Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frustrated, Disappointed, AND Pissed Off

Bob is a much nicer person than me, and has my respect for being so. But I think the comments he made regarding the direction of the Utah Democratic Party (as well as my own) are not only timely and relevant, but the beginnings of a necessary conversation.

Lets take a look at what we're seeing/hearing from party leadership the past few weeks.

Subtract two impressive blog posts from that list, and you have: "Democrats don't win", Donald Dunn, and James Carville. A spineless message, one of the least inspiring former leaders of the party, and a political has-been? This is what we're giving Utahns to chew on? And while I'm sure it was nice for Mr. Dunn to get to rub elbows with The Cajun, the relevancy, especially following a legislative session during which party leadership was all but silent on some of the most ridiculous legislation brewing (Frank's non-binding resolutions, a "card-check" declaration in a right-to-work state, alcohol laws, Chris Buttars, thinly veiled attacks on the PTA and evil video game makers... the list goes on) is completely lost on me. And the legislative session follows one of the longest and most engaging election cycles of my lifetime, during which leadership was also silent.

In summer 2008 I visited the office to pitch an event idea, which I was willing to volunteer my time for, if accepted. I suggested, in a friendly tone, that maybe, just perhaps, as a mere idea to be considered, we don't treat 2008 as just business as usual. Host a few unique events for candidates to interact with the public, get some grassroots fundraising going. I was met with a glare, and a declarative statement that we had the Eleanor Roosevelt event coming up, and that would be the end of the conversation. We're underfunded underdogs, they tell me. True enough. But underfunded underdogs are making gains in Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho. What are they doing that we aren't? My guess is they're actually fighting back with more than push polls, attempts to buy moderate Republicans as candidates, disenfranchised candidates who feel ignored by the party, and thinly veiled attempts to co-opt religion for electoral gain. Aren't we supposed to be different from Republicans, not following their lead?

In the spring of 2008, I criticized the lack of creativity going into the party convention, as I watched Mr. Cantrell and volunteers turn the Republican convention into a very impressive online extravaganza -- one which even my fellow Cache Valley politico's could be a part of through streaming video and frequent web updates to a dedicated page. Rob Miller called me out (to his credit) on my criticism, and handed me the video from the Democrat's convention to cut up / upload to youtube. While getting the video, I spoke to Mr. Holland about how behind we were compared to Colorado, and even Idaho's party efforts in using online resources to reach out (a factor I don't think is unrelated to the fact both states saw Democrat gains in 2008, while we lost ground) and engage the public with candidates. Mr. Holland challenged me to pitch him a "business plan" that he could use to "sell" to large donors. I never did. How can you explain to someone the importance of something so vague and unpredictable that you see working in neighboring states -- across the nation, in fact -- if they aren't seeing it themselves. So instead, we got a large donor and "Utah Common Values." Never heard of it? I'm not surprised.

But my criticism isn't so much in what Holland is doing with the party, but what he isn't doing. In the outlets I get my information from (using a process which matches the statistical models of almost every other 18-35 year old out there) Rob Miller and Craig Axford and Todd Taylor come through as the only voice of the party. Rob Miller's leaving, and Craig and Todd are but two people in a state of millions.

I've sat on many opinions, to give them a chance. And I don't claim to have all the answers, or to know every aspect of the nuts and bolts of running a state party. I'm sure there are more subtle successes flying under the radar (House Democrats produced the first joint budget proposal in a decade this session, for example). My understanding is limited, I admit. But what I do understand is that what is happening isn't working. There seems to be no fight. Silence, followed by a quote in the local rag, again, reminding candidates that Democrats don't win in Utah.

The party has no identity, and with all due respect, Mr. Holland, I'm beginning to question your ability to give it one, and lead the Utah Democratic Party forward.


  1. My experiences have been similar, and I finally stopped going in to volunteer entirely.

    Then they had the gall to call me and ask for a donation.

    I told them if I saw signs of a plan at any time, I had money to give, until then, I'll just watch other state Democratic Parties succeed and save my money for brighter days.

  2. Nice post. I just finished reading the comments on Bob's post. If you can get past Rob Miller shilling for Wayne (his eyes must be brown!) there are some nice thoughts to ad to this. I hope this discussion continues for the benefit of Utah Democrats, who have longed for leadership they can look up to for a very long time.

  3. I've always felt Wayne had potential, but don't disagree that he has yet to apply it in any constructive fashion other than maintaining a status quo and ensuring continued irrelevancy.

  4. I was surprised the Chairman of the party didn't have even a word to say about Chris Buttars. That seemed like a missed opportunity there.

  5. The problem with the Democrats is that their new celebrity Senator Pat Jones is actually a Republican.

  6. Our state leadership will stink without Rob. :(

  7. I agree Jessica, though I think Rob will do good things in Davis County, which is a place that Democrats struggle traditionally.

    Losing him at the party level means we have only Craig Axford left with any fight in him at the party office. That concerns me, because it's more than a one person show.

  8. I also agree (wholeheartedly) with Ethan. Thanks for bringing that up.

  9. We all know why new fundraising ideas aren't accepted with open arms at the Utah State Party-
    But that may not be a factor if a new administration is voted in; or the current administration gets more confrontational.

    I agree with most of the snarky analysis that you've made, but I think the way to get things done is to get your butt in and get them done...Go to the local precinct/mass meetings, get all your friends to go and get voted in as precinct chairs and delegates! Join a progresive group- bring them into the system!
    Go to the conventions, get together a coalition!

    As delegates you can vote strong party officers in line with other state's successes!

    Don't let a middle management hired hand frustrate you into quiting the creative involvement our party needs.

    Run for party office yourself!

    This is a small enough area that you can, indeed be a big Democrat in a small pond. I'll vote for you if you are willing to come out from behind the blog and file for office...
    ...and Donald Dunn is not a "has been"- he could jump back into local party politics and win any office he wants to win. Many people wish he had run for another term. But, that is another topic for another time...

  10. Not a princess said it...part of the way that Colorado took back their party is by getting grassroots Democrats (you know, the Democratic wing of the Democratic party) to run their own leadership.

    Jason for chairman - lets make it happen.