Home Virginia Politics A Few Suggestions for Reforming DPVA: Non-Tech Edition

A Few Suggestions for Reforming DPVA: Non-Tech Edition


With regard to Dave’s petition demanding change from DPVA, I responded to an email this morning, from a DPVA emissary, which expressed the desire for more specific feedback on the issue of reforming DPVA. An edited version of my response follows.

At this point, we’ve now suffered three years in a row of catastrophic losses at the polls, including 7 House seats and 2 Senate seats a few weeks ago. Given that, it’s clear that the Democratic Party of Virginia is in crisis. That’s why we can’t accept “business as usual” anymore. Instead, we need everyone’s input regarding what course we need to take in order to arrest this alarming, and damaging, slide.

IMHO, here are a few things that need to be drastically changed, as soon as possible:

1. The way DPVA is managed and does business. In this case, for instance, why should I provide my suggestions privately, and not publicly? Why do we need to rely on representatives/emissaries to convey messages from the grassroots, to one DPVA insider, who will then convey that message to other DPVA insiders in private conversations with them?

2. A good, Democratic friend of mine suggests that one of the most important single things DPVA could do to begin to change its secretive, hierarchical, insider, top-down, scornful-of-the-netroots management style would be to hold a series of regional meetings in different parts of the state, heavily promoting each meeting in advance, at which many different topics about DPVA’s future could  be discussed. Each meeting would be given many weeks of advance notice. DPVA could use a survey instrument to solicit agenda suggestions, etc. etc. This way, anyone could participate and provide input on any topic. For those unable to attend any meeting, the survey tool could be used to solicit input, and that input should be published for all to see and comment upon.

3. Bringing in young people is important, but I’d go beyond a specific focus on any one group. The issue here is bringing in diverse and NEW people of all kinds. That means the entire Obama coalition — white, suburban/exurban professionals; Latinos; African Americans; Asian Americans; young people; GLBT people; religious minorities; etc. That also means working people, aka “the 99%!” Right now, almost none of those people feel welcome into the party. Just go to any Democratic Committee meeting and you’ll see what I’m talking about – almost monolithic white, older faces, the “same old same old” people who’ve been coming forever, almost looks like a Republican Party meeting. Not good at all. Why is this?  A whole host of reasons, but I can say from attending local committee meetings, I’m not sure how many working people, members of communities that haven’t historically been political “insiders,” etc. are going to spend three hours on a weekday evening to listen to reports from the deputy treasurer of the committee on the upcoming fundraiser, endless introduction of elected official who happen to be at the meeting, or whatever other mind-numbing, unexciting, non-relevant (to normal peoples’ lives) stuff is going on there.  Make the meetings relevant, interesting, convenient, and fun. Ditch the current agenda and try some totally new things.  Give people a real feeling of ownership, inclusiveness, relevance, power. Then see what happens.

4. DPVA, and many of our elected officials, are clueless about, and even contemptuous of, new/social media, and those who use new/social media. They are also clueless about and even contemptuous of the netroots/grassroots/progressive activists. In the Republican Party, in contrast, they embrace their conservative activists, even ones who are outright bigots, extremists, etc. In the Democratic Party, even mainstream progressives (as we are here at Blue Virginia) and Democrats “from the Democratic wing of the party” (again, as we are here at Blue Virginia) are shunned, given the cold shoulder, made to feel unwelcome, attacked, compared to the Tea Party (by some of the top leaders in the party, including a certain soon-to-be senior Senator), etc. And then they wonder why progressive activists are not happy? At least when we were winning elections, we could sort of swallow these attitudes, but now that we’re losing, why should we?

5. I’d also add that we have some truly egregious people in high positions in DPVA and even on the Democratic National Committee. For instance, Lionell Spruill is utterly incompetent, a clown, a turncoat, and a bigot against anyone who’s not a Christian (by his definition). Spruill actually went so far as to say, on the radio, that he would NOT support the Democratic opponent to REPUBLICAN Randy Forbes in 2010 (Dr. Wynne LeGrow) because Spruill wasn’t “going to hell behind no Democrat” who happened to be an “atheist.” Spruill made it quite clear that the only acceptable Democrats are ones who are Christians (by his definition). So much for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics, atheists, etc, etc. Again, this guy is in a position of leadership in the Democratic Party?  What message does that send?

5a. Then, there’s Brian Moran, who is utterly compromised by the fact that he is highly compensated to work, every day, for the for-profit, scam “education” industry lobby, pushing poor kids, minorities, veterans, etc. into accruing huge amounts of student loan debt for mostly worthless degrees. This is all done for tremendous profit, of course, not for the public good. As if that’s not all bad enough, the money here comes straight from the pockets of you and me – the taxpayers – and into the pockets of wealthy parasites like Brian Moran. It’s a super-slimy scam, in other words, and a mockery of EVERYTHING the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for. For that reason alone – and there are many others, including gross political incompetence – Brian Moran needs to go. Now.

6. We need Democracy in the Virginia Democratic Party. Rip up the steering committee and central committee and start all over again. Open up elections to anyone and everyone. The party chair should NEVER AGAIN be chosen behind closed doors by a few powerful insiders. Same thing with the 1st vice chairs and others. Speaking of the latter, those need to be selected based on MERIT, period — NOT based on who knows who, etc.

Those are just a few ideas. I’m sure I could come up with many more. But, frankly, why bother? It seems highly unlikely that any of these ideas will ever get anywhere, so it’s all probably a waste of time. That’s why I stick to bottom-up progressive activities, which I feel have the potential to get real results (e.g., Draft James Webb 2006). As for DPVA, I’m not sure I see any point to expending effort on it at all, as it’s pretty much just a conduit for shuffling around campaign money and getting a lower postal rate for candidates. Whatever.

  • truthteller

    This is another Key function DPVA should be playing. Policing the  Loudoun and VA Beaches Dem Cmtes of the world when they break down in disarray and dissension and holding the leaders accountable — to the point of forcing resignations if the committee wants to see state dollars spent in their jurisdiction if necessary. This would compel local committees which have been dysfunctional for years to find leaders who could work effectively both locally and with the state committee. And no one else but DPVA can police this regularly….  

  • kindler

    …with everything you said — except the “why bother” part.  I can think of a lot of reasons to bother, including one that begins with “Cucci” and ends with “nelli”.  We have to raise these points, and eventually they must prevail, or we’ll all be stuck in a third-world state.

    One more issue you didn’t raise is the conflict between the more modern and more traditional areas of the state.  NOVA has a highly educated, highly diverse population with some very serious issues — transportation, hello? — that the downstate good ol’ boy politicians are ignoring in most every way.  

    We need to apply some of what’s working for Democrats in Arlington and Fairfax to more of the state.  I’ve learned from some of the comments on BV how poor the state of organization and training is in many of the local committees.  How about some sort of peer matching program where we send leaders from some of the top performing committees to help train some of the poorly performing ones?

    We have to stop writing so many districts off, as the Senate and House shamefully did this cycle, and spread our tendrils far and wide, with a vision of expansion and success, not one of contraction to just protect incumbents with no plan for the future.

  • kindler

    …is innovative, entrepreneurial leadership, as opposed to the current crop of cobwebbed, unimaginative, old school antiques.  We need leaders who combine energy and vision, like Mike Signer, Greg Werkheiser and Peter Rouselot.  

    It’s not about having a “savior” but about finding someone with the skills and imagination to tap all the smarts and energy and enthusiasm in the netroots, grassroots, high tech community, etc., that DPVA right now is simply excluding and ignoring.

  • Mike1987

    Time to abandon the old. They won’t change so leave them to history. Time to pressure our Delegates and State Senators to abandon DPVA or get abandoned by their volunteers and money supporters. I have told that to Marsden and Bulova. I have given my time and my money. Next round, I will abandon them if they continue to support an organization that is beyond life support.

    DPVA will not change because of us. They will change because power wants and needs the money of, and the volunteers for their own campaigns.  This is where we pressure. Screw DPVA – Put the pressure on our Delegates and Senators. That I feel is where we can have a change.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    According to the DPVA Party Plan, “Members of the Central Committee may form caucuses within the Central Committee. Such caucuses may provide an organizational focus for members of a constituency group who are members of the Central Committee; present issues and act as an advocate for members of the group within the Virginia Democratic Party.”

    Perhaps we need a progressive caucus of like-minded Central Committee members who will then aggressively “present issues and act as advocates for members of the group.”

    There are other requirement for a recognized caucus in Article 4 of the plan, but the very act of seeking to organize one might make some “fossils” sit up and take notice. I use the word “fossil” to mean those party leaders who are frozen in a past that no longer exists, i.e., the time when Democrats could be the state majority party simply by sticking a D after their name on the ballot.  

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    I have told person after person at the DPVA and elsewhere that I don’t see how we can compete with the GOP in Viginia without answering the one question that voters have, whether they express it or not: “Why should I vote for the Democrat on the ballot?” That’s the gist of any party’s message.

    It is crystal clear what the message of the GOP is: They are for cutting taxes and essential public services, ending regulation of business, weakening protection of the environment, while at the same time wanting to regulate your private sex lives, especially the behavior of women and what the GOP terms deviant sexual behavior between consenting adults.

    Perhaps the DPVA is afraid of standing in opposition to those things and making that opposition its message: We are for everyone paying a fair share of taxes without loopholes that allow some to avoid that, strengthening essential public services, fair and necessary regulation of business, protection of the environmental commons we all inhabit, while ending government interference in the private lives of law-abiding citizens. We are opposed to discrimination that divides citizens, support workers’ right to organize, and stand with the interests of the middle class that built the economic strength of the nation.

    Actually, I know that the DPVA, as presently organized and controlled, would never promote such a message since the money funding it comes from many of the same people who fund the GOP, usually with much larger amounts going to the GOPers. (Sometimes I feel like the Dems are treated as street walkers by the funders who give money to buy them, while the GOPers are high-priced prostitutes, just check figures on VPAP).

    A progressive message, coupled with candidates willing to strongly promote that message seems to me to be the only way the Democratic Party avoids being a permanent minority of backbenchers in the General Assembly. By the way, I firmly believe that in a time of corrupt governance as we have today, a progressive political stance is the winning one. All we need is a Teddy Roosevelt for our time.  

  • tech thread deserves to be reposted here as well, IMHO.

    No Message = No Media Need

    DPVA, as an institution, doesn’t have and has never developed a substantive political message because it doesn’t believe that having such a message is part of DPVA’s mission. Since  DPVA doesn’t believe that having such a message is one of its appropriate functions, DPVA has no incentive at all to use any form of media–new, old, or middle-aged– to disseminate a message.

    Moreover, since DPVA has a governance structure of the insiders, by the insiders, and for the insiders, it has no need for a truly interactive website because DPVA has no interest in interactivity.  

  • Progressive86

    Since many of you have been involved in VA politics for some time now, can you give me some idea of the involvement of young people in the process? How does it relate to different periods of time that you were involved in the political process in VA?

    These questions also have direct and indirect links to at least one of the main themes of this post: the inability or unwillingness of the DPVA to “take up” the power of social media, etc. We all know how important these tools are for getting people active in the political process, but I’d also argue this is all the more true for the younger generations.

    Point is: without the younger generations involved, the DPVA faces an even tougher uphill battle.  

  • sbroy2013