Democratic Party dynamics, January 2011

Yesterday's meeting of the N.C. Democratic Party State Executive Committee was an encouraging event for several reasons.

The size of the turnout was unusual. There are roughly 700 members of the SEC. More than 600 voting members were in attendance, plus a couple of hundred other activists, volunteers, and observers.

The mood of the crowd was up. Not pleased, but energized. Angry with the situation, but not flailing about with the anger. Ready to put it to work.

The mix of attendees was broad: by age, race, geography.

The candidate field for party offices was unusually active and deep. There were no uncontested races, and none without more than one strong candidate. Of the five offices chosen (chair, 1st through 3rd vice chairs, secretary), each went to a seriously contested vote.

However, there did not appear to be the kind of particularly bitter contests that would inhibit the ability of most members to work together coming out of the meeting. The results in the highest profile races wrapped up with the all-candidates-on-the-stage photo moments and ovations. There will remain skeptics, but few of the participants seemed unwilling to give the winners a chance to succeed. In one contest (first vice chair) with three strong candidates, there was no first-ballot majority, but the two trailing candidates withdrew and endorsed the leader on the first ballot after it seemed clear that she would almost certainly draw enough votes on the second round to prevail. Those were serious contestants, who simply decided to put functioning party cooperation ahead of drawing out a fight while going for a long-shot win.

And there may be the most important point. The crowd was listening. Most of the contests did not start the day with a foregone conclusion. In my experience of politics, that is a highly unusual situation.

Caveat and disclosure: Not all of the candidates I voted for won. I came into the meeting having done enough background research that I had a choice in each contest decided, based on how I saw the candidates' respective proven work records over time. In some cases, that was a difficult pick between more than one attractive candidate.

Far more often than not, enough voters at any given political meeting or convention similarly come into the event knowing who they're going to support, and not being subject to on-the-spot persuasion. Yesterday, it seemed to me that an unusually high percentage of participants were making up their minds on the spot. I have a limited tolerance for sitting still indefinitely, and I spent much of the six-hour-plus meeting walking around or leaning against a wall observing. From those vantages I could see the crowd literally focused on the candidates, actively listening.

In each election, I thought that the winner was the candidate who gave the strongest speaking performance from the podium. A large swing vote was paying attention to the abilities of the candidates to operate under pressure at a high level of performance. They seemed implicitly to be asking: Who can deliver our message most persuasively?

The approval of winning candidates was enthusiastic, but plainly conditional on performance. That may be the best news of all. The somnolent self-satisifaction of Democratic party leaders in our state appears to be broken. And, instead of despair and retreat, the new attitude is determination to recover and change.

If the new N.C. Democratic Party officers put the same energy and skill into leading the charge this year that they put into winning their seats, some effective hell is going to be raised.

Comments

Great account of the day, Dan

One thing I'd add is the unprecedented attendance of many legislators in a non-election year. I was happy to see them take an interest.

It may be that one of the happy outcomes of Bill Faison's participation in this process is that he got to see the party from the inside out. He told us first hand at our PDNC meeting where he and several other candidates came to answer our questions that he never sees any resolutions out of the SEC. I think understanding the disconnect between us may be one thing that may be improved now.

Progressives are the true conservatives.

Dan nailed this: I missed this point in my own stories

"Far more often than not, enough voters at any given political meeting or convention similarly come into the event knowing who they're going to support, and not being subject to on-the-spot persuasion."

"Yesterday, it seemed to me that an unusually high percentage of participants were making up their minds on the spot. I have a limited tolerance for sitting still indefinitely, and I spent much of the six-hour-plus meeting walking around or leaning against a wall observing. From those vantages I could see the crowd literally focused on the candidates, actively listening."

"In each election, I thought that the winner was the candidate who gave the strongest speaking performance from the podium. A large swing vote was paying attention to the abilities of the candidates to operate under pressure at a high level of performance. They seemed implicitly to be asking: Who can deliver our message most persuasively?"

I spoke with a few voting members before the meeting including Ron Sanyal of Wake County who i think knows i planned to use his quotes in a story. He emphasized to me prior to the elections that he was keeping his options open until he had heard from all the candidates on Saturday afternoon at the meeting.

While most of those I contacted for my articles did back a particular candidate for Chair, many of those same voting delegates from Wake had not made final decisions for other offices to be elected.

Also, there was a large crowd of legislators and members of the public on hand to hear what was said by the nominees for party office as well as the invited VIPs.

I wish more folks had known about and attended the Progressive Caucus meeting prior to the SEC meeting. The candidates seemed candid for the most part, and the Q and A allowed for folks to ask questions face to face.

Martha Brock

Thanks for the summary, Dan

I experienced the event as you did even though none-of the candidates I voted for won.

I liked Bill Faison's idea of making sitting Democratic legislators part of the SEC - I hope that idea doesn't fade away.

BTW, Dan, the website you were promoting when you spoke needs work - it's throwing errors.

-- ge

Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo
https://george.entenman.name

thanks

I've contacted my webmaster. Hopefully he'll be able to fix it soon.

I wasn't trying to promote the site, though. Just giving my email address at David Young's suggestion, so that folks interested in help from the Democratic Municipal Officials group could contact me.

In that regard: danbesse@danbesse.org
Even though there are problems today with the www.danbesse.org site, the email address is still working. (That website is just my Winston-Salem City Council site. I post my monthly city constituent reports there--don't really use if for much else.)

Dan

Dan Besse

No tone of voice

Dan - I was just trying to poke a little fun - I think you are terrific and absolutely not the self-promoting sort. I should know better after all my years on the web. Apologies. -- ge

Besta é tu se você não viver nesse mundo
https://george.entenman.name

whoops

Thanks, and sorry. You know us politicians, always hypersensitive to perceived criticism. No response needed, that was humor too.

Although I've been told that my delivery is so deadpan that people often don't know it's a joke even when I tell one in person.

Actually once years ago, an audience to a talk thought I was speaking favorably about the prospects of a hurricane wiping out unwise coastal development. These days I gotta watch the humor attempts.

Dan Besse

NCDP Elections

Dan -- good comments as usual. It felt the same to me. Meeting took way too long and there was no food readily available (McDonalds did a good business across the street). We need to look at ballotting, facilities, etc.

Conversations between Party and Legislature began Saturday and will continue with meetings today and this week in Raleigh where I will be later today.

All -- I will check in periodically and will be open to suggestions as to how to keep you in the loop most effectively.

And ... for all of us with dryish wits, please have patience!

DP

David Parker