Internal Matters

Should the Chair have a 4 year term?
I love spirited discussions about internal matters that bore the paint off the walls. For some reason, they just give me a little joy. It tells me something about the people writing about them. It tells me they’re paying attention to the details and have actually thought about it and are interested in what others might consider minutiae.

Details matter, and that’s why I was happy to read these four posts about the upcoming vote on lengthening the term of the TNDP Chair – 4 More Years, Rushing and Hushing, Yep, and UPDATE:TNDP Chair Term.

This is the kind of internal stuff that people just don’t think about. In fact, I would bet that most people who self-identify as Democrats have no idea who the current Chair of the Party is, nor do they care. Further, based on participation and the scant number of Executive Committee elections that were actually contested, there’s a great deal of question as to whether people really know how the Chair is selected at all.

Its not that these folks aren’t interested in the fate of the party, its that, like most people, they have lives outside of politics and rely on their elected officials to represent them well on such matters. That’s Representative Democracy.

Anyone can seek to become better informed about the goings on of our party, if they choose. The Party Bylaws are online, and have been since the original Ning redesign back in Spring of 2009. The contact information of the Executive Committee is also online and easily accessible. As are other resources that an interested individual may want to peruse.

One thing that is not readily available online are Agendas and Minutes of the meetings. Our Executive Committee members are elected officials, as set forth by State Law – (TCA 2-13-103). As constituents of these elected officials, we should have access to the Agendas and Minutes of meetings of both parties at our fingertips. Considering the availability of technology this is not a burden. In fact, it would help people understand what the party is doing.

Failing that, you’re best alternative is to get in touch with your Executive Committee members, (everyone has two) and ask them what’s going on or questions about the process. Not quite as open, but easy enough.

But getting back to the minutiae, the question of whether or not the Chair of the party should serve a 2 year or 4 year term is actually pretty important. Four years is a long time. Getting a majority of the Executive Committee to decide to remove a Chair (as set forth in Article V Section 4) is fraught with problems. You don’t try to take down someone if you’re not sure you can do it. Paybacks suck. So with that in mind, a 2 or 4 year term can have long-lasting consequences.

Proponents of 4 year terms say if brings a level of continuity to the office. Its hard to make changes in 2 years. They probably point to the term of the DNC as an example. All of that’s well and good, but the Chair of the DNC is a much more public office. Lots more eyeballs looking. TNDP Chair, not so much.

There is already an issue with transparency, outside the confines of the Executive Committee (which I pointed out earlier concerning Agendas and Minutes), also, the rules of the party outside the By-Laws are not published online, which means that certain processes aren’t known, which leads to all kinds of conspiracy theories and claims of malfeasance a la the Shelby County Re-Org of 2009.

After that mess, there were some assurances that processes and procedures would be more transparent, but that hasn’t really happened. Are two 2 year terms not enough to address these issues, or did they just fall by the way side?

I’m pretty dead set against 4 year terms. I think that while it may guarantee someone good gets to stay in for a while, so do 2 year terms…they just have to get elected again. If they’re doing a good job it shouldn’t be a problem.

Also, I don’t know too many people who are willing to give up 4 years of their life to such a thankless job. Sure, there are some, but four years is a long time for anyone, including a Chair and the Executive Committee to commit to something.

Personally, I think the term should be 2 years with a mandatory retention vote after 1 year. This “vote of confidence” would give the party time to re-adjust if things needed re-adjusting before the elections. It wouldn’t give much continuity, but I’m pretty sure, aside from some key folks, that the staff would be retained, if for no other reason that canning them would really screw things up.

Of course, I’m also the guy that thinks the Chair shouldn’t take a salary, or if they do, it should be minimal. I don’t think being Chair is a full time job. That’s what an Executive Director is for. I don’t think the Chair needs to be hands on, if said chair has effectively communicated a vision and direction for the party with tangible goals, and adequately delegated those tasks.

Realistically, I see the role of the Chair as the “Honorary CEO”. Someone who keeps an eye on what’s going on, makes sure his key staff is achieving goals, and raises money. That’s it.

Last time I checked, honorary positions weren’t compensated.

So, since I don’t think the Chair should be compensated, asking someone to volunteer for 2 years is hard enough, 4 years is madness.

Nope, I’m more interested in the TNDP building a professional staff of qualified individuals that know the state outside the 440 loop. People that know how to organize and support local parties and candidates. People that know their turf and become effective campaigners. They go out and build some successes, then grow up, go out on their own, and find a place to turn around. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If we’re doing that, who the chair is, and how long they serve shouldn’t matter.

When we start really doing that, I’ll be interested in talking about how long the Chair should serve. Until then, how about we focus on some things that really matter like Candidate recruitment and development and fundraising. That’s what actually wins elections.

One Reply to “Internal Matters”

  1. Steve,

    Unfortunately, we don’t agree on this one. I will likely support the amendment for a 4 year chair term. I won’t give all of the reasons here (maybe later) but a couple of things I want to mention.

    1) help remind me and I will send the minutes and financial report out as soon as I get it.

    2) the amendment includes provisions to more easily remove the chair if he or she is not doing their job during the course of the term. As a member of the By Laws Committee which drafted the amendment, I insisted on this change.

    I know we both have the best interests of the Party in mind. We need to make big bold changes from the past. I am convinced, after months of consideration, that this is a change that needs to be made at this time.

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