Building a Democratic Party that Wins Part 1



By
Liano
14 March 17
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It was standing room only. Many meetings were overflowing into the halls. Elections were often chaotic. Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) officials, staff, and volunteers were overwhelmed by the turnout. Some couldn’t run a large meeting smoothly. Some didn’t know their own rules. In at least one caucus, voter intimidation and intentional violations of the rules were reported.

Such was the scene at the MDP Spring Convention held February 11th.

None of this is new. The reported voter intimidation and intentional rules violations occurred in Congressional District 13 (CD13) — CD13 had the same problem two years ago. To their credit, the MDP Appeals Committee made them re-run their 2015 election, to ensure a fair process. That’s likely to happen again this year.

In CD12, the sitting caucus chair ran the meeting and the election. He’s held the position for at least two years, but still didn’t know the rules. When we raised a point of order, the MDP parliamentarian was called in. According to the MDP website, the parliamentarian is the statutory officer of the MDP charged with knowing the rules. He didn’t.

I read the rules before the convention. They’re actually quite good in most places. The authors intended to ensure minority opinions would be heard, and  leadership would be gender-balanced; core Democratic Party values are mostly well protected. The rules weren’t the problem.

The problem was, the rules were broken. As a result, MDP members were disenfranchised of their voice in the party. For many, it was their very first experience with the Democratic Party. Michigan for Revolution intends to make sure it’s doesn’t end up being their last.

On 24 February, Michigan for Revolution filed five appeals with the MDP on behalf of every MDP member who turned out to support progressive democracy. On Monday the 27th, we sent out a press release about the appeals. We’re happy to report that, so far, top MDP leadership has expressed a strong desire to handle these issues fairly and transparently.

However, we’re hearing that some MDP members are upset we filed any appeals at all. More are unhappy we sent out a press release about them.

The few that object to the appeals themselves don’t seem to believe we newcomers could possibly know the rules better than MDP officers. They claim we’re just sore losers.

Michigan for Revolution won 50 seats on the State Central Committee. We also won Progressive Caucus Chair and a majority on the Progressive Caucus Executive Committee, among other positions. We won those seats fair and square.

We also lost many seats fair and square. We ran candidates for Progressive Caucus Vice-Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary and lost those fair and square. We ran many more candidates in many congressional districts where we lost fair and square. Fair is fair.

There are 14 congressional districts in Michigan. We’re appealing the results in four of them. In those four CDs, we didn’t lose fair and square. We lost because rules were broken. Everyone is welcome to read our appeals here.

I personally spent over two weeks buried in MDP rules. Not because I want to hurt the Democratic Party, but because I — and Michigan for Revolution — want to help heal it. First, we want to heal the damage done to new MDP members, many of them progressives, Michigan for Revolution folks and others. They showed up to vote their conscience. They showed up to fight for a more progressive Democratic Party. They deserve to have their voices heard at the full volume due their numbers under the rules. We will not sit idly by while they are disenfranchised.

Second, we want to heal the damage done by decades of rumor and innuendo too often grounded in some concrete facts. The Democratic Party has a reputation. Rules are confusing, often not followed; cliques and in-groups break or abuse rules as they please, exclude and silence newcomers and new ideas; wealthy donors wield disproportionate power through their pocketbooks. I know the MDP has this reputation because I and others spent nine weeks busting our butts to recruit new MDP members; we got many more than a few earfuls of it.

Deserved or not, this reputation exists among many who could be allies and activists. The proof is the number of strong progressives we brought into the party, despite nearly every single one of them wondering if the whole exercise was a waste of their time – because of that reputation. It’s a sucking wound, undermining and eroding public confidence in the Democratic Party.

For those upset at our press release, I have a question for you. What’s your plan for restoring public confidence in the Democratic Party?

Michigan for Revolution has a plan for restoring public confidence in the Democratic Party, and making Democrats win again in Michigan.

First, be transparent. Transparency in government is a core Democratic value. Let the public see all the problems. This is an opportunity to feed the soil where trust can grow.

Second, work with us to solve the problems. Publicly. Fairly and equitably. Having internal problems doesn’t make a party weak. Not solving them fairly makes a party weak. This is an opportunity for the MDP to show outsiders how they’ll be treated in the party; to show progressives and others they’ll be treated fairly. To demonstrate that the institutional culture of the MDP can be counted on to stand up for the rights of the people over the powerful or the well-connected.

Third, run the party openly. Demonstrate publicly that the problems have been solved fairly and equitably; that the full diversity of voices are satisfied they are being heard; that they have a clear and unobstructed path to representation in proportion to their numbers; that their priorities are being substantively addressed. Live those core Democratic Party values embedded in the MDP rules; build on them.

Public perception problems have to be solved in public, where people can see the steps being taken and the progress made. When we see positive things happening, we’ll send out press releases and write op-eds about those too.

This is our plan to fix the Michigan Democratic Party’s public perception problem. Re-building public trust is a critical first step towards building a Michigan Democratic Party that wins.

Michigan for Revolution wants the Michigan Democratic Party to be strong. We’ve worked hard to win key party positions because we believe building a strong MDP is a potent step towards our goal — electing bold progressives to every local, state, and federal office in Michigan.

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