Live blogging with Progressive Dems

A quick report from the PDNC meeting in Orange County, mostly without commentary:

Gene Nichol started off the day with an inspiring call for action by progressives to represent the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

Chris Fitzsimon up next, taking both Art Pope and North Carolina newspapers to task for collusion in fostering the right wing agenda. A remarkably non-partisan presentation of the political landscape.

What's likely to happen?

  • Three constitutional amendments: eminent domain, gay marriage, taxpayer bill of rights
  • Voter ID law
  • Measure to crack down on illegal immigrants
  • They'll balance the $4 billion with cuts
  • Schools closing

Perdue will likely produce a budget in February that doesn't raise new taxes, in hopes of getting re-elected. (Note from me to Bev: you'll fail on both fronts if you try this.)

What to do?

  • Stay on their asses every minute of every day in Raleigh, and report on it everywhere you can. They have no idea what they're doing and are going to be spectacularly incompetent.
  • Fight, even if you lose. Hang the consequences of their failures clearly around their necks.

Questions? Post 'em and I'll ask them for you.


Quote of the morning

I'm not sure Rob Christensen can write a story without quoting someone from Civitas.

Chris Fitzsimon

Bless his heart . . .

. . . Christensen is just toooo close. He wants to preserve his relationships with all the big players. Got all those biographical proposals in the works, and is determined to be on friendly terms with any and every body he might want to interview.

It's a shame, because for what all that access is worth, his credibility as someone who can call it as he sees it just continues to sink. He does epitomize the go-along-to-get-along philosophy that has kept his journalism so tepid all these years.

It must be hard

I really do think it's analogous to Stockholm Syndrome. If you asked Christensen, he'd would in no way be able to recognize how far gone he is.

This should be the best organizing year

for progressives at the grass roots level.

Find an issue that gets you out of bed in the morning and focus your energy there. Support groups that are already out there who will be gearing up with new urgency. This is a battle cry like we've never had before.

Organizing around issues?

Sorry - I don't want to be part of another OFA - they were a big part of this year's LOSS!

I'd rather organize to take my party back from the incompetent morons in the party, the campaigns and the consultants who were driving the bus over a cliff, with the wheels falling off and the engine on fire.

Some of us were pointing at the cliff, the lug nuts shooting off the studs, and the smoke coming from the engine compartment - yet we were told the bus drivers and the staff knew what they were doing. This election proves that they do not.

Anything said about the need to take the party back and restore something like Howard Dean's 50 state-strategy that led us to victory in 2006 and 2008? What about dumping the OFA model as well as all campaign/consultant control of the party?

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

On organizing the party not organizing around issues

While this is an issue deserving of the time and effort of a new thread, I think the question is that both approaches are necessary in the coming two years prior to the next Presidential year election.

As the PDNC folks correctly asked in their pre-convention agenda--how do we as Progressives connect with allies and work with them in our communities? How do we also, as Progressives, find our niche within the Party and then gain enough respect and acceptance to be effective in reform from within?

BlueDogs are accepted and respected. Yellow Dogs are not. How much sense does that make?

Martha Brock

NC Democratic Party

Chris is talking about it at length. My summary of his comments translates into one word: hapless. So refreshing to see a non-profit leader who actually speaks in a non-partisan manner.

How much damage can they do with redistricting

A lot.

Despite their years of calling for independent redistricting, Republicans are not likely to behave with integrity.

Whatever happens, it will be tied up in the courts. The ability to gerrymander is far more advanced than ever, which means litigation will be more complicated than ever.


Why ya think he went and got married?

Fetzer very much wants to be governor, and that that's precisely why he has that poor woman -- I'm sorry -- I mean the lovely Mrs. Fetzer -- tucked away in New Hanover Co.

THAT is how badly he wants to run.

My #1 objective

is to hold these legislators accountable for every decision they make. It is our duty to stay aware of what is happening in Raleigh and relay ALL of it to their constituents at home. I want voters to know exactly what they voted for.

Very important

We can't let them cut a single dollar or cast a single hurtful vote without those actions being observed and exposed. We need to make them own everything they do.

first thing we need to do.... to take back control of our Democratic Party in North Carolina. Losing it to Bev Perdue and the boys in the GA meant that we went back to the time before Jerry Meek.

We need to build up the party until it's an unstoppable juggernaught. Being small and lean and mean and writing LTE does not give us enough leverage to make the sort of MAJOR changes that we need to take back control of our government and once we do make sure that the big money donors don't control things.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Alexandra Forter Sirota

Of the NC Justice Center speaking about the economy:

300,000 NC jobs lost since 2007

Due to recession-generated revenue loss, state can no longer afford to fund important services (health, libraries, etc.0

State needs to leverage assets like higher education and strong manufacturing base to build economy.

Revenue system needs revamping, is not sufficient for our needs.

Marybe McMillan

of the AFL-CIO spoke about the need for Democrats and Progressives to support organized labor, instead of opposing it (like so many do).

* I had more, but I lost it. :(

I know that our platform...

...supports organized labor, but for some reason our party leaders don't ask out elected public officials to support organized labor.

There is a disconnect between the party platform and our party leaders and elected public officials who don't feel there is a need to work to turn the party platform into public policy.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Michelle Cotton-Laws

of the NAACP:

Highest poverty rate since the 1960's

Race and gender also play a role in the number of people moving into poverty

Democrats have the nerve to put education funding on the chopping block, when education (still) has so many problems, many of which impact those in poverty

Need to utilize the media and tell the stories about who's suffering (and who isn't)

Speak truth to power about corruption in politics

Pete McDowell


The phrase "Climate Change" was banned by Democrats in this election

Not just an issue of the future, Climate Change is killing people right now in the third world

First priority should be to shut down all coal-burning plants in the state

NC emits more carbon from fossil fuel than 146 countries

CWIP now allows utilities to charge (us) for nuke plant construction, even if the plant never comes online

May not be able to pass good energy (generation) legislation, but we can make up a lot of ground on efficiency

Dan Besse

W/S City Councilman:

Legislature has great power, can rewrite codes and regulations that could set us back 40 years

Ability to fine/punish polluters will be drastically cut back

Probable repeal of coastal conservation rules, stormwater rules, land use rules, air quality rules, etc.

John Heuer

from Peace Action:

NCPA giving out 5 awards today (in Raleigh)

Jan 15/16 Quaker House Greensboro College holding a seminar

9/11 Commission evidence was arrived at via torture

Military Industrial Complex won't run out of "enemies" anytime soon

NC's share of Afghanistan funding for next year matches our state's projected budget deficit

Adam Sotak

from Democracy NC:

How do we build the base and bring more people into active involvement?

In ten years we will be South Carolina :) It's not funny, but it is

Photo ID (to vote) coming very soon, we must oppose adamantly

Need to organize and work together

Democrats missed a huge opportunity at the national level to enact election reform

Now the Right will push things the other way

Governor Perdue needs to stand up to the new majority and use her veto. If they want to override it, make 'em work for it.

I detest Tom Fetzer, and the GOP is devoid of compassion, but

the Democratic Party (in NC and nationally) is indeed "hapless." Incompetent, too. And the PDNC is a part of that. Just where are the "leaders" of the Wake Progressive Dems this weekend? In the mountains, at the Beach, you name it, but not at PDNC's convention.

Perhaps they don't want to own up to their total incompetence and the result of that incompetence on Nov. 2nd? And PDNC's leaders won't fess up either. Ask the PDNC's officers whether they will go separate ways from OFA, or if they will continue to take marching orders from ignorant and incompetent leaders at the Goodwin House?

OK sure, there is blame to go all around. But who is going to accept responsibility and get progressives on the road to organizational competence?

Please pass along that question for me. I was too pissed off to even go to the event today.

Martha Brock

I'm not even sure

I'll get a chance to ask a question of my own, and you want me to use that chance to make your arguments for you?

Pissed off or not, if you wanted that asked, you should have shown up.

It's time to take a good long and hard look at the last two year

No offense to anyone in particular, but these last 2 years were a nightmare. For me it began in June 2008 when ObFA began to tear down the DNC's 50 state-strategy across the country, and tore down the NCDP's 100 county-strategy here in NC (does anyone remember "Constructing Victory"?). It continued when ObFA promised the Wake Dems (and I am sure other county parties) the list of ObFA volunteers after the election if the parties gave information to the campaign - then went back on their word, claiming since some vols weren't Dems and only supported Obama (Plouffe estimates this at 20%), we couldn't have any of the names.

Come on now - we all know what this was really about. The Obama campaign wanted to keep those names for themselves, so they could turn their campaign volunteers into their own private army of advocates - who would not have any other distractions to keep them from doing exactly what they were told to do, and nothing more (like support someone else who supported the things on Obama's original agenda after Obama began deviating from it). Then in 2011, OrgFA would turn itself back around into ObFA to run the president's re-election campaign. But whatever you call it - OFA has a miserable track record of election losses for anyone other than President Obama. Clearly what works for the "One" doesn't work for everyone else down ballot - and that's a significant losing record that some Obamaniacs blame on a weak party, weak candidates, etc. How they can blame the Democratic Party for those losses after 2006 and 2008 is beyond me. 2008 was great for some Dems, but we only got 60 votes in the Senate and too many of them were Blue Dogs easy for the lobbyists to buy off!

And while not having the Obamaniacs questioning the direction he was taking, they also had to deal with the Democratic Party activists who still had the means to make significant changes on their own independent of Obama or his campaign - through electing their own officers, and voting on their own platform and resolutions. Problem is - Obama or OFA couldn't just shut the doors and change the locks - so they starved the party of leadership and resources. Over at Goodwin House, I'd say that we were about 5-7 warm bodies short of being up to full strength - which is about the same number of paid staffers statewide over at OrgFA.

So what did we have after the 2008 win? Jerry Meek knew he was on his way to a real full-time paying job, marriage and kids (though still no answer on the diaper duty yet). Progressives and other party activists wanted to find someone who had Jerry's background in party activism and commitment to the grassroots. Several people indicated an interest in the job, including Jim Neal and perennial favorite David Parker (who again deferred to the Governor's wishes) when Bev Perdue endorsed David Young to be NCDP chair. Following a whilrwind campaign for the job funded by Nexus Strategies, David won - beating out longtime party activist and Congressional District Chair Luke Hyde and former Kissell campaign manager Danni Montgomery.

What happened next? Within days after losing big time in 2008, the GOP was claiming that 2012 began the day after the election, and they meant it. ObFA sat on their asses for months, before deciding to be absorbed into the DNC to preserve it for Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. In our state party, we did nothing. Most of the staff from Jerrys' term had left shortly after the election to get new and hopefully better paying jobs in the new administrations. Only Kristen Ward and Jerimee Richer were left over, and their days were numbered. David didn't hire a new Executive Director until April or May when he hired someone from Heath Shuler's staff (who was dating former ED Caroline Valland). His next hires were Kerra Bolton, brought back to Goodwin House after working a few months for Janet Cowell. He hired Jon Lucas as the State Political Director, and C. Payne Lucas as state field director (from ObFA and his dad's relationship with Obama in DC). Jon and C. Payne were going to hire 5 regional field directors, and proceeded to hire a crew of people who were mostly working on the Obama campaign who came in from out of state. There was really only one person in those hires who had any real party experience, and word is that one of the hires wasn't even registered as a Democrat before the 2008 election. All 5 were produced at the late August 2009 SEC meeting - and 3 of them were dispatched to Charlotte to work on the Anthony Foxx campaign that the party threw $750K at to win. By the time of the 2009 general elections, both Jon and C. Payne Lucas were gone, and we lost one RFD. There was still no real effort to build the party in 2009, or really get out the vote for the critical 2009 local elections at the state level and in many counties.

There was no effort to build the party in 2010 - it was all about winning elections. What happens when we don't win elections AND we don't spend time building the party? We get doubly screwed! Now we need to spend the time between now and the early 2011 preparing for two things: the NCDP officer elections and precinct organization.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Make the party about public, not the servants

What criteria should we use for picking our next state party chair?

I suggest that it's time to do the following:

  • only pick someone who has a real resume of experience in the party as a officer at the precinct, county, district or state level - which would include SEC and DNC members. No more candidates with no party organization experience - no matter who endorses them.
  • Look for candidates for all offices that have no ties or umbilical cords between any campaigns or elected leader - from Obama, through congressional candidates, down through Bev and other state elected public officials.
  • This also means no more covering up for ethics problems or front men for the money laundering operations.
  • We need someone who will follow the NCDP Plan Of Organization to the letter, and if the plan needs to be re-written to make it clearer and easier to follow, let's do it. Then we can tweak it from time to time to suit situations as they come up. No more ignoring the Plan.
  • We need someone who can work full-time for the grassroots party volunteers, officers and activists - not the candidates, campaigns or the consultants. The Republicans pay Fetzer a full-time salary and he gives them their money's worth, even though he takes his marching orders from Art Pope & Co.
  • We should be working hard to get folks elected to public office who will work to turn our party platform into public policy - not make campaign promises to get us to work and vote for them, then break them when the lobbyists knock on their doors!

Yes there is more money to be made by sucking up to the big-money donors, but the other side is going to win that fight. We need someone who can assemble and inspire the troops to get out the vote for every Democrat on the slate - not just the well-financed ones. We need someone who can go on camera and deliver our message as often as possible - not someone part-time. And we need experienced staff who know the state and the people in it - and who are known by the party activists! We have enough great active Dems in the state who have earned the job more than any out of state folks who have no party experience whatsoever!

It's time to tell the big money donors that we need them to fund the same network of foundations and non-profits to support and market the Democratic Party that Art Pope is doing pretty much single-handedly. OrgFA should have been doing part of that job, instead of just blindly getting folks to support the President's "agenda du jour".

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Do you want me to recite that

word for word, or can I summarize?

That was a joke, of course.

Rob Schofield

from NC Policywatch:

There are grounds for optimism

Football analogy: each individual player only needs to focus on his specific job. Don't let the big picture freak you out, just keep doing what you can

LTE's, attending government meetings and speaking out, and other seemingly fruitless endeavors can make a difference

"grounds for optimism"

In some ways, as the minority, we now have the easy job.

Throwing stones and obstructionism takes little coordination, deep thought, or effort, and yet the GOP used it very successfully.

Being in the minority is the easy job. Throwing stones is a lot less work than building something meaningful while trying to serve multiple public stakeholders as the NC GOP is about to learn.

I would have loved to focus on my individual job

But every time I was trying to contact a volunteer in my House District to get them to be part of the HD 34 team, they were getting calls from two other people in the Wake County Democratic Party, the NCDP RFD, the big cheese at the Coordinated Campaign (who was probably still OFA), and other small fry at the Coordinated Campaign.

It was pissing volunteers off! And it pissed them off even more that they were being asked to give up days of time and many many minutes of cell phone air time to call people they didn't even know on the other side of the county to ask them to vote - when the county party was ignoring SUSTAINABLE GOTV work (like organizing precincts, turfs and house districts) to get volunteers to knock on doors in their own precincts and ask their neighbors to vote?

We need to build a big party - organized for action - from the precinct on up to the state party and the DNC - that takes marching orders from the Party - not the candidates, campaigns or consultants.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Sorry Martha and Chris

Didn't mean to be snippy, but I was trying to keep up with multiple panelists while also trying to summarize for the readers here, so when I saw your posts I kinda got peeved.

"Three constitutional amendments"

Three constitutional amendments: eminent domain, gay marriage, taxpayer bill of rights

Are they likely to pull them all on the ballot in 2011, or in 2012, or some in both? Any sense of what is coming when?

Out of those three,

my guess is they would hit eminent domain first. Probably be the easiest (least contentious), and there's an extremely vocal element that would roast the Republicans if they didn't.

Dunno about the other two, but the budget battle is going to be tough, and may be the next thing they focus on.

Thanks, Steve

Sorry to leave you in a lurch at the meeting. I got a call during lunch and had to go help my daughter. Should have said my goodbyes, but you know me. Thanks very much for picking up the pieces and reporting on the excellent afternoon speakers.

My pleasure

I figured you got called away for something or another. It was a great panel discussion, but time was a little tight.

Two post meeting observations

First, there were 2.5 African Americans (one was there only for the afternoon) out of 40 or so attendees. So much for any influence on the Art Pope boycott. Related, half the folks I talked with had little knowledge of Art Pope and the influence he's buying.

Second, the average age of attendees was probably in the 50-ish range.

We have a mountain to climb, folks. And it's a lot steeper than I thought.

Well I can say

that I've heard way more about Art Pope's influence than I've heard about the PDNC.

I've barely heard of PDNC, and that is almost exclusively from BlueNC. I had no idea they were having any sort of meeting until I logged on the BlueNC this evening... after the meeting had already taken place (not to mention who is allowed to go? members only? is there a cost associated? etc... whereas for the OCDP convention a while back I heard about it several times in advance from multiple sources & ended up going).

I've heard about Art Pope here and Facebook, so for the record, you're ahead in terms of marketing info about Pope's influence as compared to PDNC marketing its existence (from my perspective). How was there a meeting of dems (progressive or otherwise) in Orange County and it didn't even make it too Carrboro Anarchist Bookfair is on their calendar for the day, but not this event.

For comparison I've heard about NC Farm Team on here, dkos, phb, facebook, twitter too I believe, and bought in enough to help spread the word about them a little bit.

So I guess my point is keep up the good work James, you're ahead of the curve compared to some, and keep casting as wide of a net as possible.


Random side note... has there been any discussion of where the former Elaine campaign staff and volunteers are directing their resource & efforts now?


Didn't anyone at this meeting talk about the failure of leadership in the Democratic Party since 2008 and what the Progressives can do about it?

That's the number one issue we need to worry about - not what the Repugs are gonna do. We know it's back to knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing neanderthals. I don't need to hear Chris Fitzsimon and Gene Nichols to tell me that. I need them to tell us what went wrong in the election and how to fix what ails the Democratic Party - and see if what they think matches up with what I thought. Or see if it's even possible to fix things in the party!

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

Yes, that was discussed

Maybe not as much as you would have wished, but problems with the (state) party's lack of focus, its (unnecessary) attempts to appear more moderate, the way many elected Dems kowtow to corporations, etc., were brought up by both speakers and the group itself.

And just so you know, if you don't want to read about how screwed up the Republicans are and the damage they're (going to be) doing to our state, then you can expect to be very unsatisfied with BlueNC in the near future. Because we're going to dog their fricking footsteps like never before.

what I want to know is -

how do we take our party BACK?

Did Nichols or Fitzsimon ever discuss what the NCDP did in particular that was hapless, or what they did that worked?

What about separating the party from the campaigns or the consultants?

I already know the Republicans are going to be doing damage. Why state the obvious? None of the moderate Republicans or the UNA voters we need to re-educate will be reading this.

Chris Telesca
Wake County Verified Voting

I'll probably regret this, but...

take back the Party from whom? People who have been involved for too long and have developed too many connections, or those that haven't been involved long enough to know what they're doing? Both? Or do we need to take back the Party from the handful of volunteers in each county who have taken the time to try to organize it? Separate the Party from all campaigns, including the fresh faces, or just separate it from the "establishment" types like Bev Perdue and Co.? If so, who determines the good, bad and ugly?

As far as your apparent contempt for the efforts of people like Chris Fitzsimon, let me just say this: The NC Justice Center and entities that fall under said umbrella have provided an incredible and priceless service in exploring and defining good government, and have blazed a progressive trail for Democrats to follow, if they only will. They are an asset for people like you who want to reshape the Party, not a hindrance.