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.