Sunday, November 13, 2016

New DPG Direction: So if you gonna do it, then get to it

While there's talk of new party leadership at the national level, many want to make the same move here in Georgia at the state level. I agree. Chairman Porter, at least, maybe others too, needs to step down and give the party a chance at a fresh approach. This cycle, his chairmanship has mostly been about making Georgia into a national player which was never going to happen. As usual the national candidates came in to extract their fundraising dollars and left us with nothing more than a Facebook pic. Meanwhile, here at home our local/state candidates and Democrats outside of Atlanta metro were left to fend for themselves with very little coordination or support. The election results map really tells the story and mind you Chairman Porter, from Laurens County, was touted as a new voice for rural Georgia Democrats. There were near daily emails from DPG leading up to and including Election Day. Almost a week later and we have not seen any communication from Porter or his Executive Director. Where do we stand now? Will there be postmortem events? How/When will we plan for the road ahead? Silence.

UPDATE: After posting this to facebook, Chairman Porter sent out an email to address where the party stands. No postmortems. More talk of being a battleground state. Question: Even if we acheive that, (we won't) what does that do for our local/state races ahead? That's great for the political elites, but how does that help the rest of us?

There will be an election for a new DNC Chair in March 2017. This only happened because Debbie Wasserman-Schultz resigned after WikiLeaks released some of her emails relating to the primary. Of course, the shocking election results would have led to calls for change at the DNC anyway, but nothing would happen if DWS stayed put. Eventually things would cool down and everything would have gone back to normal.

Thankfully, we don't have any scandal here like the DNC. However that doesn't negate the need for change in our party leadership. What we have been doing, and how we have been doing it, is not working. If something isn't done now, memories/emotions will fade and nothing will be done to set the party on a new path. You may have other reasons, but the changes I'm speaking of would push party activities out beyond the Atlanta metro to really reach and connect with other types of Georgia Democrats. I also want to see more accountability and transparency in party activities, less scrutiny-proof measures built into the bylaws/charter. As I noted in my last post, there are ways of using the existing bylaws and either the State Committee or Executive Committee to create a more inclusive, transparent DPG. However, the current leadership has not shown the desire to develop, communicate and execute a plan to move us forward.

So if you've ever thought of turning the whole DPG apple cart over, it has to start with a vacancy. A party officer, preferably the Chair, has to quit or be asked to leave on his/her own. It's not something that is easy to go through. These are volunteer positions, but lots of effort goes into securing an Officer spot and the organization isn't suited for such turnover. Seriously, the last time an Officer spot was vacated, the guy was just moments away from handcuffs. Even then, party loyalists stood by and looked the other way until the right person called for a change. In the state party, it's not enough to call for changes, as I did often. You have to be the right person. Someone with the stature and tenure established where others party leaders will feel safe to call for a different direction. Yes it shouldn't be that way, but that's the state of our party. In this case, it took a former party Chair to get the vacancy moving.

That said there is a formal removal process hard coded into the bylaws, but the acceptable reasons for removal are a little vague and it's kind of like a trial process that takes some time. Barring some terrible, obvious action, most party leaders would just opt for leaving things as is until the next scheduled election rather than go through a formal removal.

The reason you want to push for a vacancy is because, with the current bylaws, it's really the fastest way to force a meeting. See the only way the body can approve any changes in the organization is with a meeting. If the Chair doesn't call the meeting and set an agenda, it's not going to happen. People may fuss/cry that State Comm. hasn't met and there are other ways for a meeting to be called (see previous post), but truthfully if the Chair/Executive Director doesn't call it - forget it.

With any Officer vacancy, the party has 10 days from when the vacancy occurs to call a special election and invite nominees. Then the election must happen between 60-70 days after that. Yes the state party has been known to overlook a bylaw or two, but this one is glaring and hard to sweep under the rug. Anyway, we don't have proxy voting so the State Comm. will have to physically assemble for that election. 

The current DPG system is not designed for meaningful change that would improve communication, inclusion and planning. Anyone who believes they can work within the current structure and effect meaningful change is deluding themselves. The current system is designed for top down control by an unaccountable leadership. So all of the Progressives, Bernie supporters, disenchanted Conservative Democrats, etc. here are your options for real change in the state party:

1. Storm the Gates
Use every outlet you can, from every channel you can muster to directly and indirectly call for the Chair and/or Officers to step down. It would have to be public and you're gonna get called out for not working with the existing party structure and being the problem, not the solution. You'll have to ignore the ton of rationalizing that will be thrown against you. Also watch out for the opposite effect. You're likely to become a unifying force for the existing structure to remain exactly as is. It's called circling the wagons. You'll need to find groups with similar grievances to unify with and make your assault. Again it would have to be public enough to get people talking about it on their networks. Without that there would be no pressure to respond to a call for leadership change. Then you hope it's enough to get someone, preferably the Chair, to step down.

2. Find the "Right" Democrat(s)
There are a number of figures within the DPG leadership who could probably make some public statements and/or some calls to get enough people to say "It's time". If you successfully attempt #1 for long enough, eventually that person will rise up to quell the storm. Then you go to work on that person to promote change for the good of the party. Elected officials, former party leaders, Chair appointees, DNC reps. These are good categories to consider. You'll have to get a current list of State Committee members to consider this approach. Interesting side note, we use to make the State Comm. list available on the DPG website. It's not that easy to get hold of anymore. I wonder why.

3. Be Patient and Wait
The next Officer elections will take place in January 2019. You could just ride it out and wait until then. The current members of State Comm. will make the selection so you could start working on them now in support of your candidate. See my comment above about finding who these State Comm. members are. Be careful here though, bylaws give the current chair a ton of State Comm. appointments and they can be appointed right up to the election day. No one will really know upfront who those appointees are so you can likely expect close to 40 votes against your candidate right out of the gate. The whole Chair appointee thing absolutely needs to go or be severely limited. It's a very effective tool for protecting the status quo. It's an approach, but my least favorite because we need to make changes and get moving before 2018.

4. Alternative Approach?
There may be another way to get your issues heard and acted upon without burning the whole thing down. You could wait for the next scheduled meeting or force one (see above). Then address State Comm. with your concerns. You could try subset meetings with the Officers and/or Chair and/or Exec. Comm, but it's too easy for stuff to get swept under the rug. There needs to be a hearing or at least the start of a hearing with the ultimate decision making body of the DPG and that's State Comm. Don't expect you will be invited formally on any agenda, but you could organize to address members on their way into the meeting. Perhaps with a willing leadership, you can force bylaws changes that will set things up for approach #3. Takes time and emotions are running high now, but it could be another way to go.

So let's say one or a combination of these approaches meet with success. Then what? What are the specific changes that need to be made? I don't think changing leadership goes far enough. I'm for a major change in the underlying structure and setup of the state party. This can be accomplished with bylaws/charter changes and an active effort to move away from an Atlanta metro focused party. I'll talk about that in a future post. rj

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