Of the total 360 precincts in the county, only 132 precincts (37%) — shown in yellow — are participating in the May 4 Democratic Primary to elect a member of the MCDP Central Committee. The first task of these elected members will be to act as a voting delegate to the reorganization meeting where the leaders and the direction of the party for the next four years will be determined.
The map shows that many of the 228 precincts without a candidate — shown in shades of blue — have a lot of Democrats. One question the party needs to address is why the suburbs, where many of Democrats live, there has been little effort or success in meaningfully organizing the local party. If you click on the map it will enlarge to reveal the name of each precinct.
According to the board of elections, Montgomery County has 33,265 registered Democrats and most of these vote in Democratic primaries. The above map is the same as the first map, minus the yellow indicator of precincts with candidates. It shows each of Montgomery County’s 360 precincts and shows by color how many Democrats live in each precinct. If you click on the map it will enlarge to reveal the name of each precinct.
This Pew / PBS survey of twelve questions scored me as “very liberal.” I could have predicted that my score would categorize me as liberal, but I’m a little surprised that I am scored as very liberal. According to Pew, only 23% of Americans say they are liberal, while 39% of Americans claim to be conservative and 37% say they are moderate. Being liberal, according to the criteria of the Pew survey, means to agree with statements that, to me, seem like an expression of common sense:
“There need to be stricter laws and regulations to protect the environment”,
“The government should help more needy people even if it means going deeper in debt”
“Labor unions are necessary to protect the working person.”
Liberals need a winning issue to champion — an issue that transcends the usual labels. None of the twelve questions on the Pew survey seem sufficiently compelling to become the driving force behind a successful political movement.
The big question that is missing on the Pew survey is one like this: “Americans now have a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” But if asked to choose whether they “completely agree, mostly agree, mostly disagree or completely disagree,” with such a statement, most everyone — right and left — would disagree. The statement, therefore, would not work to divide participants into categories, and the point of the Pew survey is to formulate questions that will help separate respondents into a left / right scale.
As their first priority, Liberals should emphasize the need to vitalize our democracy. If we had a government of the people — if most of the people could be informed and engaged — it would be a liberal government. Our democracy is endangered and in need of vitalization, and more and more citizens are becoming alarmed. The time is right for a grass roots democracy movement.
The place for liberals to start a democracy movement is within the Democratic Party itself. My aggravation with our local party organization, The Montgomery County Democratic Party, is the fact that if it actually represented county Democrats — if it acted as the “party of the people” — in fact, it would be energetic and effective in promoting liberal ideas and in electing liberal candidates. I am disappointed with the MCDP, not because I heartily disagree with many of its actions — such as its imprudent endorsement of Nan Whaley for mayor of Dayton — it is because the process of decision making in the local party is rigged, undemocratic — starting with the fact that “the deciders” in the party owe their positions to a rigged selection system. See: Only 47% Of Montgomery County Dems Will Be Represented At The MCDP Reorganization Meeting
In order for liberals to help the MCDP be an effective advocate for liberal ideas and liberal candidates, we need to do the hard work needed to make the MCDP more democratic. There are over 35,000 Dems in Montgomery County who faithfully vote in Democratic Primaries, yet the leadership of the party, by design, have failed to meaningfully engage that group. It’s hard not to conclude that for the downtown crowd running the show — mostly those with patronage jobs and those who are elected county officials — an inundation of suburban Democrats into shared governance is resisted, not welcomed.
For liberals, the best way to advance liberal ideas and liberal candidates is to greatly expand the number of Democrats who are active in the local party. The most important liberal idea we can advance is the idea that we must make our democracy work — and if, in fact, this results in grassroots Democrats forming a consensus around ideas and candidates more conservative than I might like, that would be OK with me.
As part of the process for preparing for the MCDP reorganization meeting, liberals and every Democrat concerned about the state of our democracy need to brainstorm and come to consensus on an action plan that can be presented to the reorganization delegates for consideration.
There are 360 precincts in Montgomery County. Click on this map to enlarge to find the name of each. The 132 precincts shaded WHITE have a candidate representing the Democrats in that precinct — to be elected to the Central Committee of The Montgomery County Democratic Party — in the May Democratic Primary. The 228 precincts shaded GRAY have no candidate in the primary
Montgomery County Democrats at the May 6 Democratic Primary will elect members of the MCDP Central Committee. 132 of the county’s 360 precincts have at least one candidate (shown in WHITE on map) — 16 of the 132 have more than one candidate — and 228 precincts have no candidate (shown in GRAY on map).
The 132 precincts out of 360 precincts that will have representation on the Central Committee is only 36% of the precincts. Montgomery County has 33,265 registered Democrats, according to the 2012 data from the Board of Elections. I counted them up, and the total number of Democrats living in the 132 precincts with candidates to the Central Committee is 15,598 — 47% of the Democrats living in Montgomery County. Democrats living in the 228 precincts with no candidate total 17,667 — 53% of all Democrats in the county.
The first task of the newly elected Central Committee members will be to serve as delegates to the “Reorganization Meeting” that will be held either later in May or early in June. Action at this meeting will include:
electing officers for the MCDP
approving a constitution for the MCDP
any other action approved by the majority
The fact that, at best, only 47% of Montgomery County Democrats will be represented at this important reorganization meeting is a result of a deliberate strategy of the MCDP leadership to suppress participation. The reorganization meeting was not advertised — the MCDP web-site failed to post even a simple announcement; there were nothing posted at the Board of Elections; there were no press releases printed in the Dayton Daily News, or any other publication
This strategy of suppression comes from the downtown clique that decide MCDP policies and has been an on-going aggravation to me every since I started paying attention eight years ago. I first got involved with the MCDP at the reorganization meeting in 2006 and was appalled at what I found. The downtown crowd repeated their strategy of suppression in 2010, and now, again, in 2014.
The quadrennial “reorganization” meeting of the Montgomery County Democratic Party scheduled for this June is a big opportunity for county Democrats to plan for the future. On MCDP’s To Do list — goals to accomplish before the next such meeting in 2018 — I’d like to see MCDP commit to working on and accomplishing “big picture” goals, like:
Connect Democrats together at the grass roots level and create opportunities for grass roots leadership and service.
Inspire and nurture Montgomery County young people to be engaged in the local party organization and to seek to become public servants via elected office.
Educate the public about the historical perspective of current public policy issues and give citizens the information they need to analyze these issues.
Hold the Republican Assembly and Republican Governor accountable by illuminating and making transparent how their actions impact the general good.
Big goals are seldom discussed and accomplishing such goals are never attempted by the MCDP. The reason? Working to accomplish big goals would require commitment and effort by county Democrats at a level far greater than any level of effort evidenced in recent memory. MCDP lacks the motivated workers needed to accomplish serious and important goals. For an organization is to be successful it must inspire motivation — “the general desire or willingness of someone to do something” — in its members. But, the MCDP is failing to do this.
Organizations commonly use elaborate systems of rewards and punishments as a means of “motivating” their members. Schools, for example, use grades and diplomas to push students. But, although extrinsic motivation works to accomplish minimum levels of compliance, it is the motivation that comes from within — intrinsic motivation arising from one’s values, character, and experiences — that brings the highest achievements. Volunteer organizations who support and empower the intrinsic motivation of their members are more likely to be successful than those who do not.
The power of the traditional political boss system to reward and punish is now much smaller than in previous times. Before progressive reforms, political parties controlled lots and lots of government jobs that today are non-partisan civil service jobs. The hope of getting or keeping those patronage jobs inspired many Democrats to work for the party. Also, political parties at one time had much bigger budgets than now. Today, much of the money previously allocated to political parties goes to Political Action Committees or to individual election campaigns. Resources controlled by the local party organization are relatively meager.
Political party organizations, such as the MCDP, still cling to a top-down system, and, though the group is much diminished compared to a previous age, many of the most active members of the party still hold patronage jobs. But, it is obvious, to be successful the MCDP needs to greatly expand the membership of its active community. It needs to engage more volunteers. There is a whole group of county Democrats who are waiting to be invited into meaningful action. The current MCDP system is failing to do so.
Volunteer organizations, such as political parties, must find ways to attract volunteers and to inspire, engage and empower volunteers. In Montgomery County, there are about 35,000 Democrats who vote in every Democratic Primary, but only a tiny number of these Democrats are active within the party. If only 10% of these Democrats could become productively involved in their local party, the results would be transformative. The June reorganization meeting is a big opportunity for Montgomery County Democrats to plan for the future. If the MCDP is to become stronger and more effective, delegates at the reorganization meeting must agree on policies, goals, and restructuring that will address this key question: How Can the MCDP motivate more Democrats to make the needed effort?
John Kasich in his “State of the State” explained what drives his actions. “Just about every day,” Kasich said, “I search for what the Lord wants me to do, because I know life is short, and I know that my purpose on this Earth, whether I’m the governor or whether I’m a has-been, is to bring about a healing.”
Yesterday, the Dispatch quoted Kasich as saying, “You know what? I think we ought to get up every day and figure out how to cut taxes.”
Putting these two Kasich declarations together, it must follow, then, that Kasich believes that God wants him to cut Ohio’s taxes, and to cut taxes in a manner that brings “healing.” Fair enough. Our governor deserves the courtesy of taking him at his word and granting that in his own thinking, Kasich wants to advance public policies that will help build a strong and healthy society. The problem is, there are many ways to cut taxes and Kasich is advocating a strategy — an “across the board” cut of Ohio’s income tax — that advantages the wealthy and penalizes the poor. We can grant that Kasich is sincere — that he wants to build a strong and healthy society — but the “trickle down” theory of economics that has been used to defend the kind of tax cuts Kasich is advocating is now thoroughly discredited.
Ohio’s tax system already, as a whole, is regressive — as incomes increase the percentage of income paid in Ohio taxes decreases. The chart below shows that at the lowest income level, almost 12% of the income is paid in Ohio taxes while at the highest level only 8% of income is paid in Ohio taxes. This fact, that in Ohio those least able to pay are taxed at a higher rate than those more able to pay, would seem to contradict an important principle of “fairness.” I’m thinking that those Ohioans who understand Ohio taxes, if asked, would not choose to make Ohio’s tax system even more unbalanced — more regressive — than it already is.
Since Kasich has framed his actions as Ohio’s governor as those of a sincere believer seeking to do God’s will, it seems fair that Kasich should be expected to explain why he’s concluded that, at this time in Ohio’s history, regardless of the apparent unfairness of such an action, God wants Kasich to advance a change in Ohio’s tax system that will make the system more regressive. Kasich needs to explain how changing Ohio’s income tax to further advantage the wealthy will promote the “healing” he seeks.
Although Ohio’s income tax is “progressive” — those taxpayer with more income pay income tax at a higher rate (dark blue) — Ohio’s total tax is regressive. In Ohio, taxpayers with smaller income pay a bigger share of their income in total Ohio taxes than those taxpayers with larger incomes.
Stan, the problem you cite — “imagining a political party being anything other than bosses and insiders raising money, handing out jobs and advancing and protecting themselves” — is exactly the problem that needs to be solved.
The problem of imagining what a transformed political party may look like is a systems’ problem, and, as readers of this blog know, I like to apply W. Edwards Deming’s insights concerning systems whenever possible. To imagine a transformed system, we need to remember that every effective system has two key aspects:
a well defined mission and
an organizational structure thoughtfully designed to best accomplish that mission.
Political parties are so focused on producing winning candidates that winning seems their entire mission. The “political bosses and insiders raising money, handing out jobs and advancing and protecting themselves” is defended as a structure that works to produce winning candidates. Boss centered, hierarchical organizations are defended as being effective in reducing internal conflict, and in conserving scarce resources making it more likely for the party’s candidates to win.
One side effect of political parties being focused on winning is the growth of distrust, cynicism and apathy within the electorate. The resulting suppression of voter participation has benefited the Republicans. The response of political parties to growing voter cynicism has been to sharpen and expand their marketing efforts — further increasing voter cynicism — in an ever accelerating cycle.
The challenge for the Democratic Party is to break this cycle by consciously transforming its current system. Every successful system is guided by a mission that inspires and motivates. A local church, for example, does not define its mission as constructing buildings and raising a lot of money. The effort to construct buildings and raise an ever larger budget is inspired by a bigger purpose that motivates its members.
The purpose that should animate the MCDP must be one that transcends simply winning elections. The purpose of MCDP that will inspire and motivate the action that is needed must be one that is more than simply acting as an advocacy group focused on marketing certain issues. We need to focus on something more fundamental. I believe we can find a source of motivation and civic action by focusing on democracy itself. The MCDP should see its transcending mission as promoting and empowering democracy. If we could actually fulfill such a mission — by educating the public, by facilitating opportunities for political participation, by creating community — then, of course, Democrats would win elections in droves.
Here is one suggestion for how the purpose / mission for the MCDP should be stated: To empower democracy to work in all aspects of Montgomery County.
To accomplish such a mission, the MCDP would encourage the growth of grass roots democratic structures throughout the county. Brainstorming what such structures might look like is the next step. For one thing, the MCDP itself should be structured as a model of a democracy empowering organization. As I said in my DDN letter, “Democrats now are looking for a 21st century organization that is democratic and inclusive, and that welcomes them into a meaningful and connected community.” Not only Democrats would support such a transformed party, but such a party would have wide appeal to many who currently are disengaged from the whole political process.
Success for the MCDP ultimately would still be measured in terms of how many elections are won by Democrats. My premise is that an engaged, connected, empowered and informed electorate is much more likely to vote Democratic, rather than Republican and so winning elections would be a side-effect of pursuing the mission of empowering democracy to work. Here is the analogy: The mission of General Motors is to produce quality automobiles. Making a profit for its shareholders is by-product of accomplishing this mission. The MCDP needs to focus on making democracy work — winning elections will be a by-product of such effort.
This notion that MCDP should be seen as a system guided by a mission and empowered by an organizational structure that advances the mission should provide a platform for thoughtful discussion — a good structure for imagining what a transformed political party may look like. The devil, as usual, is in the details. To help inspire discussion, I intend on continuing this line of thought with further analysis and development.
The Dayton Daily News finally published my letter — on the editorial page (p. 9), under a large headline “On Your Mind”, and under an eye-catching cartoon by Mike Luckivich.
Fifty words, exactly, are cut from the article I sent to the DDN — 50 words from the center of the article and at the center of the message I wanted to deliver. Most of the third paragraph was cut — the very part that I worried most about, because it is the most accusatory and antagonistic sounding. The DDN kept the first sentence of this paragraph and merged it with the fourth paragraph. (The part omitted is in bold.)
If you are a loyal and active Democrat, you may be scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard about this important meeting. In fact, the lack of any effort of the MCDP to inform the grassroots is an indictment of the MCDP. The insiders want to maintain their right to make endorsements and to hand out patronage jobs, and the prospect of empowering grassroots Democrats to change the status quo is unacceptable.
Before I finally decided on the 332 words I sent to the DDN, I almost settled on a version that omitted this “indictment” — wondering if a less harsh sounding argument might, in fact, be more effective in interesting Democrats to become involved. It was a close decision and after I sent the letter in, I kept wondering if I should have omitted the very part that the DDN eventually cut. So, in one sense, maybe cutting these words improved the article, but, it bothers me that the DDN make the decision to omit those words, not me. And, now the third paragraph seems haphazardly written. The article as it appears in the paper is seen below:
How Grassroots Democrats Can Transform Their Local Party
Every four years, Democrats have a rare opportunity to change the constitution and leadership of the Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) at a “reorganization meeting.” This important meeting is scheduled for June 2014, and the deadline to start the process to become a delegate isFebruary 5.
Areorganization meeting is structured much like a political convention. At this meeting, decisions are made according to the majority of delegates voting. Every precinct can send one delegate, but in 2010 out of 360 possible precincts, only about half elected a delegate.
If you are a loyal and active Democrat, you may be scratching your head and wondering why you’ve never heard about this important meeting. The big task for the reorganization meeting is rewriting the MCDP constitution. The current constitution harkens back to a time when political parties centered around “bosses.” Today, however, this boss system hinders the success of the party. Democrats now are looking for a 21st century organization that is democratic and inclusive, and that welcomes them into a meaningful and connected community.
The MCDP constitution will not be changed unless a majority of delegates vote for change. The reorganization meeting is a wonderful opportunity for grassroots Democrats to have real influence in setting the course of the local party for the next four years, and in creating a party structure that will encourage and inspire new commitment from Democrats.
Time is running out to meet the February 5 deadline. Any Democrat living in Montgomery County who is interested in being a delegate to this important meeting should contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the Dayton rally announcing her candidacy for Lieutenant Governor of Ohio — as the running mate of Ed FitzGerald — Democrat Sharen Neuhardt said that the election will come down to who voters believe will protect the middle class, and that she and FitzGerald are ready to make that case.
Neuhardt said that she has complete confidence in FitzGerald and that she and FitzGerald are both staunch supporters of women. She said women’s issues are issues that impact the whole state — not just women. She said, “When women are making 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man for a comparable job, that is not just a woman’s issue. That is a family issue, that is an economic issue.”
She said, “When 100,000 women in need can/t get access to basic pap smears and mammogram and birth control they need simply because Republicans want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, that is wrong.” She said, “Memo to Jonh Kasich: You are going to be really sorry that you messed with women, come November.”
Excerpts From Sharen Neuhardt’s Speech
I believe in Ed FitzGerald. You are going to love him, a former prosecutor and former FBI man. He came into Cuyohoga County after its largest scandal. He’s done an amazing job. He is going to do great things when elected. He is the reason I am here. So Thank you Ed.
Election will boil down to one question: Who do you trust to protest the middle class in Ohio? I think when we make our case to the voters, the votes will say that it is the Democrats. … In Ohio we are 46 out of 50 states in job growth. Thousands more Ohioans out of work today than were a year ago. Things are not good — not good for the middle class. …
Just this week, I was at the grocery store and heard complaints about the high cost of groceries. … My sister Cheryl lost her job last week — after being with a Dayton company for 26 years — regardless she is the best person in her department…. Too many Ohio jobs are going oversee. I have a vested interest in this fight — I’m going to do it for you, Cheryl.
John Kasich and other Republicans say Ed picked me, basically, because I have ovaries. You and I both know that is not the case. Ed FitzGerald picked me because I have a brain. Kasich and his Republic led legislature thinks we cannot have both. Ed and I are starch supporters of women’s rights. The Republicans want to say that Democrats want to make this all about abortion but the truth is women’s issues are much broader than that.
When women are making 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man for a comparable job, that is not just a woman’s issue. That is a family issue. It is an economic issue and it is holding Ohio back. And when 100,000 women in need can’t get access to basic pap smears and mammograms and the birth control they need — simply because Republicans want to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood — that is wrong. It’s not just a women’s issue, men care about women’s issues too. They care about their family budget, they care about their wives, daughters, family members and friends. Men know that relegating women to second class citizens is bad business for Ohio.
Here is what I say to Governor Kasich and the Republican legislature: I am happy to be a champion for women’s rights … Women have a memory and we vote. So memo to Joh Kasich: You are going to be really sorry that you messed with women, come November. …
I know I can count on you.… This is what I need you do: You can’t go home and sit on your hands. We are within seven points of Kasich. Right thinking people across the state are ready to stand up and tell the truth and elect somebody new to our state governorship. And that person is going to be Ed FitzGerald.
Saturday, Ed FitzGerald — the Democratic candidate seeking to replace Republican John Kasich as Governor of Ohio — spoke in Dayton and introduced his running make, Green County resident, Sharen Neuhardt. Over 200 people were in attendance and gave Fitzgerald and Neuhardt enthusiastic encouragement.
FitzGerald said that Kasich has created an inside group that has gained a lot of money and advantages from his policies — and that the poor and middle class Ohioans have been left with the bill. He said that Kasich represents a very small group of people — “And that is not what a democratic form of government should be doing.”
Excerpts From Ed FitzGerald’s Speech
I’ve visited all 88 counties in last year. Ive learned a lot. I’ve heard the same concerns in every county. There’s a lot of people, in a state of more than 11 million people, there’s a lot of people that are really struggling to make it and this is what Sharen and I both understand. We have a governor that does not represent them. He represents a very small group of people.
If you look at all the big issues, what they all have in common, and if you try to diagnose why the governor takes positions on issues that he does, it becomes apparent: the governor is representing a very small group of people. And that is not what a democratic form of government should be doing.
State government has been hijacked for a narrow agenda on all kinds of issues. There is an inside group and an outside group looking in. If you don’t know what group you are in, you’re in the outside group. The people on the inside know it. They love it. You can go through all of the major issues:
Jobs Ohio — some people benefit, but if you are a small business, an average person, you’re not going to get any help from Jobs Ohio.
If you are a looking at your tax bill, if you are a wealthy person, congratulations, you got a tax cut. But if you are a working person, or one of the poor, your taxes probably went up. For a small group of persons tax cuts were a great deal but all the other people in this state got stuck with the bill.
If you care about local government services — police, fire, garbage pick-up or social services —your services got cut. They took those proceeds and used them to pay for tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the state.
If you believe in public education you saw the number of teachers cut dramatically and once again local schools were stuck with the bill.
Over and over in all these issues, you see state government on the side of a very small group of people. And yes it also applies to women’s rights. Republicans get tired of our talking about women’s rights but here is my deal with Kasich: I will stop talking about women’s rights when he stops limiting women’s rights.…
Let’s talk about something real practical. (Republicans) have a big advantage. When you take government and you put it on the side of a very small group of people and when you do some very big favors for a small group of powerful people, they re-pay those favors. They have an enormous about of money. But we have advantages also. We are right on all the issues. We have the people behind us. …
Kasich is representing someone — it’s just not you. It’s not the people that are working and struggling in this state.
The most powerful thing in politics is a conversation between two people about what is really going on. We need millions of conversation. We only lost the last election by 77,000 votes. We have the issues on our side. For all of those people who have not been represented in the last three years, we need to have conversations. Can you help us to that?
Every four years, according to state law, the Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) is required to “reorganize.” This is the year: a “Reorganization Meeting” is scheduled to be held in June. The deadline to register to become a delegate is February 5.
At a “Reorganization Meeting,” changes to the MCDP constitution and changes to its leadership are determined by the majority of delegates voting. Historically, a majority of delegates simply reaffirms the MCDP constitution and the MCDP leadership.
If delegates at the Reorganization Meeting fairly represented county Democrats, certainly there would consensus at the meeting that the MCDP needs major changes. The MCDP constitution, for example, empowers a small “selection committee” to make endorsements — invariably rubber stamped by the “Central Committee.” Last year, in the contest for Mayor of Dayton, the “selection committee” endorsed one popular Democrat, Nan Whaley, over another popular Democrat, A.J. Wagner. Whaley had more friends on the “selection committee.” This endorsement was a display of illogical favoritism — needlessly dividing and weakening the party — and is only one example of many that could be cited.
The Whaley endorsement aptly illustrated that the MCDP is operating under a “political boss” organization structure — written into the constitution — that gives insiders a lot of authority. These insiders like this authority and can be counted on to resist any change to the constitution that would diminish their power. The problems is, “political boss” structure has failed to create a vitalized grass-roots party. To be effective, the MCDP needs to create an organization structure that will empower all county Democrats to fully participate in an active small-d democratic community.
At the Reorganization Meeting, the MCDP could transform its “political boss” organization structure, but shamefully, by deliberate strategy, the June Reorganization Meeting has been kept a big secret from rank and file county Democrats. Every precinct in the county can be represented by a delegate. In 2010, almost half of the county precincts had zero candidates. Anyone interested in being a delegate can contact me at email@example.com. Include your name and address and I will send you the forms and information that you need.