Blog Update

I apologize for the lack of posting the past three weeks.  Our old house went under contract a month ago and the last weeks were hectic and frenetic going through all the hassles and wrinkles of preparing to close.  The deal did finally close last Friday so my time will begin reverting back to normal.

Things have been rather quiet on the state level with only one statewide race so there hasn’t been a lot about which to write and comment.  Since I no longer interview or cover Democratic candidates thanks to that undemocratic Party constantly throwing me out of their required “open” meetings things have quieted down considerably.   If you’re wondering why I’m not attending and covering your events ask Fadia Halma why she chose to block me from the By Laws Committee meeting at the last Democratic State Committee meeting.  Jack Hanna has kicked me out of two of his Southwest Caucus meetings and Berks County Chair Tom Herman tossed me out of one of his “open to the public” meetings.

The DNC Charter requires that ALL Party meetings be open to the public.

News & Notes June 13, 2012

I have yet to receive an explanation or apology for being summarily dismissed from a Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting again Saturday.  Until I get an apology I will discontinue covering the campaigns of Democratic candidates.  This includes Barack Obama’s re-election.  It is a violation of the DNC charter to close Party meetings and this is three times it has happened in a short period.  My Campaign 2012 columns will cease until the DNC responds.

Tom Corbett’s poll numbers continue sinking like a stone.  Pennsylvanians now support him by only 36%.  This was before the Shell Oil giveaway which would hire 30,000 teachers.  What’s more important, 30,000 teachers or one more dirty energy plant?

Commerce Secretary John Bryson has taken a leave of absence after seizures caused him to be involved in hit and run accidents recently.  

A Navy drone crashed on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  President Obama is now using these unmanned planes to spy on us at home.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, closet queen, has broken with Grover Norquist.  As more and more cracks dent the adolescent idea of no new revenues ever his Americans For Tax Reform loses power.

Of course Tea Party extremists like Keith Rothfus are still stupid enough to put extreme politics ahead of the public welfare.  He has signed Norquists idiotic pledge along with others from Club For Growth (Pat Toomey’s organization) and the American Family Business Institute.  He’d rather you pay taxes than people like Alice Walton who is worth $21 billion.

American servicewomen are being raped in alarming numbers.  Even more alarming is the fact that not much is done to those who assault them and abortions for pregnancies resulting from sexual assaults is not readily available.  Sen. Jean Shaheen is proposing a bill guaranteeing abortion coverage for women service members who are raped.  Will Pat Toomey and Bob Casey step forward and protect our fighting women?  Will our Teapublicans in the House also do so?

North Dakota rejected a very radical law which could have restored slavery.  The religious freedom law would have allowed anyone in that deeply red state to disobey any law based on their religious beliefs.  Since the Bible condones slavery…

Arizona also had an election yesterday replacing Congresswoman Gabby Giffords with her former staffer Ron Barber.  Hers was a swing district so this could be a harbinger for the fall.  Of course Wisconsin also could be if you’re into reading political tea leaves.

Cuts to higher education didn’t begin with Tom Corbett though he has taken them to unprecedented levels..  Pennsylvania’s share of operating expenses for our state related universities has been declining for decades.  Toxic Tom’s actions have accelerated the decline dramatically.  We now have the distinction of having the top two most expensive in state tuitions in the country for state related universities.  Penn State is first and Pitt second.  This is a dubious and shameful distinction.

On Thursday the President will make an address at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland if you’re in that area.  He was in Philadelphia last night for a fundraiser at The Franklin Institute.  It was a pool reporter situation so I didn’t have access.  Tom Fitzgerald of The Inquirer was the pool reporter.  Supporters paid up to $40,000 for the privilege of meeting the President.

The Department of Energy has awarded grants to Air Products and Chemicals of Allentown and Lyondell Chemicals of Newtown Square.  13 projects received a total of $54 million to increase energy efficiency.

Citizens of the 8th Congressional District are giving Mike Fitzpatrick fits over recent news he gave federal earmarks to a campaign contributor.  This is called “pay to play.”  Another name for it is corruption.

Constituent Ginny Hoffman of Levittown said it’s time that elected officials get their priorities straight and help people who actually need it. Hoffman attempted to ask Congressman Fitzpatrick about his recent legislation benefiting his donors.

“When I open the newspaper I see that he is giving out a lot of pork to his donors instead of helping middle class people. I tried to tell him to help us, the people that are losing our homes and our jobs, instead of his wealthy donors. But I was blocked by his staff before I could ask my question,” she said.

The DNC Wants You Taping Republicans

Do you remember George Allen’s “Macaca moment?”  Jim Webb wound up beating him for a U.S. Senate seat because of a video clip where the southern white man used a racial epithet against a man of Indian extraction and it was caught on tape.  Last week Michael Steele was caught revising current history on Afghanistan because someone was taping.  Now the Democratic National Committee has launched a website where you or anyone can upload audio and video clips of Republicans.  The Accountability Project is designed so anyone can use a camcorder, telephone or Flip to capture GOP candidates lying about issues, their stands or making verbal gaffes.  So get your camera, see where candidates will be speaking (most list their schedules online) and go to town.  The DNC website even conveniently supplies many of the schedules.  Go and check some of the videos already uploaded.

It’s Time to Return to the 50 State Strategy

Barack Obama campaigned for President on the message of Change.  Many changes were necessary amidst the failed policies of the Bush White House.  The country was going in the wrong direction and we were in a major economic collapse.  As President Barack Obama has made many changes, most for the good.  One, however, was bad.  He replaced Gov. Howard Dean as Chair of the DNC and appointed Tim Kaine who immediately dismissed the 183 DNC field organizers and terminated the 50 State Strategy.  That concept is failing and, as a consequence, Democrats are suddenly losing elections.  For four years under Howard Dean the Democratic National Committee funded a 50 state strategy which paid for DNC field organizers on the ground in every state.  These organizers built local and county organizations which assisted candidates at every level.  What happened and how do Democrats turn things around?

The program was officially called the State Partnership Project.  The various state parties hired field staff who were paid and trained by the DNC.  A high ranking party official with whom I spoke praised the program highly because it gave each state the independence to do what it needed:  “we knew what was best in our state.”  The result was exciting as true grassroots organizing improved the Democratic Party from the precinct level up.  This Blue Jersey story provides a glimpse.  A Democratic activist and labor leader tells me this about how the program worked in his state:

I loved the 50 State Strategy rhetorically, strategically, politically.  The SPP was a godsend — and electorally really effective (we retained a governorship, won a swing Congressional seat, and took over the majority in both houses of our legislative in the 4 years we had the SPP).  I raised about $120,000 for the DNC on my good word that the SPP and the 50SS were crucial.  

It is a goddam shame that Tim Kaine, David Axelrod, and Rahm Emmanuel, three guys who probably don’t agree upon much, were able to all but kill off the SPP and 50SS.

This is the sentiment I received from people all across the country as I researched this article.  What happened?

Sources tell me that almost all the money being taken in by the DNC is now being used completely by Organizing for America.  OFA and the DNC are now one.  When you go to Organizing For America and scroll to the bottom of the page you see a disclosure that OFA is a “project of the DNC.”  OFA is run completely from the DNC and your contributions to the DNC now go to OFA instead of the funding the highly effective SPP (State Partnership Program).  What OFA did was replace an electorally based structure which built the Party and helped candidates up and down the entire ticket with an agenda based advocacy operation solely for the President.

In Pennsylvania the DNC organizers were tasked in 2006 to recapture “dropoff Dems” voters who had voted Democratic before but weren’t turning out any longer.  Interestingly this is the biggest challenge this year for Democratic candidates:  get those Obama voters from 2008 back to the polls.  With three DNC organizers on the ground here in Pennsylvania the goal set was to get 10% of these dropoff voters to the polls.  They got 24.9% of them.  This was an extremely effective program and state bloggers across the country tell me they saw similar results.

Now without this Party structure Democrats are finding themselves in danger.  The effectiveness established through the former field organizers is being felt up and down the ballot at the same time the rank and file are disillusioned, angry and refusing to vote.  Someone must be on the ground to build Obama’s message, organize precinct leaders and do what was done so effectively for four years and resulted in Change in 2008.

The OFA organization is completely different in structure from the 50 state strategy.  It is a “top down” operation working through the former Obama volunteers, many of whom have become disenchanted with the President, to organize on their local levels.  I have also seen where these local volunteer leaders burned out running their local Obama organizations or have moved on to their own political goals.  Some key OFA organizers are leaving the program.  I attempted to email several OFA people at DNC headquarters for comments but the emails bounced back.  I also solicited a friend to make contact to have some questions answered.  Again, no response.

The result is a marked dropoff in success.  Instead of winning Democrats are now losing.  Expectations for this fall are dim and last November’s Democratic turnouts were abysmal.  The current strategy clearly is not working.

That same blogger and activist had this to say about the OFA:

More importantly, OFA is a joke.  What a waste.  I’ve advised donors I knew not to give to the DNC.  They’re throwing good money after bad.  Set aside for the moment the bullshit about the national party committee being nothing but a front-group for the White House — and how strategically inept the both of them have been in the last 13 months — I know it’s hard to do, but it’s worthwhile for this consideration: If there is a zero-sum between funding the SPP and OFA, we’re getting fucked out here in Real America (read: anywhere outside the Beltway).  

We don’t have enough capacity organizing on the ground to build local parties, develop activists and leaders, and wire shit up to be positive that we can at least engage and turn out the base (if the base will indeed be turned out) in 2010.  We’re going to lose every single gain we made in the last 4 years unless we get some miracles.  A few miracles that would help include a real full employment policy, real healthcare reform, EFCA and immigration reform (among others, but these are most important).  Not all of that is in the hands of the White House/DNC.  What is in their hands is something that is not miraculous: but the money into the state parties to spend on organizers.

The OFA kids are nothing but Obama acolytes who think they’re community organizers.  First of all, as someone who a) has been an actual community organizer (in Chicago, no less) and b) studies social movements and organizing as a graduate student, I can’t tell you what a load of shit this is.  What compounds it into an electoral problem is that they’re not building any kind of electoral capacity.  I’m a social movement guy (I care more about my labor movement than I do about the Democratic Party), but I know that social movements need electoral vehicles.  OFA aint building either of them.  Second, these OFA kids don’t know a goddam thing about local and state politics, where their organizing could be most important.  We are seeing the organizing that built my state into a (D) stronghold fall by the wayside and we’re going to lose state government (in a re-districting year — this is crucial in the disconnect between Democratic organizing through the SPP and Obama-fluffing through OFA).

But if the OFA organizer showed up at a county party meeting once in a blue moon, we might know better (note: I am a Congressional district chair with 7 counties in the most Democratic part of the state — I think one county party has mentioned seeing or hearing from OFA in the last 9 months or so).

I know at least one state party which has ceased even working with the OFA people.  I was approached by two Pennsylvania OFA field organizers after the President’s trip to Allentown.  I gave them my card and said I’d be more than happy to work with them.  Two months later I’ve yet to hear from them.  I work with the White House regularly, do conference calls with Cabinet Secretaries and other high ranking officials, publish press releases and write reports based on information they send and personally cover events when they come to Pennsylvania.  The White House Media Affairs Office has been great to work with but OFA has been invisible.

Barack Obama’s campaign for change has derailed and a major reason is the change in focus at the DNC.  Under Dean 183 field organizers were paid by the DNC to build the Party from the ground up.  They reported to their respective State Party organizations and were extremely effective.  Each state had at least one organizer.  Under Kaine the OFA organizers have been dispatched to twenty something swing states expected to be the battlegrounds in 2012.  Howard Dean had a vision of expanding the Democratic base and reach into every state, every Congressional District.  His field organizers aided County Parties in training precinct leaders, recruiting volunteers, doing canvassing, phone banks and outreach to voters and it was tremendously successful.  That effort has now disappeared and the current structure is completely in the hands of Organizing For America, the organization which succeeded the Obama For America campaign.  

Barack Obama, as a sitting President, is entitled to appoint his own DNC Chair to act as his re-election effort and he appointed Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to act in that capacity.  Kaine disbanded the 50 state strategy and all of the field organizers were dismissed and replaced with OFA organizers.  While this was his prerogative it is hurting the Party structure.  Without their leadership, training and experience Democrats are beginning to lose elections.

Elections are won or lost on each local level, each precinct informing its voters, mobilizing them to volunteer and getting them to the polls on election day.  The 50 state strategy was very effective building this activity.  Thus far the OFA organizers, at least here in Pennsylvania, have been invisible.  We’re witnessing the effects of these changes in the elections since November 2008.  Local, county and state level candidates aren’t receiving the benefits which the 50 state strategy excelled.  The President must awaken and realize he cannot enact change alone.  In a democracy such as ours the legislative branch remains a critical component.  

The national fever for change following eight years of Bush was enough for many Democrats to win.  While Barack Obama didn’t have coattails the atmosphere for change inspired many voters to push their buttons for change down the ticket.    The reverberations from the new Obama strategy is having serious deleterious effects on the President’s ability to govern.  He must realize he cannot implement change himself and down ticket Democrats must also be supported.  The fact the DNC has neglected these other candidates must also be a wake up call to Democrats that this strategy must be replaced with a restoration of what was so effective as to provide the Party with its current majorities.

The other benefits of the 50 state strategy were the way it began building a “farm system” of future Party leaders and candidates.  It forced Republicans to spend money all across the country and to defend every Congressional seat.  In the past Republicans in safe seats freely spread their excess campaign cash to their friends in contested Districts.  Abandoning this successful strategy will enable the GOP to, again, concentrate on the swing seats and battleground states.  Last week former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder came out and called for changes at the DNC.  Specifically he called for the replacement of Kaine as DNC Chair.  I’d rather see the President authorize Kaine to change back to the 50 State Strategy which was so successful.  This change would be good.

Will the loss of the old strategy result in more change this November and again in 2012?  Not all change is good and we saw a marked change in Democratic turnout last fall.  Let us hope we can turn this around.  It is time to let the President know he needs to reinstate the State Partnership Program.

Update: If any other bloggers wish to republish this you have my permission as long as you give proper credit and link back here.

Gov. Dean Recognizes Abusive County Chair

Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean came to Berks County today to recognize County Chair Tom Herman, someone who has badly abused his power.  The DNC decided to send their charismatic leader to give a pat on the back to the man singularly responsible for undermining the Berks Democracy For America group, the successor to Dean For America, because he couldn’t control the organization.

Worse Chair Tom Herman abused his power as Chair to pursue a personal vendetta against me.  Unhappy with my choice of Democrats to support in a State House primary in 2006 he suspended me as an elected Committee man violating my civil rights under Pennsylvania election law.  The law stipulates that unless a County Committee endorses (Berks does not) Committee people are able to support the Party candidate of their choice.

Tom Herman didn’t like the fact I was on Michael Morrill’s campaign committee and went after his primary opponent for campaign finance irregularities.  The incumbent had filed a frivolous complaint (since dismissed) against Morrill’s campaign so I began sifting through Herman’s buddy’s files online.

Tom Herman suspended me with no legal basis for writing articles supporting my candidate.

Why is Howard Dean recognizing this abuse of power?

I may have to leave the Democratic Party following this event this morning.  It is only a three blocks to the County Elections Services office.

Update:  Following this event and being unable to gain entrance to the press interview room at the event I went to Berks County Elections Services and changed my voter registration.  I am no longer a member of the Democratic Party (I am unaffiliated).