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
- Montgomery County Democratic Party Dominated By Appointed Gov. Workers And Elected Gov. Officials; September 16th, 2011
- Proposal To Stop Democratic Primary Endorsements in Montgomery County Quashed At Reorganization Meeting; June 3rd, 2010
- The Best Way To Transform Our Democracy Is By Transforming Our Political Parties; July 25th, 2010
- Special Interests Controlling Montgomery County Democratic Party Suppress Expansion Of Participation; January 22nd, 2010
- Mark Owens Says Most Montgomery Dems Approve The Party’s Suppression Of Primary Participation; April 8th, 2009
- Victor Harris: Surprised That Local Democratic Party Wanted To Suppress Primary Competition; February 25th, 2008
- The Montgomery Democrats Decide to Suppress Democracy — Just Like the Republicans; December 14th, 2007