To “Save Democracy,” David Pepper Should Tell How Democrats Can Help Democratize The Democratic Party

Wikipedia says,
“David Pepper is the son of former Procter & Gamble CEO John Pepper.[2] Pepper graduated from Cincinnati Country Day School, earned his B.A. at Yale University, and his J.D. from Yale Law School. …In 2010, Pepper was a candidate for Ohio Auditor, and in 2014, Pepper ran unsuccessfully for Ohio Attorney General.” Pepper has authored four works of fiction — just released, “The Fifth Vote” — and two books about democracy.

I’m looking forward to hearing David Pepper speak at our South of Dayton Democratic Club this evening, Wednesday, January 17. Pepper served as Ohio Democratic Party Chairperson from 2015 to 2020. 

Pepper’s latest book, “Saving Democracy: A User’s Manual For Every American,” offers a lot of good ideas to discuss.  Missing from the book, however, is a chapter about the Democratic Party. Political parties have a big role to play in our democracy and, with Pepper’s background, it seems the “user’s manual” should contain suggestions for what rank-and-file Democrats can do to democratize our Democratic Party. 

I was first elected to the MCDP Central Committee in 2006 and, I was expecting to participate in a democratic community. Instead, I was surprised to find that the MCDP ran as a political boss system, not as a democratic system, and all of the decisions of the organization were made by a core group. I was appalled at the audacity of this group to make early endorsements of their friends and deliberately suppress participation in Democratic Primaries. 

We’ve made some progress. Our new MCDP Chair, Mohamed Al-Hamdani, was elected on the promise of no endorsements for open seats, and, for now, that practice has been discontinued. 

After Pepper resigned, there was a contest for his replacement between Liz Walters and Antoinette Wilson. The winner would be the first woman elected ODP Chair. Eventually Wilson withdrew and Walters was crowned unanimously.  The Columbus Dispatch reported:  Walters had the backing of organized labor leaders, which hold significant sway with the party’s executive committee of about 150 members. Those leaders also hold their own seats on the committee and were pledged to Walters.”

This article points out that the labor leaders — those pushing for Walters’ election — have their “own seats” on the ODP Executive Committee. Of this 148 member executive committee, only 66 members are elected by rank-and-file Democrats — a man and a woman in each of the 33 senatorial districts. Our district, OSD-06, elected Mark Owens and Nan Whaley. 82 members, 55% of the ODP Executive Committee, are non-elected insiders. They have their “own seats.”

The 66 elected members are called the ODP Central Committee. By Ohio law, this is the “controlling committee.” If a majority of this elected group could agree, rather than empowering 82 insiders to vote in the ODP Executive Committee, this “controlling committee” could do otherwise. I have a suggestion below. The next election for the ODP  Central Committee is 2026, and I’m suggesting that Democrats work to elect “pro-democracy” Democrats to the ODP Central Committee so the current ODP Constitution can be amended.

In 2015, Pepper, as the newly elected ODP Chair, along with Nina Turnerm produced a document entitled: “Turning the Tide: Our vision”  They wrote: “Leading the Ohio Democratic Party, our number one responsibility and goal will be to win elections.” To accomplish this goal Pepper and Turner said it was essential to “energize the infrastructure.” I wrote an article in response:

“Turning the Tide” describes the current Democratic Party infrastructure as a “long list of names in a database,” and says it is essential for individuals on these lists to be energized. As it is, these loyal Democrats who volunteer for the party have little, or no, say-so in the party.

To energize the base, we need to reimagine an Ohio Democratic Party that is a democratic community of the rank-and-file. I’d like to see changes in the ODP Constitution implemented in 2026 so that:

      • Any Ohio citizen who has voted in two consecutive Democratic primaries is invited to become a member of the ODP and a full participant in the organization. 
      • In 2028 there will be an ODP Convention, where the full membership of the ODP will be empowered to participate and vote — with both in-person and on-line participation — electing party leadership through a rank-choice process.

I’m looking forward to hearing Mr. Pepper this evening and if the opportunity arises, I’ll ask:  Do you support a change to the ODP Constitution that will provide for the selection of the ODP Chairperson through a process where every ODP member has a vote?


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2 Responses to To “Save Democracy,” David Pepper Should Tell How Democrats Can Help Democratize The Democratic Party

  1. Melissa says:

    The old adage still stands: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    You make some excellent points and observations, Mike. Thank you for sharing them.

    I am hopeful local and state party members can practice democratic principles within their own party and community for the good of all.

  2. Melissa says:

    I thought I had commented previously, but it seems to have disappeared.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, Mike. You are a good writer.

    David Pepper is a dynamic speaker and I hope you enjoyed his presentation at the South Dayton Democratic Club meeting. His books are excellent guides to support civic engagement, increase voter turnout, and fight corruption.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely and every American should work hard to curtail its corrosive effects on democracy and the electorate.

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