with you and feel 2014 has to be won and won in a big way
I have ideas about how we can do it too! We can win it too.
Letter Writing Campaign
1. This is where a members log in to a website (which I am being trained on it now) and pull a list of up to twenty (20) names and addresses. Or makes a request for twenty names and they are emailed to them so that we have a gate keeper and we do not have to make a website.There could be a coordinator for each county or groups of counties. We need to target letters for targeted races. They would return when they were ready for more names, each member would be encouraged to write at least t 40 letters
I am training on a website that captures a person’s information and checks it against board of elections and will approve them or give them to the co-ordinator/ administrator.
(NOTE:I am working on a program that would do just this very thing but target information would need to be supplied. I also know of some of the targets.I would be able to help with this end of things. But you get the idea. People would be encouraged to return to the site to acquire more names.)

2.The counties that are not organized could be grouped with a county that is. the problem would be getting the information out to folks in these areas.)
3. We keep the letters until 1 week before early voting opens and then send the letters.

4. We need to know who we sent letters to and look to see the percentage that actually votes.
This should be tracked by votebuilder, you could tag the names of the people as canvassed.

5. Targeted groups (groups of people most affected by new legislation):
a. Teachers and parents of school age children,
b. Poor not able to get health care, basic assistance,
c. Persons that will have a harder time to vote, students, poor, elderly
d. Persons no longer able to take the earned income tax credit,
e.Elderly programs cut that provide assistance,
f. Women reproductive rights, equal pay
g. Persons of color
I can get you the information on which races should be targeted in the various counties.

This program could be done statewide for the greatest effect but could be done district wide.
If every chapter was motivated to do this and each person wrote 20 to 40 letters3 in the next 150 days with 30 people in each county that would be 30 x 30 x 63 = 56,700 letters with so many elections won by less than 100 votes, this could change the face of the election and we could take the senate back and re-elect Kay Hagan in the process. This is a conservative estimate as well with the mailing cost amortized over the whole state. The republican right will not have any idea until after the election.

I am approaching all groups with votebuilder access to do this look at the numbers for the teachers:
Another note about the teachers. They are really mad and they are tired of being punched around. The system that is evolving pits teachers against each other where only cooperation will do. They have taken away any stability a teacher had and replaced it with insecurity. Just think, if 50% of the schools in Durham for example (53 of the 106 schools) had 30 teachers participate, and they wrote 30 letters over the summer that would be 53 x 30 x 30 = 47,700 Let’s say you could get this level from 50 counties 47,700 x 50 = 2,385,000

The democrats have it a bit harder as they have to have some things printed on their letters/ postcards. And the main way we are going to get them to read it is if they are handwritten and personal.

Stephanie Goslen

A lot of scapegoating....Very little personal accountability!

What I see in this article is a litany of blame and finger pointing. That is not to say that some of these points might not be true, they very well could be. The fact is that the more Randy Voller and those who attempt to speak for him try to blame everyone from Non-progressive Dems, to the Young Democrats to the Elected officials to......(fill in the blank), it appears to be a well orchestrated blame game.

Quite frankly, I am tired of seeing leaders not lead. Instead of a scapegoat effort there should be a "buck stops here mentality" and an effort to unite and accept all Democrats. This is hard, but this is what separates the successful leaders from the not so successful. Real leadership does not look for an excuse or someone to blame, but looks for consensus and ways to bring all factions of a party together. They realize their personal worth and ego are separate from the job at hand and are able to act out of a sense of what is best for the team instead of a PR campaign designed to point out what is best about "ME".

In all of this what annoys me the most is the vilification of the Young Democrats. If the party is being destroyed by, mislead by and out whited by 18 and 19 year olds.....we have problems. I don't mean this is any derogatory way toward our young people, but I think it a bit disingenuous to blame our young people for the demise of Voller. If they are to blame it does not say much that individuals half the age the state Chair, with half the experience and half the life knowledge of him could topple his administration or the Party for that matter. Just plain silly and a scapegoat for the hardest working and perhaps most relevant caucus in the state Democratic party today.

This letter is indicative of what is wrong with party leadership today......No personal accountability and a a lack of answers. Randy Voller is a nice guy, but that does not make for a great leader. There comes a time when true leadership admits mistakes, works to bring all people to the table, stops deflecting the hard questions and silences those who mean well but demonize various parts of the party that may not directly line up with his personal ideology. When one becomes chair you are not elected to argue your point until you win, you are elected to place the reelection and election of ALL Democrats above party politics while strategically yet delicately orchestrating all of the many voices into a chorus singing the same tune. Embrace the diversity within the party instead of demonizing it and rise to the occasion as a world-class maestro instead of a junior-high choir leaders.

Robert Kellogg

Party dis-unity

It seems that our state and county parties could heal all division by simply refusing to judge each other by the faction of their allegiance. Right now we have Young Dems, Progressive Dems and the "Old Guard" (whoever they are) who actively conflict with each other. Not sure if I may have missed any other groups to consider.

How about we try to put aside our personal differences, stop fighting among ourselves as to who's a "good democrat" or a more "progressive democrat" and realize we actually need to work together. From what I recall of Voller's election timeframe, Voller was the candidate of the progressive dems group and Bob Etheridge was the candidate most supported by the Young Dems.

Instead of seeking out the candidate most friendly to your personal views, why not work together to vet the candidates *be they willing or suggested* and verify they can withstand any background checks that could embarrass the party. Egos aside, it would be best for our party and most importantly, our democratic candidates seeking public office, if we can work together.

You don't have to love the party officer candidate but it would help if you can support that person based on their objectives. Lost in all of this brouhaha is the need to present a united front to the public so that our candidates seeking public office do not have to distance themselves from the party.

We need to remember why we're actively working for our party and that is to get democrats elected, not to fight amongst ourselves publicly.

YD's can be 35 years old.

It is not the children who are in college (that would be College Dems) who are doing the jobs like professional fundraising and consulting. Most of those jobs are held or sought by people in their late 20's and early 30's, Young Dem age, people quite able to form a thought and have a network of friends in the media. I have to wonder why you did not know this.

Were you trying to make Randy seem to be picking on children for a reason?

scapegoating

It is not 18-19 year olds it is 30-35 yr olds

Stephanie Goslen

They are still Democrats

18 or 35 they are still Democrats and some of the hardest working ones at that. The premise still remains that casting stones can create a diversion for only so long. Eventually the fingers being pointed in every direction begin to be pointed back.

Robert Kellogg

Still Democrats

We all are democrats
I am not trying to cast stones, I was just commenting what I was noticing that in order for us to stop the fight we need to acknowledge it exists. Further, just as it is with a child growing up trying to gain some autonomy they buck heads with their parents, so does the young dems with the older dems. What is surprising to me is the YD's back the conservative views and try to maintain the status quo over a more enlightened view. Yes they work hard at progressing the conservative democrats at a time we need to look outside the box for alternatives. We need to fight the GOP especially the ones in Raleigh and not turn our anger towards each other. Lets rally behind our chair, he was duly elected and work to defeat our enemies and not each other. That being said, stop fighting the chair, he has not been afforded the chance to lead and govern without CONSTANT interference all of the time he has been in office. There has been the drum beat of folks that did not back him undermining everything he does, the YD's the loudest among them. For example, when he was offering the name of Dr. Chavis to be the new ED, it was only as the POO says he is to do, offering the name. OK we get it, move on. At this point I do not think Dr. Chavis will be confirmed, so now we need to help Randy choose another democrat to fill the position. We surely do not need to belabor or second guess Randy. Who ever it is will have to be confirmed by the council so there are some safe guards built into the process. The idea of Randy supplying the name is so the new ED is someone Randy can work with and not someone chosen for him.

Stephanie Goslen

Young Dems

Although I respect your point of view, I think it is unfair to characterize the YD's in the following way: "What is surprising to me is the YD's back the conservative views and try to maintain the status quo over a more enlightened view. Yes they work hard at progressing the conservative democrats at a time we need to look outside the box for alternatives".

While other Dem's and Democratic groups were wondering what to do about Amendment One, the Young Dem's were literally out there knocking on doors and visibly supporting the LGBT community without apology while some of the more mature Dem's were afraid of offending others in the party who were still on the fence when it comes to equality issues. They were anything but advocating the status quo.

I have witnessed one promotion of Democratic issues after another from the Young Democrats. Most of the time they are on the cutting edge advocating and educating before the rest of the party even gets out of bed and formulates a plan of action. They are responsive, proactive and trailblazers on policy issues.

The last point I would like to make is that although they do support many traditional Democratic candidates they are also recruiting, training and supporting many progressive and young candidates that again.....many in the party would have overlooked because of their age. Their actions are nothing like the above traditionalist/conservative viewpoint you portray.

Robert Kellogg

In response to Robert

Robert, I stand corrected. I mistakenly characterize them as being ofn the conservative view all the time and that hardly is true. Only when it comes to who should be chair, do they tend to go with the conservative candidate. And I do appreciate their efforts in advancing the progressive causes. I am sorry for referring to them otherwise.

Stephanie Goslen