Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Call for True Believers

Qualifying for state and local Democratic party positions opens today across Louisiana and the future of the party is riding on who among us will step forward to lead the effort to build this party.

Build is right word because there has never really been a Democratic Party in Louisiana. There has been a Democratic banner under which candidates have run for office, but there has never been much of anything resembling an actual party organization. There have been factions and organizations built around personalities, but there has not been a party organization per sé.

That is one reason why the Louisiana Democratic Party is in shambles today. It has never been more than a device to aid in the election of the top Democrat on the ticket in any particular election year. This year, there was no Democrat at the top of a statewide ticket — in fact, there was not a statewide ticket. There were House and Senate caucuses that managed to stave off Republican efforts to win veto-proof majorities in the Legislature, but there was no party behind any of those efforts. The state party was a mailing permit and a checking account.

This is just what the party was in 2010, only this time there were no statewide Democratic candidates on the ballot that could in any way be considered to have been standards bearers of what passed for the party this year.

The qualifying that opens today provides the opening to begin to change that.

The 210 seats on the State Central Committee are open for qualifying as are the 986 or so seats on the various parish Democratic Executive Committees.

These are the bodies charged with building and maintaining the party at the state and local levels. Based on the results over the last four years, the leadership at the state level has been an abject failure. That failure has many sources, but none more glaring than the fact that the party has not appeared to stand for anything; or, if it did, it could not articulate it. As a result, the party sat in silence as what passed for public policy debates took place (can there really be a debate when only one side is talking?).

For the Democratic Party to have a future in this state, we need committed Democrats to turn out at Clerk of Courts offices across the state and qualify to fill those state and parish party committee seats.

But, not just any Democrats need apply.

What we need now are true believers. Democrats who burn with a passion for our party and its principles (see "What It Means To Be A Democrat" for some ideas). Democrats who stand ready to build a political organization that will provide the boots on the ground for Democratic candidates at the local, state and federal levels. Democrats who will fight the Republican assault on working families, minorities, teachers, public employees and others rather than seek an accommodation with those who are out to dismantle the essential public services that are the pathways to social mobility in this state and this country.

We need zealous Democrats to turn out to qualify for these positions, run strong Democratic campaigns for those seats, and then to engage in the work of party building after those elections are settled in March.

In the church that is the Democratic Party, the state central committee and the parish executive committees are akin to the clergy. They are the keepers of the flame of the party, where the passion must be the greatest and the belief must be the strongest. Why? Because the members of those respective committees swear oaths of office to promote and build the Democratic Party in this state.

As in religions, there are many levels of faith and conviction in our party as is the case in other political organizations.

But, when it comes to party committees, the job calls for the efforts to be focused on building the party and advancing its mission — not in finding middle ground with our opponents.

That is the work of elected officials who serve in the Legislature and other government positions.

We need to look no further than our opponents to catch a glimpse of what the role of party organizations are relative to elected officials — parties put the stake in the ground on issues; elected officials find the middle ground that is somewhere inside of where their party put that stake. One problem with our side is that our party has not put often enough and thus ceded the defining of the terms of the argument (the framing, if you will) to the other side. A result of that has been a radicalization of the other side because not enough of their crazy ideas have been challenged.

Democrats who care about the future of this state, who care about the future of the middle class here, about access to public education, about access to public services, about the ability of their children to find rewarding and challenging work in this state, need to commit to at least four years of work aimed at protecting those things that encompass what we have long stood for as a party and as a people.

We need you to turn out to qualify. We need you to commit your time, effort, and creativity to the task of building a political organization that can first stem, then turn the tide of greed-driven anti-social behavior that masquerades as public policy that spews like an uncapped gusher from our opponents in the party that now appears dominant in our state.

We did not get in this mess overnight. We won't get out of it overnight either. But, if we commit to work harder and smarter to reverse this we can, because as a great American once said, "the arc of moral universe is long but it bends towards justice."

If you're ready to fight for your party and your state, go qualify for a party position this week — and let's get to work!

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