Over the weekend, the Shelby County Democratic Party held its bi-annual caucus…the first step in electing new leadership for the party. It was organized and orderly. Different folks supported different candidates, but everyone understood it wasn’t personal…just part of the process.
In a couple of weeks we’ll get together again to elect Executive Committee members and a new Chair. I anticipate this will also be an orderly affair, and at the end of the day, while there may be some disappointment, folks will come out of it ready to work to elect Democrats…because that’s what the process is REALLY all about.
P.S. Big ups to Rose Ann Bradley and her Convention team for organizing a great caucus.
#TNLEG Rains on my sunny day
After such a nice event, imagine my surprise when I ran across a post at KnoxViews (a good Democratic blog out of Knox Co.) that reported State Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and newly elected State Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) were proposing a bill that would dramatically change the structure of the elected State Executive Committee. That structure is unknown at this time.
What a buzzkill.
Change is needed, but what change?
There’s no question there are serious problems with the Democratic Party in Tennessee. It’s been a slow steady decline here since before 2006. A quick search of the tag TNDP just here at my blog will net you a wealth of writing on the subject. Some of that writing, admittedly, is better than others.
The question is, “Does the prescription fit the symptoms?” That’s where things get dicey. I’m sure legislators see one set of symptoms, Executive Committee members agree with them on some, and disagree on others. Folks on the outside looking in, like me for instance, see yet another set of symptoms.
So, if you blame the Executive Committee for the problems with the party, then I suppose changing the way the Executive Committee is selected is one way to go.
Unfortunately, the evidence doesn’t support the idea that the Executive Committee is solely to blame. This is a systemic problem that has been in the works for a long time. It is the result of a lack of discipline in terms of maintaining the fundamentals of a strong party. For the uninitiated those are, in no particular order: Fundraising, Organizing, Leadership Development, and Activism.
Building instead of breaking down
The fundamentals for a strong party I listed above, make up a four legged stool. It takes everyone, from elected officials and Executive committee members to county parties and coalition groups…not to mention the voters themselves…to keep that stool strong and intact. Right now we have a broken stool.
If we added up what we have of all these four fundamentals, we might have a leg and a half. No cross supports. No seat. Just a leg an a half. We have to get back to the fundamentals to rebuild the stool.
Past Chairs of the party have talked about this to some degree. The lack of support from the Caucuses made it harder for any of these fundamentals to get stronger. Those cross supports were missing, and that made us not only weaker, but much more vulnerable.
I’m interested to know what our elected officials are doing to help build up those legs and supports. I rarely see them at local party meetings. I have no doubt that’s the case in more rural areas. How do these elected officials expect to stay that way without helping build their local parties? What’s more, how do they expect to gain seats if they’re not out in the field working to build other county parties outside their areas?
If it takes a village, don’t burn the village down
There’s not a person elected to anything that did it by themselves. It takes a team. Right now, there’s a rift in the team between two sets of duly elected officials: one that represents people in the party, and another that represents people in the legislature. Repairing that rift is what’s needed, not creating another rift.
There’s no question that Finney and Powell could get changes to the Executive Committee passed. There’s also no question in my mind that the Republican majority would hold this accomplishment up as the single shining achievement of the minority party come November of 2014.
There’s also no question that the current Executive Committee would have to serve out their terms…creating two more years of ugliness. I wonder if that’s what Sen. Finney wants as he heads into what will likely be a difficult contest in a newly drawn district.
I don’t think so.
If legislators don’t like the direction of the party, they can help get people elected to the Executive Committee that reflect their views. That would have the same window as any proposed legislative idea.
It would also force competitive elections for the Executive Committee and get those legislators out talking to regular people all over the state.
That just might not be a bad thing.