NCDP Chair race: a view from the sidelines

We're fast approaching the SEC meeting, in which the Democratic Party's elite will choose the people who will run things during one of our most challenging times, and I'm starting to feel nauseated. That's not a figure of speech. I'm talking about that feeling where strange things are afoot on a gastro-intestinal level, and there's a distinct possibility you may actually throw up sometime in the near future. So you contemplate fluffy bunnies or Zen koans or anything else that will trick your body into calming down. Why am I nauseated? Because Rome is burning, and the only people who can fix it are acting not unlike the Crips and the Bloods, where the color of your bandana is more important than what you can think or do.

I've got some news for red bandana wearers and blue bandana wearers: you're both right and you're both wrong. Yes, we need a Chair who understands the importance of grass-roots organizing, and yes, we need a Chair who can develop strategic alliances and attract large donations. We can't make this thing work without both.

For you red bandana wearers (the color choice was arbitrary, don't attach any significance to it), here's just one of your wrongs: even considering the infinite multi-verse theory, there isn't a single universe where scribbling out a check for $10,000 in secret hush money is a good thing. Not a single one. Granted, there is one universe where there's a check for $10,000 in secret hush money behind one door and a tiger behind the other, which is pretty cool. But it's still not good. Stop deluding yourselves.

As for you blue bandana wearers: Don Vaughan? Really? Did you honestly think a long-time ALEC member would be a good "fit" for the Party? Have you become so enamored with with the darker side of politics, the "money washes away all sins" fundraising zeal, as it were, that principles and ideology no longer even show up on your vetting radar? Have you had your basement checked, to make sure that Radon isn't seeping into your prefrontal cortex when you're sleeping at night? Make the call, just to be sure.

What's my point? Competition can be healthy, but it can also affect your judgment. There is more than enough Otherism being practiced by Republicans these days, and we need to build bridges, not tear them down. The Party does have problems, but those problems can only be fixed if we all work together.

So bury your fricking axes, talk to each other, find things on which you can agree, and start reinforcing that bridge. Because if you can't, I swear to God this blogger will climb out of his hermit-crab shell and start showing up at your meetings and such. Trust me when I say, you really don't want that. I have an extremely inflated opinion of myself, I talk way too much, don't listen worth a damn, and I have 3 silos full of bright ideas that would take a heretofore uninvented piece of threshing machinery to separate the few grains of wheat (that's a metaphor for a good idea, in case you got sidetracked somehow) from the multitudes of chaff.


Here's your Zen:

Before enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.

After enlightenment; chop wood, carry water.

Basically it means: do not expect your achievements to free you from the things this world demands of you, no matter how inconsequential they may seem.

More thoughts

Some have complained the Party is too prone to manipulation by power-brokers, whether they're elected officials or wealthy individuals or political consultants. There have also been accusations that due to this manipulation, critical Party resources have been diverted for specific (pet) campaigns, or even outright squandered.

For those who don't believe that second part really happened or will happen, I say this: if you allow the first part to go on unchecked, it's only natural for some to believe the second part is also taking place. For an almost exclusively voluntary organization to thrive, especially one that needs to function state-wide, there can't even be the appearance of the possibility of conflicts of interest, or the wielding of undue influence, or a hierarchy based on class in the place of the party officer electoral process.

Aside from being unethical, it just won't work. Grassroots organizers aren't going to bust their asses in the service of a handful of influential people. Not for very long, anyway.

Now, this is where I diverge from the opinions of many complainers: we do need those power brokers. A strong state-wide party is a hungry beast, and it needs resources. And it's a simple fact of nature that wealthy donors expect to be at least heard. They may not always get what they want; hell, they shouldn't always get what they want. But they deserve a place at the table. What they don't deserve, however, is the ability to dictate who else sits at said table. For too long the devils of patronage and nepotism have been tolerated in our Party, and corruption is just one more step past those two things.

These are not great "revelations", people. It's purely common sense, and I daresay they've been on the minds of most reading this. But when push comes to shove and those ethical decisions need to be made, we have a habit of suffering from temporary amnesia. But you can't build a strong organization and still play silly little games like that.


"Grassroots organizers aren't going to bust their asses in the service of a handful of influential people. Not for very long, anyway."

This happens in every county, precinct, congressional district...starry-eyed volunteers get their hearts stomped on by the power brokers, so we have to go out and find new people every election cycle. It's like eating your seed corn.



With all due respect...

The war on "influentials" and elected officials is one of the things that has torn our Party to shreds. The folks at the Goodwin House will be evicted once the tax checkoff money evaporates unless everyone has a seat at the table and the Party has the ability to move forward as a respected entity that can bring about change.

Have influential people failed us? From time to time, sadly, they have. Have people failed to build our bench over the years? Yes. Have we not built the Party as we should? That I agree on.

But it isn't "consultants" and "elected's" alone and treating them as the enemy leads to good people taking a pass. Anyone who doesn't realize that serious donors and thought leaders are going to find alternative ways to contribute if we don't end this misbegotten crusade against people who live and breathe public service haven't paid attention.

I agree

And a lot of those "power brokers" are some of the most progressive people I've ever met. We need those folks, and not just for their money.

But...there has been some unfortunate behavior from the top-down in our Party. Just as the grassroots people shouldn't paint all the influential people with the same brush, the influential people in the Party need to pay attention to those in the trenches. We didn't get where we are via casual misunderstandings, so we can't fix it by simply waiting for feathers to smooth down.

The first challenge for the next NCDP Chair isn't to rebuild the grassroots or reopen the money spigot. The first challenge is to heal the rift between the two. Once that's done, those first two things will be if not easy, at least doable.

Influentials have had too much influence in the Party so far!

Yes we need donations to the Party - both big and small.

But can anyone find any language in the NCDP POO that lets anyone set the direction of the Party by writing a check and not by being a voting officer or delegate of the Party?

For too long we've let this party be run by the people who either pull the money out of the false ceiling in the men's room of a pancake house, or those who put it there. Certainly none of them are acting in the best interest of the Party.

And what about paying for the airplane seat upgrades for Governor Perdue - and then paying for her millionaire husband's airfare - out of Party money? We had an ED who told the SEC that we had to do that - but it pissed off a lot of people.

I'd love to see the influence people who have money actually run for offices in the Party. Let them put their feet and mouths where their money is.

At last January's SEC meeting, there was all sorts of talk that all we are supposed to do is elect Democrats. There was ZERO talk about party-building. Funny thing - after we stopped building the Party in June 2008, we started really getting our asses kicked here in NC and around the country. The Republicans had to have won BIG in 2010 in order to control the redistricting process. Clearly the consultants that were in charge after June 2008 knew a little bit about winning the top ticket races - but they didn't know "jack" about winning all the other races. We had "Obama-mamas" with GOP school board candidate signs in their yards in 2009 here in Wake County.

We were promised the OFA volunteer lists from the 2008 campaign AFTER the 2008 General Election. Guess what - OFA welched on the deal. We heard from State and District party level officers that we were supposed to get OFA volunteer lists after the 2012 General election. I don't think we've received any of those lists. It's time to stop putting up with that behavior from consultants and campaigns. Now that OFA is a corporately-funded (WalMart and Duke Power), non-profit, special-interest group run from the top-down that wants to extend into every precinct, it's time to demand that they treat us like equals or show them the door.

It's not that the grassroots doesn't want the consultants, electeds or big money donors to have a seat at the table. We just don't want you to have the same seats you had before - you know the best seats where you ran the show even though the "rules" say otherwise.

The election of Howard Dean as DNC Chair in 2005 was important because he ran a grassroots campaign dedicated to the grassroots - and he ran off every other establishment candidate. Jerry Meek didn't run unopposed, but he beat the Establishment candidate in 2005. In 2009, the grassroots let down their guard and let Bev Perdue claim that someone with ZERO party experience was the best person to Chair the NCDP. In 2011, the SEC members voted overwhelmingly to reject the Governor's choice by a margin more than DOUBLE the margin Meek won by in 2005. And when all that mess occurred last year at Goodwin House (you know - where the consultants got the COS folks to call for Parker's resignation), the SEC rejected Parker's resignation by a margin greater than that by which he was elected the year before. SEC members saw that attack on Parker as an attack on all elected party officers!

Alas - 2012 was destined to be a bad year for Democrats in NC. The 2010 losses caused the redistricting we now live under. The DNC Convention put money into lots of pockets in and around Charlotte, but it did not help our Party in NC last year. It was like making a bigger deal about a tailgate party than the sporting event which followed. And don't get me started on OFA - with more OFA people and offices and resources on the ground a year earlier than for the 2008 election, why did Obama lose by nearly 100K votes in 2012 when he won by only 14K votes with only 5 months on the ground in 2008?

We must study and learn from these mistakes, but we should never go back to the days when the consultants and the electeds and the big money donors run our Party for their benefit and not the benefit of all North Carolinians. What's the point of having a 1% run NC even if they are Democrats? While the rest of us fared better under a Democratic majority than we will under a Republican majority, trickle-down from Democrats is not much better.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

the plan of Organization

should be scrapped, starting with the Congressional District Organizations. Makes no sense to allow the GOP legislature to draw the lines by which we organize our party.

"Man is free at the moment he wishes to be." -Voltaire