I really don’t want to write about the North Carolina Democratic Party and had decided that I wasn’t going to, regardless of who was chosen as the new executive director this weekend. However, with the news that the party only has $60,000 cash on hand and is considering giving up the Goodwin House, I need to get a few things off my chest.
I don’t know the new ED, Casey Mann, so I don’t know if she’s competent or not. But I saw that less than half of the 53 members of the executive council showed up to choose her. I’m not appalled that so few came to the meeting. I’m appalled that we have 53 members on the executive council. Why are more than a handful of people overseeing this process? And why aren’t they the people who have the most at stake–the Council of State and legislative leaders?
I also saw calls for elected officials to engage and strongly demand that Randy Voller step down. They tried that with the previous chair. It didn’t work out so well. The outdated party rules give them almost no power to choose staff or officers and Voller, like David Parker before him, would almost certainly thumb his nose at them. This is truly a case where the inmates are running the asylum.
However, instead of trying to save the asylum, the people who fund campaigns and the professionals who run them are going to let the inmates have it. There are now other ways to achieve the same goals without the vehicle of the state party. The Citizens United ruling has made it easier to run communications campaigns separate from party organizations. The Obama for America campaign proved that it’s possible to build broad-based field operations outside of the party structure.
The influence of state parties has been in decline for decades but accelerated with the court rulings. Participation in traditional civic organizations, including political parties, has been dropping since the 1960s. The current generation of young adults is not likely to join either party even though philosophically they identify more with Democrats. Parties need to be leaner and meaner, not bigger and broader.
For a political party to stay relevant in this environment takes skilled leadership with the ability to build trust and alliances among people with divergent interests. The NCDP needed a leader who could work with elected officials, interest groups, wealthy donors and the party rank-and-file to modernize the rules of the party. And the leadership needed keep a narrow focus on electing more Democrats and protecting those already in office, the points that could unify everyone.
We don’t have that. Instead, we have a leadership that has dissed the “electeds,” as they call them, and accused the wealthy folks, the people who fund the party, of being corporate shills or DINOs. And now these “leaders” are mad because nobody will give them money.
Instead of forcing the party and its candidates to move to the left, they’ve effectively taken the state party out of the political game for the foreseeable future. There will still be organizations that support and elect Democrats. They will just operate outside the scope of the state Democratic Party.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >