Associated Articles 3
Announcing Project Bridge the Gap
My Direct Democracy
December 18, 2006
When Chris Bowers posted Become the California Democratic Party back on December 8, it struck a chord with me.
Back in June, a contingent of reformers got their first shot at taking over the Texas Democratic Party. Made up largely of former Dean, Clark, and Edwards supporters, the movement nearly succeeded. We forced a rare runoff, and fell only 3% short in the second round of voting. Although the reform contingent constituted a majority of present delegates, we were outvoted by delegates who held proxy power (ie, multiple votes) for non-present delegates. The loss was heartbreaking for many of us. There were two candidates - Glen Maxey and Charlie Urbina-Jones - who understood that people powered politics is the way of the future. But we were defeated by the old-schoolers who clearly knew how to work the proxy system. Lesson learned.
After the convention, we went home defeated but determined to work for and support our Democratic candidates. The convention was over - it was time to STFU and get to work. Or as Bill Clinton put it, "Fall in love, then fall in line." We were good soldiers, and we expected that our party would support the Democratic slate from top to bottom. Needless to say, the convention loss wasn't our last disappointment of this campaign season.
Now rather than rehash the flame wars that have sprouted up in the Tex-o-sphere post-election, I'm going to indulge myself for a moment and share my theory on why I think these arguments are springing up right now and how I hope we can fix it.
My pet theory on why these arguments have sprung up is this: the reformers, the populists, and anyone not associated with the state institutions chose to buckle down and get to work after the convention. We decided to put aside our differences and support our candidates with time, money, and innovation. We expected our institutions to do the same. What we didn't know was that the institutionalists had gotten together back in 2005 and decided not to compete statewide in 2006. Apparently this was common knowledge within the power structure, but it caught many activists by surprise. Rather than cause a huge stink in the middle of campaign season, we held our tongues.
Not any more. The election is behind us. And while there was some progress made, it is my sense that the reformist wing of the party feels that this season was marked by missed opportunities, miscommunication, misfires, and misunderstandings.
The institutionalists are crowing about holding our seats and picking up six more - they say this is proof that they are doing their best. We reformers largely disagree. We advocate a "run everywhere" strategy similar to what Dean's doing at the DNC, and we feel there were quite a few missed opportunities this cycle.
We feel that the Texas Democratic Party should no longer rely on turncoat big donors (like the ones who sabotaged Chris Bell by jumping ship to support "Independent Republican" Carole Strayhorn), and instead should build their small donor base. We believe that we should have a functioning party in all 254 counties, and we believe that it is a show of respect to travel the state and ask every voter for their support. We don't believe in waiting for demographics to shift in our favor; we believe in aggressively reaching out to the emerging Latino majority. We also believe that the era of personality-driven Democratic politics is over and we must innovate if we are going to succeed in the future.
Basically, there's a gigantic gap in thinking between the progressive/reformist wing of the party and the institutionalists.
I am going to be frank for a moment. I think that the arguments have taken a hostile tone because the "winners" at the convention did a piss poor job of reaching out to the "Maxeycrats" after the convention. Very few people cared to listen to our suggestions, and even fewer reached out to heal the wounds that were opened during the contentious party chair fight. Beyond that, many of the newer activists were made to feel as though they just fell off the turnip truck. It was disrespectful and did nothing to mend the split between the two wings of the party.
We can't go on like this. There is only 15 months until the 2008 primary in Texas. We only have a small window of opportunity here to heal those wounds and move into the future as a united Texas Democratic Party.
I don't believe that we will be able to work together until a relationship of trust is built between the institutionalists and the grassroots. Let's face it; for the most part, we don't know the people who compose the State Democratic Executive Committee (SDEC) and they don't know us. It is the SDEC's responsibility to "carry on the the activities of the Party between State Conventions in compliance with the law and with the directives of the Convention." In other words, they're tasked with implementing the Platform, Rules, and Resolutions passed at the convention. They are also the oversight body for TDP.
Traditionally, this body has largely been a giant rubber stamp for the party officers. Just to give an example, we must remember that the Democratic party was personality driven, so whatever the Connally-Johnson boys said, well, the SDEC did it. That's the old way of doing things; it's time for the grassroots and netroots to teach the party how to win in the 21st century.
Since the power structure largely seems uninterested in building that relationship, it's up to us to reach across the divide. With that in mind, I'm proud to announce a TexasKAOS project, in conjunction with the Texas Progressive Alliance: Project Bridge the Gap.
On January 8, the SDEC will be holding a public meeting in Austin (details are in our calendar). Originally I was hoping to set up a ride board and get a bunch of activists and reformers to attend these meetings and report on the activities (a la the public DNC hearings when Dean got elected). Unfortunately, Glenn Smith's DriveDemocracy is undergoing renovations and is unavailable for the moment. I still encourage people to get to Austin if they can, and most of the TexasKAOS staff will be there reporting on the activities. But back to Project Bridge the Gap.
On January 8, members of the TexasKAOS staff are going to hand deliver a copy of Crashing the Gate to every TDP officer and SDEC member.
What do we hope to accomplish by delivering these books? Well, I think that CTG can be considered a grassroots manifesto for winning. The book lays out many of the structural problems we have within our institutions and offers suggestions on how we can fix them. Again, it goes back to understanding each other and building relationships based on trust. Let's face it - some of these institutionalists are scared of us. They don't understand what we want. I think that anyone who reads this book will walk away with a better idea of where the reformers are coming from, and I'm hopeful that this gesture will begin a healing process that is long overdue.
Basically, if the institutionalists won't reach out, we have to. We have to give this relationship one more shot before we give up and take Smarty's suggestions. This is truly a good faith gesture and I hope it will be seen as such.
So here's where you come in. A few days ago I emailed Markos & Jerome and they hooked me up with Natasha at Chelsea Green. She kindly offered a 50% discount on a bulk purchase of Crashing the Gate. On Saturday, I ordered 105 copies of the book and put it on my AMEX. It cost just under $715. I have been gathering pledges from TPA members, and right now I'm sitting at about $450. I know it's Christmahannukwanzaka and money is tight, but I really need to cover at least $615 of that $715 dollars. If you can help with this project - whether it's five bucks or fifty - my husband would really appreciate it. =) You can paypal the money to annatopia AT gmail DOT com. As soon as we hit our $615 I will remove the donation address, and if we happen to go over by a few bucks I'll put up a poll to see where the extra money will go (I'm thinking something Katrina-related). Please donate if you can.
This is only part one of this project. I hope to continue to post-SDEC meeting with a series of interviews with members of the SDEC. We need to get to know them as well, and we hope to accomplish that with Project Bridge the Gap. This the first of many projects that will be launched by TexasKAOS over the coming year. Please bookmark us and visit us often!