The "I'm listening" wankathon

I got Faison's letter in the mail yesterday - got to the end of the letter - it sounds like he doesn't have a clue what worked and what didn't work in the 2010 election or in our state since the 2008 election cycle. It doesn't sound like someone running for office - it sounds like he's applying for a job at some big, soul-less corporation and doesn't want to stand out or make waves. Too bad - the NC Democratic Party needs someone to come on board and take names and kick some (ok, many) asses!

It sounds like one of Obama's "listening tours" - designed to give the appearance that they gave a damn but nothing really changed (for the good) as a result because there really is no way to know if: 1) they really were listening; and 2) there was no way to measure whether or not they did what they said they would do or hold them accountable if they didn't act in the way we wanted them to.

This "listening" business is BS. Haven't you been listening to the base of the Party over the last two years? If not - why not?

I want to know what each of these candidates is going to do besides "listen" to us - because they both promise to do that. So what? Do they promise to actually do what we want them to do as NCDP Chair? They promise to listen to the activists - so what?

* Will they do what the activists want, or what the elected public leaders and their corporate donors and consultants want?
* Did Bev ask Faison to run, or is she endorsing him? If so, does that mean that she runs the Party through him?
* Will Faison or Parker let Scott Falmlen or other consultants run the Party from behind the scenes, or will they hire a real ED who knows how to do the paperwork?
* Will Faison or Parker let consultants work for the party, the candidates/campaigns, and for 527 groups and still claim there is no coordination between them?
* What, if any, role in any aspect of the state party will Faison or Parker let OFA have? Given that Obama might have a primary challenger in 2012, is it appropriate for a state party chair (or even a county party Chair or the DNC Chair) to let what we all know is the President's (Re-) Election Campaign run the Democratic Party or have such a strong say in what we do and how we do it?

We got some rules - they are called the DNC By-Laws and the NCDP Plan Of Organization. Nowhere in those rules do I see anything about the President or the Governor or the highest elected Democratic official having any more of a say in who gets elected Chair of the Party except for whatever votes they are able to cast. Other than that - the DNC Chair gets elected by the vote of the DNC delegates.

The NCDP Chair gets elected by the votes of the SEC. The County Party Chair gets elected by the votes of the county convention delegates (or the CEC members when we are voting someplace other than the convention). I am a precinct chair and I get elected by the votes of the delegates to my precinct - and they have to be registered Democrats living in my precinct. Now so far no one from outside my precinct has taken an interest in who gets elected as precinct chair, but I can tell you this - try coming to my precinct (where I have lived for over 30 years) and telling my neighbors who they should vote for because it will make your job as an elected official easier (meaning you won't have to deal with me as an elected officer of the Wake County Democratic Party) - and you see what happens!

Now I hear this garbage about how "that's the way it's always been", and I have to ask some folks out there - do we always have to do things the way they have always been done - especially if there are rules or laws that say otherwise? I would ask African American Democrats how you would feel about being relegated to second-class status (sitting on the back of the bus) because "that's always the way we've done it", or female Democrats being told you can't go to college or get a decent job or be paid the same wage as a man doing the same job because "you're a woman and that's always the way we've done it here"?

No - they wouldn't like hearing that garbage and I don't either - especially when the laws or rules say otherwise. We fought hard to get the laws passed and we expect our leaders to follow them. We don't like it when rich people or corporations try and control the country by buying off politicians which the majority of Americans (according to surveys) are against and by-pass those rules.

So I for one am not buying any of the "I'm listening" business of any of the candidates. If you are so out of touch with what has happened with the Democratic Party over the last two years watching the NCDP "drivers" steer the party "bus" towards the cliff while the lug nuts were coming off and the engine was smoking - while loyal activist Dems were pulling the cord and pointing out the problems before being ejected from the bus as troublemakers - then you don't deserve to be elected Chair.

Let's hear right now what you think went wrong - because I am not buying that whole "I'm listening" business. It doesn't impress me. Saying that you will listen doesn't mean that you will understand or act in a way that is acceptable to the people who will vote for you.

Tell me what you have heard so far over the last two years with how the Party has been (mis)managed, and tell us what you would do differently - and we'll judge how well (or poorly) we feel you have listened and observed. Reading about your skill sets doesn't impress me. I am not hiring a lawyer - I am trying to size up someone who I hope will be a fighter and a leader for our Party.


Sometimes it is good to step back

Change is only possible when you come to the table with a willingness to work, an open mind, and a faithful heart. You cannot “buy the I’m listening tour” when you have for sometime had your ears closed even to those who held you in high esteem.


What do you do when you keep coming to the table and get burned?

How many times do Democrats in NC have to come to the table with a willingness to work, an open mind and a faithful heart - only to get burned. The last two years in the Wake County Democratic Party and the NCDP have taught me not to trust blindly - especially anyone who is both running for office and saying they want to run the Party.

I trust - but verify. And if I can't verify - I stop trusting.

After what happened in Wake County, I cannot accept a candidate who has a full-time job, works part-time as a legislator and then wants to volunteer to be a party Chair. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all those jobs well - especially the one I care the most about. .

I don't give anyone anymore chances to punk me. Just because it's a new person, doesn't mean that they won't run the same con game on us.

Fool me once - shame on you. Fool me twice - shame on me.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

The letter struck me that way too.

The rank and file only know what went wrong in their little corner of the state. Why should anyone expect us to see with night goggles what went on at the top of the pyramid? That's above my pay grade.

No - it's not above your pay grade.

I am an SEC member and I vote for the state party officers. That means when things go wrong, I ask questions of the state party officers and I expect to get answers. When I don't get those answers, or the answers make no sense, I look for them elsewhere.

I know what went wrong in my part of the state - I live right in Raleigh and the proximity to the NCDP HQ means that we know alot about what goes on at the state level as well as here in Wake County. Basically - the proximity of Wake County to the state party HQ means that we can't help but get sucked into whatever the state party/coordinated campaign/OFA people are trying to do. And we got screwed because of it.

I would certainly expect that any candidate who claims that their legislative experience makes them a good choice for state party chair would have an idea of what went wrong at the state and local levels. This information has been shared at the Wake County Democratic Party post-mortems for candidates and for HD coordinators (who don't work for the House members - they work for the county party which chose to organize based on house districts) and was also revealed at the recent State Executive Council meeting last week.

So no one should still be wondering what went wrong over the last two years - especially not if they want to run for state party chair.

Can you imagine someone running for President claiming they don't know what is busted but they'll listen to you AFTER you vote for them, or won't propose any solutions until AFTER you vote for them? Sorry - but I've heard those lines before, and I want a little down payment first.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Lead, follow or ...

Is it an accurate statement that in the letter Faison said that "after you vote for me I will listen to you"? Didn’t the letter say that Faison as a leader listens, hears, and responds? Did the letter ask for input or did it say that he had no idea what happened. For me it seems to be a matter of interpretation and I think the letter says that Faison is up for the challenges ahead and is not going to lead from the top down. Isn’t that what you want? You have complained about past leaders that do not listen to the individual needs of each area and put a plan in place as if "one size fits all".

Faison is stating that he believes that a strong, reorganized, redirected, vigorous and supportive Chair is what we need. Dynamic sounds good for a change.


I've talked to both Faison and Parker

And so far - none have impressed me. I've heard both of them talk about the need to listen while the whole time not listening to my concerns as an active Democrat.

Just because someone writes in a letter that they will listen, hear and respond doesn't mean they will actually respond that in a way that I or even the majority of SEC members and other active Dems will like or approve of. OFA had a listening tour that went around America after the 2008 election. Can you really tell me that those listening tours resulted in an administration that actually responded in a useful way? If they had listened to Americans and not to big-money donors and lobbyists, wouldn't we have health care reform that had either single-payer or a strong public option?

Have none of us ever been promises something in a letter from a politician that sounds good but really doesn't mean anything? And this is a first - mentioning "skill sets" in a campaign!

I am tired of listening to people shoot scripted and tested sound bites at me. Both Parker and Faison promise to listen, hear and respond - so is there any real difference between them? For Pete's sake - it almost sounds like they are both running from the same playbook! Did someone tell them to promise to listen, hear and respond so they wouldn't have to state any specific things they would do?

I've asked them both very specific questions and haven't received answers that make any sense. Each re-directs the conversation back to their "I'm listening" mantra.

I have asked very direct questions but not gotten any specific answers. It takes a very sophisticated legal mind to avoid giving direct answers to very direct questions. Lawyers do it all the time - they get paid good money to do this. But I know that when I ask someone a question about OFA - I want to hear either a "yes" or a "no" answer, or at least an answer that contains some specifics.

Either you believe that campaigns ought to be running the party or you do not. If the person I ask the question to is running for state party Chair and they don't know enough about how OFA has been working in this state - then they don't know enough for me to vote for them for Chair.

And if I ask them specific questions about party-building vs. the sort of garbage that went on during the last campaign that lost us our 112-year majority in the NCGA (but got their campaign consultant buddies good $$), and they claim they have to hear what worked and what didn't work - they have lost my vote.

What are they running for NCDP Chair for if they don't have a good idea of what worked and what didn't work?

Esse quam videri - to be, rather than to seem - is our state motto. Is it better to actually be dynamic or to seem to be dynamic? How does one tell the difference?

My whole goal is to point out that none of these guys running for state party chair are telling me what I want to hear even after I have told them what I want to hear. I want to hear what they think went wrong and how to fix it. I want to hear specifically what they would do to rebuild the party from the base up - and not focus so much on elections.

Yes - elections are important. But I was told by David Young backers that Young would be the best choice for NCDP Chair since he's run for office and knows how to win elections. And all the party talked about while Young was Chair was that elections were the most important thing. Given how many elections that we lost since 2009, it makes me think that those folks really didn't know as much about winning elections as they thought they did. But since they also did not focus on party-building during the last two years, we not only lost elections big-time, but we also failed to build the party so that we are not well situated to move forward.

Therefore, any candidate for state party chair who only talks about winning elections and not about why we lost big and why we stopped concentrating on party building is avoiding the issue entirely. That is not dynamic leadership.

Why do you think that Jerry Meek won in 2005? He won because he stood for giving more power to the people instead of keeping in Raleigh among a small clique. Building the party gives the power back to the people. Our party did not stand for that from 2009 on.

We already know how to return the power back to the people. Jerry did it - that is what his whole campaign was about. I know - because I worked on it. Do neither of these candidates know how to do that - or have any specific ideas? If they do not - what guarantee do I or any of us have that "listening" will translate to getting the power back to the people?

If the SEC merely acts as a rubber-stamp for the power brokers in Raleigh, or if we don't get specific answers to specific questions, then we will have been fooled again. And then we deserve exactly what we get.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Don't dodge the issues

I never said I had all the answers. But I do know that what this party did in 2009 and 2010 didn't work and I stated those views out in the open. That's why I got booted out of my "position" as HD34 coordinator - because I said some things that made people feel uncomfortable.

So they booted me out and went about their merry way phone-banking all over the place. We still lost - and lost big. How big were the losses? Historic - we lost the General Assembly after having the majority for 112 years!

When it comes to state politics, Republicans will hold nearly 700 seats in state legislatures, more than they have held since before World War II.

And at the national level, we lost the US House of Representatives.

I just said that it seems like the two big candidates don't know what's going on. Otherwise, why are they running all over the state doing their "listening tours" (right out of the OFA playbook I might add).

If they don't know what's wrong with the Party, why are they really running for office?

I don't want to run for NCDP Chair. It doesn't pay a salary, and I am not a lawyer with enough money coming in from other sources to let me serve as Chair. That's one of the big reasons why elected public leaders like Janet Cowell have said that we should be paying full time salaries for our elected leaders since they really do work full-time hours. Otherwise we get rich old retired people or lawyers to run for offices

Which is why the Chair should be paid a salary. If there was a salary, we might get some real go-getters running for party Chair.

So no - I wouldn't make time for a listening tour. Every good leader ought to listen - that's a given. But what are the ideas that a leader has that makes them different or better than the other people who are running for office? I would go around the state and ask people to listen to what I would like to do as NCDP Chair. I have some specific ideas on what needs to be done. It would be closer to the Dean/Meek playbook than to the current DNC/ObFA/OrgFA playbook. Then I would encourage people to give me feedback on my ideas. But since I am not running, who really gives a damn what I would do? This is only an effort by Joanne to deflect people from taking a real hard look at the issue I raised - and doing due-diligence.

So far I haven't heard anything that sets the two apart - other than one is a lawyer-legislator who has little party experience and the other is a lawyer/party-activist who has no experience in elected public office.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting


Correction on one minor fact. Chair Candidate David Parker was elected to the school board in his county. Googled it and saw this on his website.