One central issue that the June 6 MCDP Reorganization Meeting must deal with is how to build respect and support for the Democratic Party. We must deal with the core reasons that so many Democrats stay home and refuse to vote. We must deal with the fact that the party has lost legitimacy. At the June 6 Meeting, I’m proposing ten changes to the MCDP Constitution. I believe that in order for the Democratic Party to gain respect and support it must address: Its Purpose, Its Structure and Its Legitimacy.
I’ve look at a lot of county constitutions, mostly from counties in Ohio, but in other parts of the nation as well. Almost all constitutions fail to state the mission of the organization. A few say that the mission of the county organization is to elect Democrats, a few say that their mission is to advance a progressive agenda.
Under PURPOSE, the current MCDP Constitution has these cryptic words: “In accordance with the provisions of Section 3517 of the Ohio Revised Code, this organization shall be the ‘Controlling Committee’ of the Democratic Party of Montgomery County.”
I am proposing a change in the constitution so that this is the statement of PURPOSE:
The purpose of the Montgomery County Democratic Party is to unite Montgomery County Democrats within an extended MCDP community that nurtures, prepares and elect candidates that are of the people, for the people.
The current constitution has no PREAMBLE. Here is the one I am proposing:
WE THE REPRESENTATIVES of Montgomery County Democrats — in order to form a grassroots Democratic party organization that empowers representative democracy throughout the county — do establish this Montgomery County Democratic Party Constitution.
The strategy of the Democratic Party, I believe, should be to empower representative democracy. It should be our mission. We must walk the walk in how we operate as a political organization and do our best as an organization to engage and represent county Democrats. Empowering democracy is a brand that Republicans can’t compete with. The Democratic Party has a big advantage in this single issue. We must challenge Republicans to work with us to help inform and engage the citizenry. Let’s challenge them to make it a county-wide goal to increase the rate of voting in every precinct. Let’s challenge them to work with us to provide opportunities for in-depth civics education for our youth.
The way that the MCDP is organized is very out of date. It uses a military structure that was very effective when the party controlled hundreds of patronage jobs. It was this power of patronage that brought discipline to the party organization. The Party had a hierarchy of authority — each stage of the hierarchy enjoying different privileges. At some level, if you had enough pull in the party, you could get your brother-in-law a good job working on the road crew. Being an active precinct leader and aggressive ward leader paid off and so there was competition for those positions.
Rather than being structured as a military organization, my proposed changes to the MCDP Constitution supports the type of structure appropriate for a volunteer organization. My suggestion is that the MCDP learn from successful volunteer organizations like the Kiwanis Club and structure the MCDP as a network of independent local groups — a Kettering Democratic Committee, a Miamisburg Democratic Committee, etc. These groups would be united in a common purpose and constitution, but each would have its own officers, budgets and projects. The MCDP Central Committee, then, would consist of the local leaders of these local groups who also are the jurisdiction’s precinct leaders. Young people would have a path to leadership with the party through their participation in their local Democratic Committee.
We need a grassroots structure attractive to volunteers where local leadership is inspired and nourished. Montgomery County has at least sixteen political jurisdictions with a council and school board. I’m hoping that the members at the Reorganization will agree with me that it would be wonderful if each of these jurisdictions had an active Democratic Committee exerting a positive influence in the jurisdiction — advancing civics education, positively engaging the youth, increasing voter turn-out, etc.
The other suggested change to the Constitution deals with the general topic of legitimacy. The Central Committee is suppose to represent all of the Democrats in the county, yet in this election 60% of the positions on the Committee were left unfilled. This failure to fill the representative body with representatives undermines our legitimacy as a party.
Also undermining the MCDP legitimacy it its history of endorsements. A party is taking a huge responsibility when it chooses one Democrat over another Democrat. I very much opposed the decision of the Central Committee to endorse in the contest between the two Darryl’s. The decision of the MCDP to exert its will on Democrats and to tell Democrats to vote for Rev Ward, rather than Rev Fairchild, convinced many Democrats, particularly Fairchild supporters, that the MCDP is not a fairly run group.
If I thought such a bonehead decision came about from a deliberative process — a Central Committee fairly representing the Democrats in the county — I’d complain about the result, but not about the process. The problem is, I suspect that only a tiny fraction of the small membership of the Committee voted. I’d like to know how Kettering’s Central Committee members voted, but there is no record of the vote. If we are to have legitimacy we need to have transparency. I’d like to know who voted for the endorsement, who voted against it and who failed to vote. I believe that the MCDP Constitution should require such transparency.
I believe the elected members of the Central Committee at the June 6 Meeting must make Constitutional changes to deal with the PURPOSE, STRUCTURE and LEGITIMACY of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. I’ve written ten specific changes I’d like to see in the MCDP Constitution with the purpose of stimulating discussion and the hope that these changes can be modified as needed to get the needed support at the Reorganization Meeting.