Update: The program I mention toward the end of this story was called “The Win Machine” and it was delayed for use but eventually went up and was successfully used by 2500 people, a significant number. Also, and this did deserve a mention earlier today, but the miabsetee.com app/site was VERY successful and helped both many Democrats and Republicans register to vote. Lon and his leadership team deserve lots of kudos for that piece of brilliance.That clarification was important to include.
Tomorrow Democrats from across the state will convene in downtown Detroit for their semi-annual convention. The spring convention will hold no surprises tomorrow. There will be no outward drama. No wondering about Mark Brewer vs. Lon Johnson. No whispering about candidates that the Democratic Party expects every Democrat to support because they say so. Nope, none of that tomorrow.
Here’s the deal: Tomorrow will be an exercise in mechanics. The morning is filled with meetings for the Caucuses, like the Progressive Caucus and the Justice Caucus. The Environmental Caucus will meet as well as the Women’s Caucus, the Black Caucus, etc. Some of them will elect new leadership. Some of them will just be informational in nature. Some of them will have a scant few people in attendance and others will have overflowing rooms.
The afternoon will then provide entertainment when the Congressional Districts will elect Chairpersons for each respective Congressional District. They will also elect a series of people who work as support staff to the Chair in each District. They usually present themselves as “slates” where the Chair and a group of people within the District form a team to lead your Congressional District over the next few years. It’s all commonplace and, although there will be some drama in some Districts, in most of them the details were worked out in advance. People line up behind the slate they believe in, an election is held, and then off we go to the third stage of the day.
The third step takes place in the BIG room. Everyone comes together in late afternoon to hear from our elected leaders from across the state. The MDP Chair and others will be elected and by 5:30 or so we move on to the next progression in our political year.
It sounds rather drab, right? Especially with no real drama to speak of. And who doesn’t like good, juicy political drama at their convention? I will admit, as a quick side note, that the GOP is MUCH better at convention drama than the Democrats, another thing they seem to be doing well over Democrats. But I am not sure I want the kind of drama the GOP seems to reinvent every chance they get.
But that does not mean that there won’t be raised voices, mostly in side groups, maybe in a Caucus meeting, and most definitely at lunch. The big issue that will be discussed and examined is why the Democrats keep losing elections to Republicans when we are a supposed Blue state and, inasmuch as voting data backs that understanding, the election results don’t, now do they?
During the last election cycle we heard over and over again that there was no way the Michigan Democratic Party was going to allow a repeat of 2010 when Michigan saw a massive upheaval at the state level. Democrats lost the House, Senate, Governor’s office, Secretary of State, and the Attorney General. And, as if scripted by West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin, the Republicans started on Day One of their newfound power a series of laws and posturing that was bold, invasive, anti-middle class, anti-women, and perverted at many different levels. Again, I repeat, there was no way that the MDP was going to allow that to happen again.
They didn’t and I will get to that.
They fired 18-year MDP Party Chair Mark Brewer and by “they” I mean to say organized Labor and our federally-elected representatives. They brought in and unveiled Lon Johnson, a terribly good-looking, smart, somewhat charismatic Democratic operative. Lon has had a stellar political background and, between he and his wife, an Obama chief fundraiser, have probably raised for the Party and candidates over the years hundreds of millions of dollars. That is a skill, I assure you, and after Lon lost his run for the state House in 2012, he was tabbed as the answer to the question about how we win.
I like Lon. He is personable, well-spoken and energetic. He understands all generations of political junkies and can just as easily talk to a group of 18-year old activists or the AARP crowd. He gets technology, knows how to raise money, and he has proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.
I remember clearly the first time I heard him speak at a Congressional District meeting, His passion and enthusiasm were hard to ignore. He spoke very clearly about a new program that he was putting in place that made get out the vote the easiest thing in the world to do, because it is about getting out the vote at the end of the day. This program he shared with many across the state would be dynamic, easy to do and, most importantly, profoundly effective. It sounded exciting and foolproof.
Now, those of you who also heard him speak about the GOTV program were as excited about it as I was. I had a little more of a selfish interest as I was a candidate for the state House at that time and ANYTHING that could help get out the Democrats to vote I was in favor of as I would benefit from that as well. I was all-in as were many others.
Just one slight problem with this unnamed program. It never materialized, or at least I don’t think it did, and if it did it was done covertly, or so I think.
Now let me get back to the promise that Democrats were told after 2010 and 2012. There way no way the MDP was going to let the horrid turnout of 2010 repeat itself. You see, in elections where there isn’t a presidential election, a large percentage of people just don’t vote. It’s a fact. So, with that promise in hand, rank and file Democrats do what we do best. We mobilized, volunteered, and did what we could. And the MDP wasn’t wrong when they said that a repeat of 2010 or 2012 elections would ever happen again.
They were right, very right. We did worse, a whole lot worse, and therein lays the rub.
Immediately following the November 2014 election, many Democrats across the state blamed Lon Johnson. If it were only that simple. Yes, there was a Republican tidal wave again in 2014 all across the country, although through the magic of gerrymandering we once again see a Bush v. Gore scenario where the Democrats, in Michigan, and around the country, got more votes than the Republicans and yet lost more seats to the Republicans this past year.
The point is the deck is stacked against Democrats in all of the categories that matter now more than ever. The GOP outraises us, they outsmart us, they have taken lying to an astounding level, and they keep winning, ergo controlling policy and rules that MIGHT level the playing field. I say might because I am no longer convinced that I know anything more than any other person about how they can do all this while it remains legal. But it does. It surely does!
So, the conversation this weekend about what do we do now will be there. It will be publicly addressed and there will be some grumbling and maybe even a cross word or two. But so what. Talking about this is not going to change anything at all. Action will.
Since November I have literally heard from hundreds of you about your dissatisfaction with the MDP, Lon Johnson, Tim Greimel, and the rest of the cast of the Michigan faithful. So many of you are angry beyond words but not angry enough to actually get off your ass and do something about it. No need to reread that, I said it pretty plainly and in easy to understand verbiage.
My fellow Democrats, the reason “we” keep losing is because “we” don’t do a very good job of recruiting other Party members. We feel that is someone else’s responsibility. We don’t offer solutions, we only bitch about the results. We don’t make a real effort to get involved in any significant way. Oh sure, some of you attend Democratic Club meetings, but not too many. Some of you step up and lead in your communities and some of you even take the time to educate others as to why you are passionate about your politics and why others should be too. I think that’s great. I do it too. But is it enough? I don’t think so, I really don’t. If this is offending you it is for one of two reasons for the most part. You are either already VERY active and know that what I am writing doesn’t apply to you or you are part of the majority of so-called Party faithful who expect things to just happen because you want them a certain way and when they don’t go the way you wanted them to go, you blame everyone but yourself. Look in the mirror and take a good hard look at who you are and what you think you represent. Be honest. That can be very hard to do, but you must.
Do you want to change the Party? Do you want to win elections? Do you want some sanity back in our political lives? Are you willing to do more to get more? You have to answer those questions for yourself but I, for one, am tired of listening to so many people bitch, bitch, bitch, and then do nothing to change the way we do things.
Collective consciousness can be a powerful change agent, it really can be. But until and unless WE change the way WE do things, why is it even close to fair to expect more of others than we do of ourselves?
I’ll see some of you tomorrow and I will surely be engaged in more than one discussion about how Democrats can win. There are many things we can do that we do not do and I’ll save that for my next column. But this is pretty simple, actually. Stop bitching and start doing and if you just can’t bring yourself to break a sweat over your future, the future of your children and grandchildren, and if you can continue to live with laws that are rammed down your throat by lawmakers who are about as in touch with reality as the infamous Sybil was, well then you get what you get.
I know where I stand and I know what I do. I don’t want a pat on the back. I don’t want recognition. I don’t want power. I want change. If you want change, too, then join me but please stop bitching!