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To Transform the Local Democratic Party, Democrats Should Focus On Preparing For 2018 Reorganization Meeting

Blue Ohio is a Dayton group that started in response to the horrendous 2016 election results.  Today, I sent the group an email urging that they focus their efforts on a big opportunity to transform the Democratic Party — The Montgomery County Democratic Party’s Reorganization Meeting scheduled for June, 2018. 

I’ve read notes of your meetings and these three statements stand out:

  • The purpose of “Blue Ohio” is to create a sustainable progressive Democratic electoral majority in Ohio.
  • motivate a strong majority of Ohioans to vote for Democratic candidates in local state and national elections
  • How: Through education and emotional engagement around progressive values, transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle that recruits competent, honest, progressive candidates, staff, and neighborhood leadership.

After my retirement from teaching high school math, I determined to get involved in the Montgomery County Democratic Party and was elected to the Central Committee in 2006.  In 2007 I started posting on a web-site — DaytonOS.com — initiated by David Esrati and two others and eventually when Esrati gave up the web-site, I became its owner. It is now a ten year record of my posts. I love the idea that your group wants to “transform the Democratic party.”  Transformation is essential. The purpose of this note is to give light on some background information and analysis that I hope will be helpful in achieving that goal.

The point I want to emphasize is this:  Your immediate opportunity to transform the MCDP is through the next Reorganization Meeting that will be held in May or early June of 2018. Each of the 360 precincts can elect a delegate to that meeting as a voting member of the Central Committee. At that meeting a MCDP constitution effective for the next four years is established by a simple majority vote and officers are elected by a majority vote.

Our best chance to transform the MCDP is through democratic means. In 2014 only 37% of Montgomery County’s 360 precinct had at least one candidate to represent that precinct at the Reorganization Meeting. Check out the map I made in 2014 showing the number of Democrats in each precinct in Montgomery County and showing which precincts were represented at the 2014 Reorganization Meeting. The MCDP is failing to franchise Montgomery County Democrats to have a vote in the local party organization.

Your group and Democrats who agree with your group should make it their goal to envision what a transformed MCDP that is ready for the 21st century would look like — what its constitution should look like. Make this vision of a dynamic local organization be what rallies Democrats to get involved and inspires Democrats to commit to working productively together. One big change to the constitution that I would like to see, for example, is the provision for online participation in MCDP meetings. What can the party do to meaningfully engage young people? What can it do to advance civics education for everyone?

If Blue Ohio agrees to use the opportunity of the MCDP Reorganization Meeting as a means of “transforming the Democratic party,” I hope the group will consider these questions a focus of its brainstorming:

  1. What is our vision of a transformed MCDP?  What is a MCDP Constitution that will support and accelerate bringing that vision to reality?
  2. How do we get the word out? What is our plan for using our vision of a transformed MCDP / New Constitution to inspire Democrats to register by the Reorganization Meeting deadline — 4 p.m. on February 7, 2018 ?

To advance your goal to “motivate a strong majority of Ohioans to vote for Democratic candidates in local state and national elections,” the Democratic Party must demonstrate that it is a party organized for the 21st century that is engaging and inviting and — democratic. The “political boss” structure that historically has been the hallmark of the MCDP is a turn-off to the general public and is self-defeating. To engage and empower progressive candidates, the party must change its organizational structure and its practices.

 

Here are some excerpts that gives some background. 

Note To David Pepper: Go For the Big Win — Invite All Ohio Democrats To Become Voting Members Of The ODP February 11th, 2015

The ODP is a political institution consisting of only 148 voting members. This small group stands apart from the Democratic base. In the 2014 May Democratic Primary, there were 1,307,000 Democrats who voted. These active Democrats are the ODP “Infrastructure” and success for the party depends a lot on whether this group is “energized.” Very few of these Democrats feel they have any voice within the Democratic Party. To energize this base we need to expand opportunity.  We need to reimagine the Ohio Democratic Party as an extended Roberts Rules online community of Democrats who commit to working together, to listening and communicating with each other, and to making positive impacts in their local communities. Even a participation of only 10% of those voting in the last Democratic Primary would bring 130,000 Democrats into community, but even a start of only 10,000 would be very energizing.

Maps Show — Precincts With Lots Of Dems Will Have No Representation At The MCDP Reorganization Meeting April 10th, 2014

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.

Imagining A Transformed Montgomery County Democratic Party — It’s A Systems’ Problem February 18th, 2014

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.

The Key Question For The MCDP — How To Motivate More Democrats To Make The Needed Effort March 27th, 2014

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 MCDP Is Disenfranchising County Democrats Of Their Right To Vote For New MCDP Leadership  January 18th, 2014

The insiders always stay in power because news of this important meeting is always kept a big secret from any county Democrat who is not a party insider. This deliberate disenfranchisement of county Democrats of their right to meaningfully participate in their party is reason enough to conclude that MCDP needs major change. There are plenty of other reasons.

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.

At MCDP Reorganization Meeting I Will Propose A Change In By-Laws To Prohibit Primary Endorsements June 2nd, 2010

The point of the endorsement process, as traditionally practiced by the MCDP, I discovered, is to suppress primary participation.

I was enlightened about what MCDP is all about during the short debate that occurred in response to my motion.  One insistent person demanded that the discussion be stopped and the question called.  I thought there was a lot more to discuss about the whole matter of MCDP endorsement policies and didn’t appreciate the steam roller parliamentary action to suppress discussion.  The chairperson of the MCDP, Mark Owens, is an elected official, the Clerk of Courts.  My AHA moment occurred only later, when I learned that the insistent person demanding discussion be stopped is an employee in Mark Owens’ office. As I looked around at the group in attendance, I realized that,  at its core, the MCDP is a small clique of elected officials and Democrats with patronage jobs. It is the self interest of this group that drives MCDP actions and policies, and this small group is very unrepresentative of Montgomery County Democrats, in general.

Reorganization Meeting For Montgomery County Democrats Unlikely To Bring Any Improvement May 13th, 2010

I attended my first Reorganization Meeting four years ago, in 2006, when I first became active in the county organization. At that meeting, I was actually shocked by the attitude and actions of those in control of the meeting — I observed a stifling of debate and a rush to push through a pre-established outcome. It was my first taste of the antidemocratic attitude of the leadership of the local party.

For this Reorganization Meeting, I personally recruited about seven people to run as a delegate and three of those individuals won, but most Democrats in the county had no idea that this opportunity for participation in their local Democratic Party, via the Democratic Primary, even exists. And so 184 of the 360 precincts in the county had no candidate. The party suppressed information about this delegate opportunity and even the DDN seemed in collusion to suppress information about the opportunity — refusing to print a letter to the editor I wrote in January urging county Democrats to become involved.

How Gerrymandering Defeated An Outstanding Candidate And Sent a Weak Candidate To Columbus  March 5th, 2008

When ordinary Democrats see that the Montgomery County Democratic Party has endorsed a candidate, they need to consider the source. A Party endorsement is not the result of an objective democratic process involving the deliberation of many MCDP active members. Far from it. The “Party” really boils down to a small handful of insiders who know how to get their way.

The explanation of why these insiders chose Roland Winburn over Vic Harris has to do with the concept of playing by Party rules, the concept of waiting one’s turn. It has to do with insiders seeking to advance their own political careers. Endorsement does not come from a fair analysis of who would best serve the people. Those Winburn supporters who know both Vic and Roland will admit that this analysis is true. These supporters do not claim that Roland is better qualified, or that Roland would be a more effective representative. They are loyal to the MCDP and feel that the Party should have the power to advance whomever it thinks most appropriate — for any number of reasons.

So, one way to look at it, Vic Harris is a victim of gerrymandering. In a competitive general election race, there is simply no question that Vic would be a much stronger candidate than Roland. There is no question that if given the chance, Vic would be a much more effective and energetic representative of the people than Roland. But gerrymandering gives a Party a monopoly, and monopolies have little motivation to innovate or produce quality.

Because of gerrymandering, the Party has a monopoly in the 40th OHD. Because of gerrymandering, the Party knew it could play insider politics, and could advance a weak candidate without the fear of penalty.

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