Sunday, December 11, 2022

How To Fall Upstairs and Find God


NC Democratic Party Chair Bobbie Richardson has published a post-election statement, and I rather wish she hadn't. Because she has also apparently stated her intent to run in a few months for reelection to another two-year term as State Party Chair, and the editorial she published does not reflect any critical understanding of, nor interest in, why North Carolina failed to achieve more success in the last elections or even what might be done differently. If Richardson stays as the leader, there's no apparent path for change in how the NCDP runs and wins campaigns.

I saw Richardson's statement in the Indy Week, headlined "In This Year's Midterm Election, Democracy Won." I think it must have been "exclusive" to Indy Week, because a quick Google search finds it nada. If it's published on the NCDP website, even, it's well hidden. In other words, it's not a piece of post-election analysis that's likely to get any play.

In fact, it's not a piece of post-election analysis at all. The whole thing celebrates every other state that went blue or purple because of their passion to save women's rights and turn back MAGA extremism, and that kind of celebration really leaves North Carolina out, because here things most certainly got redder, devastatingly so. "The American people did our part," Richardson writes, but why didn’t North Carolina? Cheerleading about the voting power of "Americans" seems a bit tone-deaf.

What happened in North Carolina looks like bloodshed compared to the other states of blessed moment.

Richardson gets as close as she dares to the unpleasantness way down in paragraph 6, but even then she wants to bury the bad news at the end of the paragraph:

North Carolinians chose election denier Ted Budd to serve in the U.S. Senate, and voters elected a conservative majority to the state supreme court. These losses are devastating for our democracy, but we must not grow weary. Our democracy is worth fighting for, and we will never give up on it.

But that's it, so far as introspection, or acknowledging failed technique, strategy, or messaging, and with no hint of even a curiosity about what we might do better in the future as a Party.

Granted, the duties of the top leadership of the state Democratic Party tilt more to the ceremonial, which includes rah-rah morale boosts, than to supervision of daily Party operations, data management, targeting, messaging, let alone the arduous, almost impossible task of recruiting candidates in every NC House and Senate district, among other races. Party Chairs are more figureheads than strategists, more fundraisers than accountants, more cheerleaders than the callers of plays, and they rely entirely on a staff that they have hiring and firing power over. And hence the power to mandate new directions, new "best practices."

The Executive Director runs the operation and has a staff with titles like "Political Director," "Finance Director, " "Coordinated Development Director," etc. There is no "Data Director" currently listed, and one of the frequent complaints in 2022 against the State Party involved reduced access to targeting data, and a problematic lag sometimes in getting it, as though State Party operations don't trust a county like Watauga to manage its own data and messaging.

A major change in "operations" at the State Party can't happen without, first, acknowledgement that some things need changing. Without it, doing the same things over again like they were done in 2022 seems likely for the NCDP, like a longer version of the movie "Memento" in which the hero/victim leads his life in perpetual reverse.

Bobbie Richardson's reelection as NCDP chair, or not, will occur at the winter SEC (State Executive Committee) meeting in a couple of months. I have heard of at least one challenger.


Kathryn Charles said...

Excellent blog post. I thought I had received Richardson's post election response via email or Facebook,but was unable to find it. However your commentary is excellent as usual.

Kathryn Charles Wilkes County Democratic Party Chair.

Anonymous said...

Just curious why you might think that Jerry Meek was super successful as a party building strategist from 2005-2009 with his 100-county strategy - following the lead of Howard Dean as DNC Chair and his 50-state strategy to build the party and get out the vote. Obama recognized Dean’s strategy as key to his 2008 win - at the same time he began dismantling the policy.

I’m tired of figureheads. I’m looking for party-building leaders. And we haven’t had one since 2015!

J.W. Williamson said...

In my opinion, Jerry Meek was perhaps our last really effective state chair. He came to Boone and learned our canvassing technique. And he's the only chair I know of to convene a summit of Democratic bloggers in the state, something I was privileged to attend. Howard Dean's 50-state strategy was the right strategy. The person who sabotaged Dean was not Obama so much as Rahm Emanuel, who totally sandbagged him. After Jerry Meek took charge of the Party, we had gains across the state in the 2006 general election. Wish we could get him back.