Careful here, folks. We need to hold this party together.
Updated at 2:15 ET to add some additional information about membership fees and the MDP rules.
In what is rapidly becoming a power struggle between supporters of current Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Mark Brewer and the powerful UAW labor union, the UAW won a round during an MDP Appeals Committee meeting last night. At issue was the credentialing of 1,349 UAW members as delegates with voting privileges at next Saturday’s statewide convention. The applications for these members, some of whom were new and some who had allowed their MDP membership to lapse, came in on Friday, January 25th, the last day to become a member eligible to vote in the election of the new MDP Chair. However, the checks for their membership fee did not arrive until the following Monday, three days after the deadline.
Because of this, Chair Brewer rejected the applications and returned them to the applicants. This would have prevented the new members from being credentialed for the Chair election, members who would presumably support the UAW-endorsed candidacy of challenger Lon Johnson.
The Appeals Committee is made up of appointments chosen by the Chair. Of the eleven members, only seven voted in the 5-2 decision, three of whom have direct connections to the UAW. The Committee apparently agreed with the UAW’s argument that (a) according to MDP rules, membership fees are not actually required to be a member and (b), late payment of fees has been allowed in the past without loss of voting privileges. It is true that you are not required to pay a membership fee. Article 4, Section A of the MDP Rules (pdf) explicitly states:
ARTICLE 4: MICHIGAN DEMOCRATIC PARTY MEMBERSHIP
A member of the Michigan Democratic Party shall be any legal resident of Michigan age 16 or older who has completed and filed a current Michigan Democratic Party membership form at State Party headquarters, provided that a financial contribution shall not be required to be and to remain a member. County, District, Club, Precinct Committee and Caucus chairs who solicit memberships shall immediately forward completed membership forms to the Michigan Democratic Party.
It does seem a bit odd to say on one hand that, if you DO pay a membership fee, your membership application isn’t complete until you give them money but on the other hand, if you don’t pay a membership fee, your application is complete when you turn it in.
A source close to the Brewer campaign tells me that the applications were not submitted as “free memberships” and, since they did send in the money late, it was clear they were not intended to be. Furthermore, it is not within the Chair’s power to simply change the rules made by the State Central Committee, a committee largely controlled by the UAW, in fact. Finally, there are a number of labor unions that support Chair Brewer and they managed to get their members to update their memberships according to the rules and it’s unfair for another group to receive special treatment. Again, “the rules” here do appear to be open to some interpretation.
There is talk that the Appeals Committee decision may be appealed again during Saturday’s convention prior to the vote for Chair. This would be a very unfortunate move, in my opinion. As one political veteran told me, “Imagine a scene where almost 1,400 party members are refused credentials and then denied their right to vote on the floor.” That would be extremely counter-productive in terms of coming out of Saturday’s convention as a unified state party ready to do battle with Republicans in 2014.
At the end of the day, this rather blatant power move by the UAW may not be as successful as they hope. It’s one thing to sign up well over 1,000 new MDP members. However, they still have to get them to the Cobo Center Saturday to vote, a task that is not nearly so easy. I’m also told that some of these applications are from people who don’t even live in the state. It is far from guaranteed that this victory will ensure Johnson’s victory.
It is my hope that once this spirited campaign is over, Michigan Democrats will rapidly put it behind them and focus on our real political opponents.
To paraphrase Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is Republican.”