Home Virginia Politics DPVA Central Committee Members Respond to My RNC/DPVA Comparison Piece

DPVA Central Committee Members Respond to My RNC/DPVA Comparison Piece


The following analysis of the state of the Democratic Party of Virginia was written by a DPVA Central Committee member, in part responding to an email I received (which I shared with him) critical of this article, “Is the RNC Chair Election More ‘democratic’ than the DPVA’s?” Note that the critical email was unusual, in that 99% of the feedback I’ve received on that article has been positive. Also, I welcome anyone – including the individual who sent me the private email – who wants to post a diary defending the DPVA’s performance the past few years, its process in selecting a new chair (and, for that matter, 1st Vice Chair), etc. That should be fascinating. 😉  With that, here’s the Central Committee member’s take on the current state of the DPVA (bolding added by me for emphasis):

The governance structure of DPVA is very bureaucratic and hierarchical. The personality profiles of the members of the DPVA Steering Committee (as distinguished from the DPVA Central Committee) are very well suited to taking orders and carrying them out. Many of the members of the Steering Committee have been members for 8, 12, 15 years or more. The type of person who makes doing this a career, generally speaking, is not a risk-taker, but rather what I would call a “minder”: someone who gets a lot of gratification from the limited power of minding the store.

In the last decade, with two Democratic governors in a row, DPVA’s culture got even more entrenched in taking orders from the Democratic governor on major issues–for both good and ill. When McDonnell beat Deeds, this group of “followers/minders” was left at sea, but they did not change their personalities.

Enter Senator Mark Warner, a former DPVA Chair, who decided that he would “hand-pick” the new Chair and line up all other major Democratic leaders (Saslaw, Whipple, Armstrong, Webb) before anyone else…even knew there was an opening. Warner’s reasons for annointing Brian Moran may have been complex, but insuring that DPVA got the best Chair available, or a Chair chosen in a truly democratic process, certainly was not a paramount consideration. Mark Warner himself wants DPVA to do things that are in his own complex mosaic of interests. This is why…it is never good to have a Democratic committee–at any level–overly dependent on any one individual.

If Mark Warner had really wanted the best person to be chosen as DPVA Chair, and if he had wanted that decision to have been made by the end of 2010, he would have orchestrated a process under which Cranwell would have announced in March or April of 2010 that he was resigning, effective December 31, 2010, and he would have encouraged the minders at DPVA to set up a multi-month process of encouraging multiple candidates to run, and having candidate forums around the state at which the real grassroots of the Democratic party could have asked questions.

Alternatively, if Cranwell himself and DPVA really were a democratic and grassroots-oriented organization, Cranwell himself, without Mark Warner, would have made that announcement on his own in March or April of 2010, and Cranwell would have organized such a process. (Precisely because DPVA is not such an organization, the latter course of action would have been impossible.]

We all know that there were several other candidates for DPVA Chair who feared for their political futures if they stepped up to challenge Mark Warner’s choice of Brian Moran, and therefore were unwilling to do so.

While there are, indeed, quite a number of true grassroots activists on the DPVA Central Committee, any characterization of that Committee itself as a grassroots organization is simply absurd. It is an organization very hostile to change.

…Cranwell’s shocking decision to inject an auction into the middle of the {DPVA Chair} election highlighted the woefully inadequate state of DPVA’s finances, showing that a 21st Century political party in a major swing state depends on “bake sale” financing to try to keep its ship afloat.

{this final paragraph has been significantly edited to protect peoples’ identities)

Because of their background supporting progressive candidates and their experience in grassroots politics, at least one DPVA Central Committee members fancies himself as a grassroots activist–which he used to be at one time. But now, in 2011, he definitely has left all that behind in fact though not in rhetoric, and is now part of the problem rather than part of the solution.