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Message to Tom Perez: The Democratic Party Is An Oligarchy — It Must Reorganize and Become “The Party of The People”

As part of a fund raising campaign, the new leader of the Democratic Party, Tom Perez, sent this email message to Democrats, “Over the last couple of months, I’ve talked with party leaders, local officials, and supporters like you all across the country. And like many of you, when it comes to how we build a Democratic Party for the future, I have as many questions as I have answers. That’s why I want to hear from you today, Mike: what do you think our priorities should be? What are the most urgent challenges we need to meet?

Mr. Perez:

Building a strong Democratic Party requires systems’ thinking.The success of every system depends on these two factors:

  • a well defined mission and
  • an organizational structure thoughtfully designed to best accomplish that mission.

Please reconsider your words about mission. You are quoted in The Blaze as saying, “The DNC’s mission has to be to elect people up and down the ballot — from the school board to the senate.” You would not consider it adequate for a GM spokesperson to say, “The GM mission is to make a lot of money for our stockholders.” The mission that the leaders of GM advertise is that the mission of GM is to produce high quality automobiles at a competitive price. The outcome of successfully advancing that mission is selling cars and making money. Electing Democrats should be the outcome of a successful mission — not the mission itself.

If “electing Democrats” is not an adequate mission, then what is? In the same Blaze article you state,  “The message of economic opportunity — jobs, good jobs, retirement security — that’s a message that resonates in every zip code.”  Yes, but Republican candidates have the same message — evidently delivered more effectively.

Here is a daring thought: Suppose the Democratic Party becomes dedicated to actually being the party of the people. Right now, the notion that we are the party of the people is contradicted by the fact that the Democratic Party is still organized like the Republican Party — as a “political boss,” oligarchic system. In Ohio our party chairmen, David Pepper, was elected by a committee of 148 insiders — only 66 members of the group were directly elected in a Democratic Primary — regardless that 1.3 million Ohio Democrats regularly vote in Primaries. It’s pretty laughable that the Ohio Democratic Party wants to send every Ohio Democrat who donates money to the ODP a “membership card,” but this card gives the holder no vote, no say-so, in the party organization.

Rather than saying, “The DNC’s mission has to be to elect people up and down the ballot,” I’d like the leader of the party to emphasize that the DNC’s mission is to strengthen the structure of our democratic republic. I’d like to hear our leader say that political parties have a big role to play in empowering citizens so that their government is truly of the people, for the people and that the Democratic Party is changing its organization structure so that ordinary Democrats are in charge of the party — not the insiders, not the big-money people.

Oligarchy was once defended as the only practical method of making decisions because difficult transportation and slow methods of communication hindered the effective use of large groups. But now, Ohio could have a Democratic Party of thousands or hundreds of thousands of individuals all connected through the internet and this party could function as an on-line deliberative democracy.

The party’s 2016 platform included these words, “Cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls. It’s a simple but powerful idea: We are stronger together.” Yes, but these are just words, words, words without an organizational structure that gives meaning to those words. Right now, the Democratic Party is an oligarchy, much like the Republican Party.  It should be the party controlled by the people. The organizational structure of the Democratic Party that could accomplish that mission would be one that would empower many more people, one focused on the local level and focused on engaging and informing the public.  My suggestion is that as chairman of the party that you find county organizations that are exemplary in empowering and engaging Democrats as voters and participants in the local organization and that you publicly praise such groups and encourage other county groups to emulate these exemplary counties.

The Democratic Party should be inspired by the vision and should rise to the challenge that its transcendental mission is to promote and empower democracy. If the Party could actually fulfill such a mission — by abandoning it oligarchic structure and by educating the public, and by facilitating opportunities for political participation — then, of course, Democrats would win elections in droves.

 

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