Bob Geary's blog posts on the NCDP Chair and the re-accension of our country-club Masters!

It's very interesting to see how some people change their tune over the years. Take Bob Geary of the Independent. The Indy has a rep of being a progressive voice - some of that earned through Geary's columns. However, Geary of late sounds like he's joined the inside the Beltline, country-club set he used to mock not that long ago.

Take his column "The people have won" about the victory of Jerry Meek 271 to 242 over Ed Turlington for NCDP Chair in 2005.

"The people have won"
In a rejection of Gov. Easley, the state's Democrats pick the grassroots candidate to be their leader
by Bob Geary
February 23, 2005

What does it mean that Jerry Meek, the Fayetteville trial lawyer, is the new Democratic State Party chair, and not Gov. Mike Easley's choice, Raleigh attorney-lobbyist Ed Turlington? When Meek's victory was announced on Saturday at the party's executive committee meeting, by a vote of 271-242, party activist Chris Lizak literally leaped out of his chair to exclaim, "History was made here today!" Progressives had won, he said, and the "Clintonistas"--as he called them--had lost. "Now, they can't unite the party their way," Lizak declared. "They have to unite the party our way." Also beaming, ex-Wake County legislator Bob Hensley put it in simpler, if less majestic terms. "You can report," he said, "that the people have won."

OK, won what?

For starters, it'll be a long time before the Democrats nominate someone as conservative as Erskine Bowles again for a U.S. Senate seat without his even having to win a primary. Meek's election is all about building the party from the bottom up, precinct by precinct, instead of from the country club down. A strong grassroots party would hardly have accepted the wealthy but colorless Bowles, fresh from his '02 loss to Liddy Dole, without raising up some other, more progressive candidates for Democratic voters' consideration.

This was the point state Insurance Commissioner Jim Long seemed to be making when he placed Meek's name in nomination. Meek, a 34-year-old wunderkind, represents "fresh leadership and fresh ideas," said Long, the only elected state official who bucked Easley. And the main idea Meek represents, Long added, is that while money is important in winning elections, it's "more important to create strong networks of supporters at the precinct and local levels."

Long never mentioned Bowles, or Easley for that matter, but the alternative he had in mind was clear: Without local party networks, Democrats have to take what the country-club crowd gives them.

In addition to more candidates, grassroots organization promises to give Democrats a way to lift up more issues for public consumption, which should help those elected officials already sticking out their necks for progressive causes while pressuring the ones who don't. For example, Gov. Mike Easley, when he presents his 2005-06 budget this week, reportedly will propose keeping the sales-tax surcharge on ordinary folks while dumping the income-tax surcharge on the rich. A Democratic Party that takes seriously its platform-adoption process surely would've discussed whether state taxes are too progressive or regressive, presumably coming out in favor of the former.

Meek, campaigning for chair, took no position on specific issues per se. What he did promise was to help the party faithful study issues themselves and come to their own conclusions; he also pledged to let them voice their positions, once adopted, and speak up for those positions himself even if they differ from their Democratic governor's views. By contrast, former party chair Barbara Allen--installed by Easley--hasn't even convened a platform meeting since 2002.

In 2003, Meek challenged Allen briefly, withdrawing before the vote after he was handed the seemingly powerless position of first vice chair. It was understood, however, that she would serve only one term more, and that he'd be back again in '05 vying for the top prize.

In the interim, Meek threw himself into his self-appointed job of county- and precinct-level organizing, jumping in his car--or his plane--at the least suggestion that he might be needed out in the hinterlands. "He came to the west so many times," said Doug Jones, chair of the Buncombe County Young Democrats, "that we came to think of him as part of our local organizing team."

Thus, Meek was in a position to both ride the wave of local activism that swelled up in opposition to the Bush administration over the last two years and harness it to his own work of local party-building all over North Carolina. This while Easley was pointedly ignoring the Kerry-Edwards ticket, dodging party events and winning re-election for himself with a big-money TV campaign that portrayed him as a conservative, pro-business governor.

Easley was blowing off the grassroots activists, that is, at the very same time Meek was organizing them and winning them over to his side. In that respect, Saturday's result was as much about what had gone before as a harbinger of things to come, although it was that, too. In short, Meek had earned the job, and as much as Turlington, bless his heart, tried to say "me, too--I'll organize local stuff, too," he couldn't shake the notion that his candidacy was being promoted by the insiders to thwart the will of the people--the outsiders. Or, as Meek told the delegates Saturday, "I could've spent my time [as vice chair] hobnobbing at receptions. But I decided I was going to spend my time with y'all."

Was Easley the loser on Saturday? Yes, and all the more so because he was--once again--a no-show at an important party event. Former Gov. Jim Hunt was there, working the floor for Turlington (who ran his '96 re-election campaign). Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and Treasurer Richard Moore, gubernatorial wannabees, were there too, also working for Turlington. Even Sen. Janet Cowell, D-Wake, though she had no vote, was on hand to tell folks she was backing her fellow Raleigh resident Turlington.

But no Easley. Having put Turlington in the race, he couldn't be bothered to stand with him in a losing cause.

And it was a loser; everybody on Turlington's side certainly knew that. They've all been through enough campaigns to be able to count the votes. Doubtless that's why Hunt, who nominated Turlington in glowing terms, also took care to say that "however this comes out, folks," a vigorous battle was "good for our Democratic Party."

And what of the "Clintonistas"? Lizak's reference was to Southern Democrats who think the party must move to the right and nominate Southerners like Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to regain the national majority.

That view may have been strengthened by Meek's election, with his pledge to actually reflect the views of rank-and-file Southern Democrats, not just the country-club crowd--that and newly elected Democratic National Chair Howard Dean's promise that the party will campaign in all 50 states, not just the "blue" ones.

The point, at this stage, isn't that the rank-and-file are so much more progressive than the Easleys and the Bowleses, though the progressives obviously think they are. It's that, since they've never really been organized, what they'll come up with as policy is a big unknown.

But Lizak's right in one respect. If Easley, as Lizak exclaimed, was ever going to be "the poster boy for the Clintonistas," the poster boy is looking sorry after Saturday.

What a difference 7 years makes! Now he feels that the winner of the Gubernatorial primary has a God-given right to name the next NCDP Chair!

New NC Dems chair? It's the first decision Dalton or Etheridge should make
Posted by Bob Geary on Fri, May 4, 2012 at 1:55 PM

[Update, 5/5: Sen. Don Vaughan, the only announced candidate to replace David Parker, has quit ALEC following yesterday's disclosures. He sent a statement last night; I've copied it below.]

Poor David Parker is out as state Democratic Party chair as of next Saturday, the victim of a sexual harassment claim by an ex-party staffer that he didn't know what to do with. So who should replace Parker?

And replace him, I'd add, at a time when the Democrats are in danger of losing the Governor's office, the Lt. Governor's office and everything else that isn't nailed down in Raleigh ... so that come November, it may actually matter who the state party chair is.

Sen. Don Vaughan of Guilford County has announced his candidacy. Our friend Chris Kromm at Facing South has some bad news about Vaughan: He's an ALEC man. ALEC being the American Legislative Exchange Council, a Koch Brothers enterprise. I'm sure Vaughan has good qualities too.

Some Democrats who played with ALEC in years past have disavowed it of late, if only because it's not as super-secret as it used to be — and its deep ties to right-wingers like the Kochs are now apparent for all to see. Perhaps Vaughan has done so. I put in a call to his office and left a message. Hopefully he'll call and say he's not an ALEC man any more.

Beyond that, I don't have any great insight into Vaughan. What I can say, though, is that we'll wake up next Wednesday and almost certainly will have a Democratic nominee for governor, either Walter Dalton or Bob Etheridge. It's possible the two will be in a runoff, but only if neither hits the 40 percent mark in round one. And given that the other four candidates are polling in the low single digits, they probably won't add up to more than 20 percent, meaning that whoever is in the lead, either Dalton or Etheridge, will win outright.

At that point, it will be within the winner's realm to name a new chair — or rather, to announce a candidate he'd like to see be elected chair when the party's executive committee meets on Saturday in Greensboro.

i cannot imagine that the executive committee — the rank-and-file, sort of — would revolt and not elect whoever it is their gubernatorial nominee has recommended.

Here's what also shouldn't happen. The nominee should not fail to take charge of this process. It's a test of leadership — as easy a test as he'll ever get.

Oh, and he shouldn't recommend an ALEC member for chair, or else there could be a revolt.

So in 2005, Geary writes that the people have won because they have picked their own NCDP Chair. Meek's election is all about building the party from the bottom up, precinct by precinct, instead of from the country club down. The main idea Meek represents is that while money is important in winning elections, it's "more important to create strong networks of supporters at the precinct and local levels." Without local party networks, Democrats have to take what the country-club crowd gives them.

Which is exactly what happened beginning in June 2008 - Obama For America began ordering state Parties to dismantle the Howard Dean 50-state strategy that included partybuilding to create the strong network of supporters at the precinct level. OFA wanted Obamabots who worshiped the cult of Obama, and that suited the country-club Democrats in NC just fine. They went right along with it - until the OFA method combined with the change in campaign financing brought about by Citizens United bit them on the ass in 2010. For the first time in 112 years, NC Democrats were not in the majority. And they blamed the grassroots for it.

Why the change of heart Bob? Why go from accurately documenting a real progressive movement in NC when rank and file Dems made the first move to take back our Party on the way to taking back our state and country to becoming a press agent for the country-club crowd you dismissed in 2005?

Instead of building the party from the ground up, Geary now feels it's the RIGHT of the Democratic gubernatorial primary winner to name a new Chair. I've asked Bob if he can cite me the specific language in the NCDP Plan of Organization that specifically gives the winner of any public elected office the right to name ANY party officer or to take charge of this process. But he's not returned any of my calls.

Bob could perform a valuable service to his readers by writing about the real reason the "electeds" want to replace Parker, instead of parroting the pretext that his country-club friends give him. He could worry more about the real victims in this tragedy - the grassroots of the Democratic Party and the millions of North Carolinians who are much worse off since the Republicans took over in 2010 - made possible by the combined efforts of OFA and country-club Democrats to take control (or take back control in the case of the country-club crowd) away from the grassroots.

By insisting that a gubernatorial candidate has a right not mentioned in the NCDP POO to name a new Chair, and by dropping so many names of people as possible successors, Geary is acting like the mouthpiece of the country-club set he derided in 2005.

Et tu, Bob?

Comments

Great piece

Thanks for the insights.

wafranklin