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Disagreement In Local Dem Club Mirrors The Conflict Within The Montgomery County Democratic Party

Our South of Dayton Democratic Club meeting last night revealed a big disagreement — not only within our club but within the Democratic Party as a whole. The disagreement boils down to this: Should our club and should our party operate according to a democratic organizational structure or according to a hierarchical / boss centered structure?

During the meeting last night, I was reiterating the thoughts in my e-mail to members from the previous day (copied below) urging that as a club we find delegates to the June, 2014, Montgomery County Democratic Party (MCDP) Reorganization Meeting who will vote for new MCDP leadership. Before I knew it, our president, John Murphy, was interrupting me saying, “In your opinion. In your opinion.” For a chair to interrupt someone who has the floor in a club meeting is bad form, but in a small and friendly club easily forgiven. What makes this club incident worth writing about is the fact that this conflict illuminates the basic conflict going on for the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. Murphy, it appears, wants to be the boss of our club, even as those above him in the MCDP hierarchy are bosses of the MCDP.

John has a patronage job that David Esrati writes about here. I am happy for John that he has employment and I’m sure he is fulfilling his job requirements very competently. But, the old adage — “Where I stand is a function of where I sit” — seems to apply. The boss centered hierarchy of the MCDP has given John employment and so John stands with and defends the MCDP leadership. That makes sense, but, the problem is, too many active members of MCDP are either patronage workers or elected officials — all protecting their turf and banding together to protect the status quo. See:  Special Interests Controlling Montgomery County Democratic Party Suppress Expansion Of Participation

The bosses of the MCDP don’t want to share any of their privileges — such as their right to make endorsements, or their right to give out patronage jobs. It would be a nightmare to these leaders if suddenly a large group of Democrats would become qualified to vote in the coming Reorganization Meeting.  The opportunity for county Democrats to become meaningfully involved in their party, via this Reorganization Meeting, has been suppressed — just as it was at the last Reorganization Meeting in 2010. Even if you try, you will not unearth any notice concerning this coming important meeting. In order to vote at this meeting, a Democrat must be elected as a delegate.  Every precinct can elect a delegate and the deadline to get on the ballot is less than three weeks away — February 5 — and there is nowhere a whisper about this deadline, even on the MCDP website.

For our club, and for the MCDP and the Democratic Party, here is the key question:  What is the organizational structure that will make us most effective in defining and achieving a worthwhile mission— a boss centered /hierarchical organizational structure or democratic one?  The boss centered approach of the MCDP results in actively suppressing meaningful participation by Democrats and this suppression has a terrible impact on the strength of the party.

The evidence is right before us that the boss centered, hierarchical structure of the MCDP is a big failure:

  • The “boss” endorsement of Nan Whaley for mayor of Dayton over stalwart Democrat, A. J. Wagner, was a disaster. It antagonized many Democrats. It needlessly divided the party and diminished its opportunity to be effective. It was a dumb decision made by the clique running things.
  • The failure to provide the structure and support that would inspire good candidates to come forward means that as of now there are zero Democratic candidates for the Ohio House for OHD-40, OHD-41, and OHD-42. What kind of a party are we when we cannot give voters an alternative and an opportunity to express their displeasure with those in office? What kind of a party are we if we are too lazy to use elections to build understanding and to highlight differences between the two parties?
  • The failure to productively engage loyal Democrats within the county as part of a meaningful democratic community means we have lost the opportunity to develop new leadership, new ideas. There are many Democrats who would respond to leadership — but, there is no leadership.

Montgomery County is mostly Democratic. The party harvests the low lying fruit where there are easy Democratic wins — and rewards party loyalists to the boss system with elected offices and patronage jobs. We have a lot of Democrats elected to county wide offices whose election hardly required any effective organization at all. But the MCDP is failing miserably to create the organizational structure that could have a chance to make a real impact.

I was disappointed that the discussion that should have occurred at our club meeting last night simply didn’t happen.  The foundation for success as a party is via the effective exercise of democracy — opening the party up for wide participation.  Our hope for success as a club has the same foundation. I think a majority of those present last night would have welcomed a discussion of the points in my e-mail. I regret that I failed to use Roberts Rules last night to see if there was support in the group for discussion and, instead, I simply let Murphy run the meeting as he chose. Attempting to exercise democracy, even in a small club, is not easy.

E-Mail To Club Members — The MCDP Needs New Leadership

Every four years The Montgomery County Democratic Party is required by state law to undergo a re-organization procedure. This Re-Organization Meeting will be held in June, 2014.  (The last such meeting was June, 2010.)

At this ReOrganization Meeting, officers will be selected and a constitution will be approved. I, for one, would like to see new leadership. (I like Mark Owens personally, but feel it is a big conflict if the party chair is also an elected official in the county. Mark has not worked hard enough at his job as chair and has used a political boss style of leadership that is out of date and very ineffective in bringing new people into responsible positions of leadership.) I also would like to see the adoption of new by-laws that would change our local party’s practices of endorsements. The current endorsement practice I feel is a disaster and projects the worst of the old political “Boss” structure that undermines our chances to bring new blood into the party needed to revitalize our party.

In addition, I would like to see new procedures adopted that would allow monthly meeting participation to occur on-line, rather than insisting that every participating central committee member travel downtown for every monthly meeting.

A time of ReOrganization should be a time for revitalizing and reimagining our local party, and for re-envisioning our party — but it usually is simply an affirmation of the old guard. Key to the whole process is who gets to vote at this important meeting.  I feel we need a progressive Democratic movement that focuses on making each local party organization more effective through the exercise of grass roots democracy.

Every precinct can send one voting delegate to the ReOrganization Meeting and these delegates will be chosen during the Democratic Primary held in May. Since Montgomery County has 360 precincts, there is a maximum of 360 possible at such a meeting, but at the 2010 meeting only about 100 showed up. Most precincts fail to elect a delegate.

The deadline for getting on the ballot to represent your precinct is due to the Board of Elections by 4:00 PM on February 5 — only three weeks from now. I’ve attached the form. The petition calls for five signatures from Democrats living in your precinct. If you send me a request, I will send you a list of all the Dems in your precinct. After the ReOrganization Meeting, each delegate serves a four year term on the Central Committee, but most delegates choose to not participate in the Central Committee monthly meetings.

Some things to talk about. See you at the meeting tomorrow. Mike Bock

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19 comments to Disagreement In Local Dem Club Mirrors The Conflict Within The Montgomery County Democratic Party

  • fred schindler

    Mike,

    The January Montgomery County Democratic Party Newsletter mentions Precinct Captain Petition due date Feb 5th on back page.The newsletter also states Petitions can be obtaines at the Board of Elections and lists their phone number 222-5656 for anyone having questions.,

  • fred schindler

    South Dayton Democratic Club meeting 01/15/14 had a lot on scheduled adgenda.One speaker did not attend or we would not have finished meeting by 9pm library closing time.The Club , like other organizations, could operate on a strict time schedule.Guest speakers are often given leeway to exceed their alloted time . Reorganization suggestions and concerns should be included on agenda for future meeting so that adequate time for discussion could take place.Following Roberts Rules of order would help all those wanting to speak to get a word in. Sometimes people tend to continue speaking on a subject when others are not ready to decide an issue and that is not fair to the majority. Roberts rules permits halting discussion and tabling an issue for consideration at later time. We need to recruit more Democrats to join and be active not only in South Dayton but our County and State as well.More active members will provide not only help in getting out the vote at Election time, but provide suggestions and leadership potential as well.

  • Mike Bock

    Thanks Fred. I agree that as a club we need to start using Roberts Rules as an agreed set of rules for running meetings. Roberts Rules is a system that works to make sure that everyone in a meeting has a fair voice in the meeting and that the direction of the meeting is determined democratically. Our club has been lax in not using it up to this point. I will bring some literature to our next meeting explaining the key parts of Roberts Rules for anyone rusty in its use. I’m thinking we all need a refresher course.

    I made my declaration that, “even if you try, you will not unearth any notice concerning this coming important meeting” because I’ve not seen the January MCDP Newsletter. This newsletter is sent only to current Central Committee members — only a tiny fraction of Democrats in the county. There is nothing about the Reorganization Meeting nor the February 5 deadline to qualify for attending the meeting at any place where a regular Montgomery County Democrat might actually have a chance of seeing it. There is no notice on the MCDP web-site, there in no notice at the Board of Election web-site, there has been no news release published in the Dayton Daily News. Do you know of any other place, other than the Central Committee newsletter, where the MCDP has alerted Democrats to the February 5 deadline? I don’t think you can find any. I believe it is really shameful for the leadership of MCDP to act in such an underhanded way in order to maintain their grip on the local party, and the implementation of this shameful strategy is one more reason why the current leadership of the MCDP needs to be repudiated.

  • SR Campbell

    Thanks Mike for your well-written and honest appraisal of the current state of the Democratic Party in Montgomery County. The lack of comments and shares of your thought-provoking article underscores just how lazy and apathetic the Democratic Party is, at least in this neck of the woods. Even David Esrati, who you link to, and who mirrors many of your same concerns, is silent. When the bullies known as “The Republicans” mop up in the next election, these same unmotivated and indolent Democrats will be sitting collectively on their hands, wondering what went wrong. Hindsight will prove your warnings meritorious, so keep up the good work! I hope your quest to galvanize the Democrats here will at least have some personal benefit for all your efforts. Maybe you’ll fall into one of those “patronage jobs” Mr. Esrati expostulated so passionately about ;-)

  • Joe Colvin

    My wife and I are severely disappointed in the the obvious lack of building the Democratic Party here in Montgomery County. Further, it appears the MCDP is not identifying and “growing” qualified future potential Democratic contenders for state-wide offices.
    What are you doing to prepare Dems for future state office positions? I sense no organization at work.
    No wonder the Repugs can get control of our state offices!
    We would willingly work to support Dems IF we could sense a well-organized party.
    Thanks for reading.
    Joe Colvin

  • Mike Bock

    Thanks Joe for your comment. I share your point of view. The key to revitalizing the MCDP is getting many more Democrats involved in the local party organization. Every four years, the MCDP is required by state law to hold a “Reorganization Meeting.” At this meeting new officers are elected and changes to the constitution are made — all through a majority vote of the attending delegates. The last Reorganization Meeting was in 2014 — so the next opportunity to bring new people and new ideas into the local party will be in 2018.

    At a Reorganization Meeting, there are 360 possible delegates — one delegate for each precinct in the county. These delegates are chosen by election at the spring Democratic Primary and then serve for the next four years as “precinct captains.” The problem is, this important meeting is never advertised and so very few Democrats ever hear about this opportunity. In 2014, out of the 360 precincts, only 132 precincts had even one candidate seeking to be a delegate /precinct captain. Of these, only about 100 showed up to the Reorganization Meeting.

    Although a life-long Montgomery County resident, I didn’t know about the Reorganization Meeting until 2006 when I was elected to represent my Kettering precinct where I live — there was no incumbent captain for this precinct. For the 2010 meeting, I made an effort to bring more delegates to the meeting and signed up six friends who were elected at the Democratic Primary and attended the Reorganization Meeting. We presented a couple of motions to change the constitution (particularly about the endorsement policy), but had zero success. For the 2014 meeting, I prepared a web-site that is still standing — http://citizenstogether.com — that contained a lot of analysis and suggestions for change. My sister’s sudden death in a car accident on May 19, 2014, so shocked and discouraged me that I did not follow through with the efforts I had planned to at least get some attention to the matter by the media. I knew these efforts would be unappreciated and ineffective — because, once again, the votes were not there.

    The MCDP has pretty much abandoned the suburbs and as an organization is a fairly small clique of people — many members of this organization are elected officials or hold patronage jobs with elected officials. They are protective of the status quo. Bringing 200 more voting and active members into the MCDP from the suburbs would mean a big change and so the opportunity for Democrats to become active and productive members of the MCDP organization is kept a big secret.

  • Fred schindler

    Recruiting viable candidates in Montgomery County and Ohio remains a big challenge. We have had good candidates in the past but funding of these campaigns remains a serious challenge . The County has limited financial resources to support candidates as does the state organization in Columbus. Candidates must self fund their campaigns and hope that participating in community events and knocking on doors will tip the scales in their favor. Big disadvantage when GOP candidates
    are given large campaign contributions by
    Koch brothers and Citizens United, we can’t compete and local candidates shouldn’t need to mortgage their homes to run a campaign. Until election reform caps spending by PAC’s
    And limits total campaign funds spent on Elections, I don’t see any improvement in recruiting candidates or winning elections.

  • Mike Bock

    Fred, Thanks for keeping up with DaytonOS. I am thinking I will make this site active again in the near future. Joe Colvin somehow found this old post and expressed a frustration shared by many Democrats living in the suburbs. He says that he and his wife are “severely disappointed in the the obvious lack of building the Democratic Party here in Montgomery County.” He is claiming that the MCDP, as an organization, is not making sufficient effort. He says, “I sense no organization at work.”

    You would not use language that might sound as harsh as Joe’s, but you must share some of Joe’s frustration and disappointment in the MCDP as an organization. The question is: How can the MCDP improve? How can the MCDP become a more vital and effective organization?

    I agree with what you wrote above over two years ago in commenting on this post: “We need to recruit more Democrats to join and be active not only in South Dayton but our County and State as well.More active members will provide not only help in getting out the vote at Election time, but provide suggestions and leadership potential as well.” My point is that the quadrennial Reorganization Meeting should be used as an opportunity to do the recruiting that you indicate is important.

    The way to counter the force of big money in politics is to create an effective grassroots organization. I think it is a fair analysis that the MCDP in recent years has shown little interest in creating an organization where all 360 precincts in the county have precinct leaders that are part of the decision making part of the leadership. To become a more vital and effective local party organization the MCDP should seek to become a small-d democratic organization. As it is now, it is clinging to a political boss, hierarchical structure. In the age of the internet, this structure is sorely out of date.

  • Joe Colvin

    Has there been any movement or real effort to find and develop qualified individuals?
    Without starting at the beginning we won’t be able to have eventual Democratic representation at the statehouse. Who are the folks locally that have concerns and good ideas about how to fix those problems? We’ve had some great local people over the years but it just seems like nobody is interested from our side. And the Rs are very interested holding onto every last ounce of power.
    What has to get done? We need new life blood!
    Thanks.

  • Mike Bock

    Joe, I see two big obstacles that block Democrats from being elected to the statehouse. I’ll focus on the 41st Ohio House District in Kettering where I live. The first obstacle is lack of a Democratic party infrastructure. The second big obstacle is lack of a democracy infrastructure.

    The Democratic party in the 41 OHD, has failed to build an infrastructure. Most precincts in the 41 OHD do not have a Democratic precinct leader and the Democratic ward leaders and precinct leaders who are in place in the 41 OHD are generally inactive. Almost all the responsibility of funding, running and organizing a campaign is placed on the candidate. This is a huge and exhausting challenge that discourages potential candidates from making an effort. The excellent Democratic candidates that have emerged — for example, Steve Byington in 2002, and Caroline Gentry in 2012 — always get a shellacking (Caroline got the most votes of any D in 41 OHD in recent memory with 40.45% of the vote.) As a party, we have not established the infrastructure that could possibly encourage continued effort by these or other qualified candidates. I did a statistical study of the 41st Ohio House District. There are over 7000 Democrats who regularly vote in the Democratic primary in the 41 OHD. (See here for more data about 41 OHD) The question is, what needs to happen to bring these Democrats together into a meaningful community that can find and support good candidates?

    The second big obstacle to sending Democrats to the statehouse — lack of a democracy infrastructure — became obvious to me when in 2009, I decided to seek election to the Kettering Board of Education. For this nonpartisan position, again, I discovered the burden of communicating with voters is fully on the candidate. The League of Women Voters organized one poorly attended meeting that was truly worthless. There was no Kettering Town Hall, no established or traditional venue where interested citizens could easily dialogue with school board candidates — no on-line forum, etc. It is all up to the candidate to fund and organize any communication with the voting public.

    In 2012, I organized a community debate between the candidates for the 41st OHD between Democrat Caroline Gentry and Republican Jim Butler. It was scheduled to happen at Kettering High School immediately after school dismissal. There was almost zero interest by high school teachers, including social study teachers, to attend or to encourage their students to attend. There was only a small handful of community members. There seems no tradition or established expectation of democracy in Kettering, no democracy infrastructure, that brings citizens together in a nonpartisan setting to discuss issues and candidates. This is a huge obstacle.

    You write, “What has to get done? We need new life blood!” I agree. But there is no easy answer. To address these two obstacles will require a lot of sustained effort by a core group of concerned citizens.

    To continue the discussion, I’ve posted this comment as a new article here.

  • Joe Colvin

    Mike,

    First, thanks for your insights. There’s many reasons for our current situation but none of these are totally impossible to overcome.
    I recall working at the D headquarters for Al Gore. Spent lots of hours there doing everything possible to help elect Gore. There was software that was used to register contact information for D voters. BUT as it turned out that software was not purchased nor maintained so all the data that I and others entered just disappeared following the election. Short-sighted? Absolutely! But it’s very much a telling story about the lack of good leadership in Montgomery County.
    Carolyn Gentry was a wonderful candidate (self-disclosure; I know her) and we needed her to defeat Jim Jordan but it takes organization.
    We need better leadership in Montgomery County and in Ohio as a whole. We’re attempting to unseat Sen Portman but we’re really fighting an uphill battle. No new blood nor ideas and the baggage of a long-term politician will make it difficult for D’s to win this race.
    The most recent governor’s race was a disaster; again, lack of leadership across the state.
    What do we have to do to start winning some of these races?
    I mean no offense to those who are out there knocking on doors or making those tough telephone calls; they are trying to get some Ds elected. This requires good leadership.
    Any ideas, anyone?
    Thanks for listening/reading.
    Joe

  • fredrick schindler

    Jim Butler

  • Joe Colvin

    Frederick,

    Thanks for the correction! My mind and fingers sometimes get all crossed up!

    Joe

  • Mike Bock

    Joe, the way to make the MCDP a stronger and more effective organization is to somehow get more Democrats active on the Central Committee. Every quadrennial, Democrats in every precinct in the county are empowered through state law to elect one resident of their precinct to serve a four year term on the MCDP Central Committee. This opportunity, however, is a closely held secret never shared with grassroots county Democrats. Only 37% of the 360 precincts in Montgomery County had even one candidate seeking election to serve on the MCDP Central Committee in 2014 — the most recent Democratic Primary election for these offices.  The next such election is in 2018.

    Here are some previous posts that are relevant:

     

  • Joe Colvin

    Once again our Democratic Party let us down! We ran a tired and baggage laden candidate for US Senate. No new face there. Our local candidates managed to mostly hold on but we really don’t have any up and coming candidates for higher offices.

    I invite you to read this article by Krystal Ball, MSNBC. It certainly lays out what should be considered a autopsy of this past decade of Democratic Party failure to recognize the real world.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-democratic-party-deserves-to-die_us_58236ad5e4b0aac62488cde5

    I welcome your responses.

    Joe

  • Mike Bock

    Joe, back in July we dialogued a bit after you wrote, “My wife and I are severely disappointed in the the obvious lack of building the Democratic Party here in Montgomery County.” (see above)

    The article you referred to — “The Democratic Party Deserves To Die” —points out how the Democratic Party has failed to have a relevant or compelling message and has failed to choose good candidates. The author doesn’t offer a theory why the party is failing.

    What is the diagnosis? How can the party avoid the death it deserves and transform itself into a strong and successful organization?

    In my diagnosis, here in Montgomery County, what is killing the local MCDP is the fact that the local party organization is very anti-democratic. It doesn’t want to give primary voters a voice in choosing candidates. It doesn’t want to share power. As I wrote above, at the last Reorganization Meeting (2014) only 132 precincts — out of 360 — in the county had even one Democrat seeking election to the Central Committee. The party refuses to advertise for these important positions because new members would dilute the authority of the old guard.

    At the state level, as I write here, the Ohio Democratic Party organization consists of only 148 members and only 66 are elected directed, the rest are party insiders. It is this group that year after year is responsible for disaster after disaster. David Pepper was elected by this tiny undemocratic group as ODP chairperson. He is suppose to be the leader of 1.4 million Ohio Democrats, but he is ineffective because he was selected in a way that failed to connect him to the grassroots. The ineffective political boss system at the county and local level no doubt carries over to the national level. This is the core problem with the Democratic Party and what is needed is for grassroots Democrats to organize to infuse the party with new leadership and a new organizational structure that will be truly democratic in representing Democrats.

  • Joe Colvin

    This is what I wrote to David Pepper’s “Stand Up” email:

    Dear Fellow Democrats,

    You’re too late!

    I’m of the opinion that we Democrats helped T-Rump win this election. How? By not bringing new voices and ideas to the voters. By running the aged Ted Strickland. By not building a future class of Democrats for all offices in Ohio. And by fighting the T-Rump person and not letting the voters know what and who we Democrats stand for.

    When are you going to finally change your approach to the voters? How are you going to re-structure for the future? At the current rate the Republicans will own Ohio for many years to come.

    I am sadly disappointed by my Democratic party. It’s clearly time for new leadership here.

    Joe Colvin
    Dayton, Ohio

  • Mike Bock

    Joe, I found at Huffington Post the “stand up” comments made by David Pepper in response to the election outcome. Pepper fails to acknowledge any personal responsibility — though as ODP chair, the statewide failure of the party in the last election rests with him. He shows a complete lack of introspection as to how he or the Ohio Democratic Party organization could be at fault, or as to how he or the ODP should improve. Any Ohio Democrat who is not pretty disgusted with the Ohio Democratic Party has not been paying much attention.

  • Joe Colvin

    Democrats Are Not Very Excited About The Future Of Their Party – Huffington Post, Dec 11, 2016.

    There’s a lot of statistics cited in this article but I read general dissatisfaction within the Dems, both now and going forward.

    I firmly believe we’ve got to rebuild the Democratic Party starting with new leadership, both nationally and at the state levels. I’ve already shared my total unhappiness with our Ohio Democratic Party.

    How do we get something started? How do we replace David Pepper?

    Joe

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