In 1858, in the election for the US Senate, Abraham Lincoln lost to Steven Douglas by a vote of voted 54 to 46 in the Illinois legislature. The first members of the Senate chosen by direct election was in 1914.

After the May 4 Democratic Primary there will be scheduled the 2022 Montgomery County Democratic Party Reorganization Meeting. Reorganization is a big opportunity — every four years — for Montgomery County Democrats to re-think and re-structure the local party organization. 

I’d like to see the MCDP Constitution revised so at the next Reorganization, in 2026, rank-and-file Democrats, who so choose, can directly elect the Chairperson of the MCDP.

Direct election of US Senators came with the 17th Amendment in 1913. The goal then, of the progressives who worked to pass this Amendment, remains the goal for progressives now — make positive changes in our system of representative democracy that will empower the rank-and-file and will make our republican system more robust.

Montgomery County has about 40,000 Democrats and in past quadrennial reorganizations, only about 120 Democrats have been elected to the Central Committee and only about 100 have attended the MCDP Reorganization Meeting. This small group chooses the leader for the thousands of Democrats in the county. It’s even worse at the state level. The ODP Chair chosen to lead Ohio’s 1.3 million Democrats is selected by a very tiny politburo. (See: Note To David Pepper: Go For the Big Win — Invite All Ohio Democrats To Become Voting Members Of The ODP)

At the 2018 Reorganization Meeting, the organization got a new name. The new MCDP Constitution replaced “The Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee Constitution.” The name of the organization officially became “The Montgomery County Democratic Party” in 2018, but the content of the current MCDP Constitution remains as before — focused exclusively on the Central Committee. On the MCDP web-site, rank-and-file Democrats who so choose can “become members” of the MCDP, and pay dues, but this is just a fund raiser. There is no actual MCDP organization.

I’d like to see the 2022 Reorganization ratify an MCDP Constitution that establishes the MCDP as a real organization — open to membership of all rank-and-file Montgomery County Democrats. This organization would have officers. It would have committees. It would advance a vision of grassroots activism. The goal would be that, over time, the MCDP would become a network of grassroots Democratic communities — serving their local jurisdictions — building the Democratic Party as an attractive brand. 

The Ohio Revised code indicates that one of the MCDP’s committees must be the Central Committee and this must be the “controlling committee.”  The 2022 MCDP Constitution would spell out a process where decisions of the virtual group, the MCDP, would be verified by the in-person group, the MCDP Central Committee. (The rule of the ODP is that only those in in-person attendance may vote in the Central Committee. This rule has been suspended temporarily because of Covid.)

In the new structure, there should be no conflict between the MCDP organization and the MCDP Central Committee because all of the members of the Central Committee also will be members of the MCDP. Most often, members of the Central Committee will be the leaders of the MCDP organization. All of the work of the Central Committee will be transparent to the membership of the MCDP organization, with a process of feedback established in the Constitution. The person chosen the MCDP Chair most likely also would be chosen the MCDP Central Committee Chair. In the new structure, there will be no Executive Committee.

The MCDP Constitution will spell out the process for endorsement that will include participation and a vote by the on-line membership of the MCDP.

The way forward for the Democratic Party is to deliver the message that it is the “For-democracy” community. It is a partisan political party seeking to win elections, yes, but it attracts voters because it delivers the message that it is a force for democracy in the grassroots — standing for civic virtue, servant leadership, transparency, democracy.

The MCDP Constitution in its present form is a relic of a previous time when the county Democratic Party organization had control of many, many patronage jobs. If you could become a Ward Leader, or become a member of the Executive Committee, you might have the clout to get your cousin a job working on county roads. So the current constitution establishes the power lines for a very hierarchical, political boss system typical of 19th century political parties. This structure — based on patronage — at one time may have motivated a Democratic community to get engaged and to pitch in and do the hard work needed to win elections. But now it is out of date. It is not working.

To motivate Democrats, especially the youth, we need basic changes to the MCDP structure to empower the rank-and-file using 21st century technology. The new constitution needs to support a vision of the MCDP as an inviting community — where members love and respect each other and who are like-minded in their passion for service and their passion for democracy.

Rather than amending the 2018 MCDP Constitution, there needs to be a basic reconstruction. One goal of such a reconstruction should be the direct election of the MCDP Chair by an on-line members-only MCDP organization.

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