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From The Vaults

Montgomery County Democrats Should Debate Competing Visions Of The Future of The MCDP Organization

In the business meeting for the Montgomery County Democratic Party this evening, I’d like to see the formation of a committee that is charged with establishing a long-term plan for the vitalization of our local party organization. I’d like to see the coming Reorganization Meeting approve a six year plan — call it “Project 2024” — so that the culmination of the plan aligns with the Montgomery County’s total eclipse on April 8, 2024.

  • What would MCDP look like in 2024, IF we achieve our highest goal — our BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?
  • What is our year-by-year plan for achieving our BHAG?

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Democrats should have discussions and debates that will lead to consensus concerning what such a six year plan should contain. The goal is that the newly elected Central Committee will approve a new MCDP Constitution at the Reorganization Meeting that will formalize a consensus six year plan.

I’m writing a proposal for such a committee to discuss and improve. I’ll soon post it on DaytonOS and hopefully this will inspire some online discussion and debate.

In my view, the party needs a big reorientation of purpose.  In many ways the MCDP is stuck in the same thinking and organizational structures as at the time of the last total eclipse in Dayton in 1918.

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 Facts:

  • At present Montgomery County has about 58,000 voters who are designated as Democrats by the Board of Elections. This is 16% of registered voters. About 89,000 voters are designated Republican, about 24%. This means that 60% of registered voters never vote in Democratic or Republican Primaries. This non-involvement goes along with polls that show that 40% of voters now claim to be Independent or Nonpartisan.
  • In 2014, the newly elected MCDP Central Committee had only 132 members.  This is about 1/4 of one percent of Montgomery County’s registered Democrats.

 

Conclusions:

  • A vitalized MCDP must productively engage many more Democrats than are now engaged. In my view, rather than MCDP being an elite representative body, we need to structure MCDP to be a warm and inviting community where every participant has a voice and a vote.  Here is a mind experiment of sorts: Suppose in 2024 that 10% of registered Montgomery County Democrats — 5800 people — are active in the party. Suppose on average each person gives at least 20 hours per year in action. What is the motivation? What is the activity?
  • A vitalized MCDP must establish itself as a brand that appeals to Independents / Nonpartisans. In my view, our opportunity to appeal to Nonpartisans is by structuring MCDP as a connected and inviting deliberative democracy that is focused on preparing and advancing candidates dedicated to acting as public servants. Nonpartisans often say that they choose the person, not the party. It should be part of our brand that we are committed to processes where the cream can rise to the top and that the candidates chosen by our party came about through an admirable process.  We need to find venues to build relationships with nonpartisans. We need to build nonpartisan communities centered on civics education.

We need to build a local Democratic Party that is structured as a 21st century grassroots organization. Such an organization would effectively use technology to advance its mission. Its organizational structure would be flat rather than pyramidal. It would generously empower its members with leadership opportunities. It would re-frame its purpose and mission so that inspires and thrills the youth.

In my view, the party must put its confidence in this premise: When democracy wins, Democrats win.  We need to focus on democracy winning. Our purpose as a party should be defined as electing individuals to public office who are of the people and for the people.  As a party we need to walk the walk and structure ourself as an inviting deliberative democracy — the party of the people, the party that empowers the people, the party that works to build harmony and community.

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Democrats Should Write A New MCDP Constitution That Envisions And Structures A Strong Twenty-First Century Party

The Montgomery County Democratic Party’s quadrennial Reorganization Meeting scheduled for June, 2018, will give local Democrats the opportunity to reimagine the party and to re-write the current MCDP Constitution. Democrats need to discuss the future of their local Democratic party organization. What should the party look like in five or ten years? How can we organize to best take advantage of communication technologies?

A good place to start the discussion is to consider the purpose of the Democratic Party. We want to elect a lot of Democrats, but why? What is our purpose? Is it all about passing progressive laws like “Medicare for All”? It seems the main message that the party seeks to deliver is: Vote for Democrats because we advocate for public policies that benefit you. Of course, the Republican Party has the same message, different policies. Campaigns come down to merchandizing.

To imagine the Democratic Party of the future, we need to respond to the fact that, when polled, over 40% of voters now claim to be Independent. There is growing cynicism and distrust within the public about political parties. More and more voters claim they vote for the person — not for the party. Moving forward, MCDP needs to answer these two challenges:

  1. How do we conduct ourselves as a party to establish a brand that will attract Independent voters?
  2. How do we nurture and identify outstanding candidates for public office?

I’m thinking that the brand the party needs to develop is one focused on process and accountability. As a political organization we need to conduct ourself as a model of deliberative grassroots democracy that encourages initiative and leadership in its members. We need to establish a record of holding our candidates, when elected, to a high standard of transparency and accountability.

Here is the message I believe the party should strive to deliver: Vote for Democrats because we are committed to making our system of representative democracy work as it should. Actions, of course, speak louder than words and to deliver this message the party needs transformation. I’m working on a proposal for a new MCDP Constitution that structures MCDP as a grassroots democracy. Here is how it my first draft starts:

 

The Constitution Of  The Montgomery County Democratic Party

The MCDP mission: To prepare, to elect, and to sustain leaders who are of the people.

A vital republic requires talented leaders “of the people” dedicated to advancing the general good. This constitution declares that the mission of the MCDP is to generate and empower such leaders, to shepherd their election to government, and to encourage and support them once elected. It outlines structures and strategies to advance this mission based on the premise that outstanding leaders are not made, but under the right conditions they can be discovered and developed. This constitution structures MCDP as an inviting grassroots organization, a deliberative democracy, a network of local communities where there is a place for everyone to be meaningfully engaged. It offers many opportunities for the expression of creativity and the development and practice of leadership.

This constitution outlines opportunities meant to energize and greatly expand MCDP’s base of active Democrats. The goal is that by 2022 the MCDP will have at least 5000 active members connected and working productively together.

Some Features Of This Proposal:
  1. The membership of the Central Committee will consist of all individuals elected as precinct captains at the Democratic Primary. In addition membership of the CC will include any loyal Democrat living in the county who has voted in at least two of the last four Democratic primaries, who applies for membership, and who agrees to the terms of membership.
  2. The membership of the Executive Committee will consist of all individuals elected as precinct captains at the Democratic Primary.
  3. The Chairperson of the Central Committee and the Executive Committee will be the same person and will be elected at the quadrennial Reorganization Meeting.
  4. Only those Democrats elected as precinct captains at the Democratic Primary will have voting rights at the Reorganization Meeting.
  5. All MCDP general meetings, as well all MCDP committee meetings, will be open to online participation by all qualified members of those committees and will follow the rules established by those committees.
  6. MCDP will be divided into five regional caucuses: OHD-39, OHD-40, OHD-41, OHD-42, OHD-43. Membership in each caucus will consist of Central Committee members who live within the geographic region of the given Ohio House District.
  7. Each OHD caucus will be a standing committee with its own officers, budget, and agenda. Each caucus will be reorganized every two years and leaders elected. The activities of these caucuses will be set forth in the constitution.
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Should Government Do More To Help The Needy? — Pew Study Shows Huge Partisan Divide 

Interesting article posted at Pew Research — “The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider” — reports on its findings about changing views of the citizenry on government aid to the needy. From the article:

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 10.53.33 AM“Over the past six years, the share of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents saying the government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt, has risen 17 percentage points (from 54% to 71%), while the views of Republicans and Republican leaners have barely changed (25% then, 24% today). However, Republicans’ opinions on this issue had shifted substantially between 2007 and 2011, with the share favoring more aid to the needy falling 20 points (from 45% to 25%).

The result: While there has been a consistent party gap since 1994 on government aid to the poor, the divisions have never been this large. In 2011, about twice as many Democrats as Republicans said the government should do more for the needy (54% vs. 25%). Today, nearly three times as many Democrats as Republicans say this (71% vs. 24%).”

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Imagining How A Local Democratic Party Organization Can Help Make Our System Of Democracy Work As It Should

Having read my thoughts on a 21st century Democratic Party, suppose the Democrats in Montgomery County rise up and agree that they want the local MCDP party organization to focus on making our system of representative democracy work as it should. Suppose they labor together, discuss and debate, cry and pounds their heads and suppose, finally, they make this report:

We’ve come to this agreement:

A system of representative democracy that works as it should has the following elements:

  • Nonpartisan civic groups dedicated to making the system work.
  • Transparency in politics and in government
  • A vigorous and open public square where issues are discussed and competing points of view are defended.
  • A citizenry well grounded in civics and well prepared and practiced in civic participation.
  • A competitive and broad-based system of finding the best representative “of the people, for the people.”
  • Political party organizations, structured as deliberative democracies, designed to empower the grassroots.

 

As a partisan political party organization, each of these elements offer a distinct challenge. Here are some of our thoughts:

  1. MCDP should encourage Democrats in Montgomery County who are active in the local party to also be active in helping to initiate and to support local nonpartisan civic clubs — with the goal of creating local clubs of Democrats, Independents and Republicans united in advancing a common mission.
  2. The mission of these civic clubs will be civics education, broadly understood. These clubs will engage school-age youth in after-school civics education projects aimed at increasing in-depth understanding of politics and issues — local to global. These clubs will be debating societies that will provide forums for research, discussion and debate. They will conduct town hall meetings. They will follow the work of elected officials, especially those locally elected, and make that work transparent and easy to understand by the general public
  3. One purpose of these nonpartisan clubs will be to nurture individuals, especially youth, who seek to serve the public in elected office. The goal is that these clubs, over time, will become local institutions of long standing and tradition and that leaders in these clubs will often be elected to public office.
  4. MCDP should establish standards of excellence for elected officials and should develop rubrics for evaluating the work of officials. Candidates who seek election under the party banner should pledge to strive for excellence as defined by the party and MCDP should hold Democratic elected officials accountable to honoring and practicing those standards.
  5. There are 50,000 voters in Montgomery County who consider themselves loyal Democrats. MCDP should engage at least 5% of these voters (2500 individuals) into active voting membership in the MCDP party organization.
  6. MCDP should conduct its general meetings and committee meetings so that they are open for online participation by all MCDP members.
  7. MCDP should encourage primary competition.
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Imagining A Twenty-First Century Democratic Party

Our hope for the future is not found in our current politics. We must do better. Our republic needs a politics of harmonization and unity if we have any hope to deal with the astonishing challenges that await us.

As the world’s oldest democracy with the most powerful economy and military, the future will bring great urgency for America to make its system of representative democracy work as it should. To imagine a 21st century Democratic Party is to realize that the Democratic Party has a huge responsibility to produce the leaders of extraordinary character and wisdom that will help bring us to our best future.

We need a 21st Century Democratic Party built on this mission: To prepare and to elect leaders who are of the people and who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills and civic virtue. 

  1. Such leaders emerge from a bottom-up, grassroots process, rather than a top-down hierarchical process.
  2. They are known by their connection and service to meaningful broad-based communities and by their capacity to deal with conflicting points of view to find an avenue for consensus.

I like the TV ads for “Buddy” the carpet salesman who declares, “We don’t want to make money, we just love to sell carpet.” The 21st Century Democratic Party we need is one that can say, “We just love to make the system of representative democracy work as it is suppose to work.” By focusing on making the system work as it should, Democrats will be elected in droves.

Each of Ohio’s 88 counties has an independent Democratic Party organization structured according to a locally developed and locally approved constitution. The first step to imagining a 21st century Democratic Party, with a mission as stated above, is to envision a Democratic Party in Montgomery County where that mission is a reality. The next step is to prepare a local Montgomery County Democratic Party Constitution that structures that vision into a doable and inspiring organizational structure.

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