Proposed principles for the NC Democratic Party

On behalf of the Progressive Democrats of North Carolina, Delmas Parker has expressed a clear vision for our party and our state. He knows we need a leader in Raleigh who understands why these points are crucial at this juncture in our time.

Friends,

In early 2009, as we elect new officers for the North Carolina Democratic Party, we embark on our greatest challenge in living memory-both as a party and as a country.

I believe that we North Carolina Democrats can meet this challenge, in part, by building a party worthy of our faith and ideals: our Party must give Democrats something to believe in again. We must elect a chair with the vision and energy to lead us into the next decade with new ideas, a chair with the support of the grassroots activists who carry our Party's mantle in good times and bad.

In addition to this vision, energy, and grassroots support, our new chair must inspire Democrats to build a Party that serves all the people, not just the Raleigh lobbyists and special interests. With so many people opting out in the belief that their vote no longer matters, we need a leader who will cultivate a new sense that individual politics does count, and that the Democratic Party still best addresses the life concerns of ordinary people. We need to reconstitute a Democratic Party of real values and practical ideas that address the problems of working families, the young, the old, the weak and infirm.

We need, in my view, a chair independent of executive or legislative office holders, and answerable to the broadly based State Executive Committee, a chair who will advocate for the grassroots party and who will lobby for a legislative agenda that reflects the priorities of local parties.

In electing a chair for 2009-2011, I submit the following criteria for your consideration:

To build the party from the precinct up, allowing issues to percolate from the local precincts to the county, district, and State Executive Committees where decision and prioritization can be reached, and a legislative action agenda formed representing
the rank and file, the grassroots membership, of the Democratic Party.

To place greater emphasis on grassroots, small donor contributions, and use internet opportunities to augment fundraising, putting procedures and internal controls in place to insure an open and transparent audit of the budget including contributions and expenditures with a detailed analysis provided on-line for grassroots membership.

To tie the party together statewide through the interface between technology and grassroots activism, to employ sophisticated internet techniques to recruit volunteers and raise funds, and to poll activists and voters so that we may better respond to their ideas and needs.

To tap into the energy of issue groups, including peace, environmental, reform groups, as well as people of color, to form broad electoral coalitions.

To organize a task force in each of the three regions--an umbrella organization modeled on the Western Task Force--to bind together, under the direction of regional political directors, and the County parties in our western, central and eastern
regions with a common agenda and unified effort. Each region best understands local needs and can best design programs to address those local needs. Each region would be autonomous in designing a regional program for effective political action.

District directors will report to task force chairs, and will be funded through tax check off funds.

To revise and amend the Plan of Organization to better link our party's platform and resolutions to action by Democratic legislators.

To provide for virtual State Executive Committee meetings and conventions in each of the state's regions by using distance learning links at selected community college sites in the eastern, central, and western regions.

To share revenues with county parties through the tax check-off committee based on an accountability formula in each county such as voter turnout, performance or voter registration.

To develop more democratic institutions at every level of our election process-- starting with campaign finance reform.

The election of State Party officers will be the main item of business when the Winter meeting of the NCDP Executive Committee convenes January 31 in Raleigh.

If you can support these points or if you have questions or suggestions, please contact me. Thank you for all that you do for our Party.

Sincerely,

Delmas Parker

Comments

Pay the state chair

I think we need to make the state chair position a paid position.

“We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.” ~ Barack Obama

amity or combat?

We should certainly demand a Chair willing to sign on to these principles. The Chair should be independent of the Executive and Legislative branches. The State Party should share its revenues with the county parties and should be a library of innovation and information.

I agree the Chair should be a paid position. Making it so will attract better candidates and will further take it from beneath the Executive Branch's shadow.

The SEC should take a hard look at its own structure. 700+ is too many to be functional. The Repugs State Executive Committee in NC raises money and runs its own ads, for ex. Wouldn't it make sense to have a free standing organization of County Chairs?

The advantage in these or similar organization is that they keep the party from centralizing in Raleigh, which is the worst thing for our future.

One could argue that the party will have to accommodate the new folks, rather than trying to make them fit into the old molds which, over the last generation, has so reduced our numbers and our strength. We only get one chance at keeping these new folks, remember.

Great points.

Your last sentence struck me hardest. How do we keep the young people who were so engaged in this election? There has to be a vitality to the party in order to keep them. They need to see a direct impact of their activism. Hell, we all need that.

It's not only the Repugs that are in need of an upgrade. If the Dems are going to emerge through this rough time, we have to take ourselves on more than we ever have before.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

Young people

I know here in Haywood, our party can barely keep a website up.

We need cutting edge connectivity via the web and email and podcasts and RSS feeds, to keep young people (and a few of us old farts) energized and committed. We need to build on the organizational foundation established by the incredible Obama ground game here in NC. And we need seamless web-based organization and communications from the state party all the way to the precinct officers.

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The measure of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. - FDR

compatibilitity

Amen to both.

It is important to acknowledge that the swarm-like structure of the O Wave is not compatible with the typically hierarchical architecture of the traditional party. There is no automatic or even easy integration of either one into the other. This is why the new folks preferred free- standing operations to working through existing party structures.

My fear is that the O Wave will drift away from us, looking for new interests or for arenas which offer more in the way of social commitment than we do. If we want to remain in contact, to "keep dating," we need to bring attractive opportunities to them, rather than trying to shoe-horn these free spirits into our tired old clothes.

Our antique party communication is a case in point. The O Wave blew past us, establishing local interest groups that attracted whole new populations. While I believe the NC party must decentralize, there are things that the state party can do for the counties, and one of them is Information and its Dissemination. As I said earlier, I see the State Party as a Library: spreading good ideas, acquiring the new technology, making resources and personnel available to the counties and districts. Why, for ex, should every candidate for Congress or the G.A. either have to reinvent the wheel or wait for the Caucuses to dole out their favors?

There is a natural ebb and flow with each national election. New people rush the old hands who keep the parties going. Then, afterwards, the new people drift away, and the old hands assume control of the machinery until the next time. This pattern needs to be broken, because it is a recipe for shrinking a party.

Again, great points.

And, the last sentence is the most pointed.

Is there anyone in our state that you think understands this reality and has a leadership capacity? There must be some shinning stars who came in from the O Wave.

Progressive Democrats of North Carolina

I don't see a disconnect

between the grassroots and the NCDP, I see a disconnect between the NCDP and the members it helps to get elected to the General Assembly. The death of the bullying bill made that painfully obvious, but it's only one of number of issues where elected Democrats chose to ignore/forget the Party platform and the precinct-up organization that approved said platform.

The NCDP can organize, energize, grass-root-ize all it wants to, but when the rubber meets the road on the General Assembly floor, all of that energy doesn't amount to dry shit if that vast organization is ignored and patronage takes over. I am by no means impugning all elected Democrats, as there are quite a few really good ones. But even if those good ones represent half of the elected Democrats (I'm being gracious), the progressive mandate is already stillborn and reviving it would take a miracle.

The platform has to mean something. And not just as a "hopeful" ideological wish-list, either. If a Blue-Dog doesn't agree with the platform, then let them change parties and see what happens. If an already-elected Democrat acts in conflict with the Party platform, there should be consequences. Should the Party take sides in Primary challenges? Oh, hell yes. Vigorously. As far as I'm concerned, that's "Step One" in honoring the grass roots influence that leads up to the ideas that the Party stands for.

If the Party doesn't respect the Democratically-arrived-at platform enough to defend it, then nobody will.

I have some concerns with some of these ideas ...

Particularly ....

If an already-elected Democrat acts in conflict with the Party platform, there should be consequences. Should the Party take sides in Primary challenges? Oh, hell yes. Vigorously.

An elected official of any party should be primarily answerable to his/her constituents. "Consequences" to me implies some sort of punitive action. If you mean withholding party funds or other active assistance, perhaps that's ok, but not sanctions, other public rebukes, or active opposition.

As a county chair for nearly 6 years, I have maintained my effectiveness in November because I kept my mouth shut in May. I seem to recall much discourse on BlueNC reviling Chuck Shumer and the DSCC over "annointing" Kay Hagan way back when. I also read on various blog sites (Kos?) of Rahm Emmanual being taken to task for favoring moderate Dems in a few 2006 congressional primaries over more progressive Dems. You can't have it both ways. By making it ok to for the Party at any level to interfer in a primary, the doors would open up to a multitude of civil wars that could enflame the party at every level. Besides, I expect such interference would only be desireable if the party leadership thinks the way you do. Perhaps their standards for determining which candidates to support are different from yours, ala 2006 Emmanuel and 2008 Hagan/Neal. Then you'd want them to butt out of the primaries, but the damage would already be done.

Ideally a democratic candidate would follow all or most of the party platform as matter of course, but demanding 100% adherence or else, feels like ring kissing to me. Realistically, the party will have influence in primaries, especially in the prefiling period as prospective candidates float trial ballonns past the party leadership. I would hope that any other influence tends toward the passive, and that overtly the NCDP will try to remain neutral and let the voters be the primary "deciders".

Person County Democrats

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

I should have been more specific

demanding 100% adherence or else

My intent with the phrase "acts in conflict" was not about a few deviations from the platform, it was about a lot of deviations. There's probably only a handful of elected Democrats that agree 100%.

And withholding funds or other assistance would be just fine with me.

Besides, I expect such interference would only be desireable if the party leadership thinks the way you do.

You got it backwards there. First there came the platform, a direct reflection of the Party leadership's opinions, and then came Steve's admiration for it. I'm not trying to promote my agenda, I'm trying to get them to back up their own agenda.

OK, this I can agree with

I'm trying to get them to back up their own agenda.

You are 100% correct; no point having a platform if it sits and gathers dust on a shelf at NCDP HQ. My worry here is what about conflict between the party platform and a candidate's constituency? Where do you draw the line between what is acceptable deviance form the platform and what is not? Can such a determination even be made in purely objective terms?

I am still concerned about the NCDP (or any level of party leadership) being too active in primaries. The NCDP sets the tone for the district and county party leadership, and I'd hate to see debilitating factionalisms develop at the various party levels. Imagine the Wake Co. Dem Party endorsing a slate of candidates in a primary for county commissioner. But one of the nonendorsed candidates turns out to be a strong candidate. That situation would provide some very dry tinder just waiting for a spark.

Person County Democrats

I actively oppose gerrymandering. Do you?

It's worth a try, anyway

Can such a determination even be made in purely objective terms?

Well, one way to assess a candidate's compatibility with the NCDP Platform is to have them fill out a questionnaire (strongly agree/agree/no position/disagree/strongly disagree) which would produce a "score". One of the advantages of doing this is to get them to deal with each point (education) and examine their own beliefs (self-analysis). And if they choose to fudge here and there? Well, that might be on their mind when a vote comes up on the GA floor.

My worry here is what about conflict between the party platform and a candidate's constituency?

Then maybe the candidate/county party/state party needs to spend more time and resources educating the constituency. :)

Look, I understand some districts are more conservative than others, and I don't think we should shoot ourselves in the foot. But most of those platform positions are both progressive and easy to sell, even to center-rights.