End of the Line for the CDP Caucuses?

Little_Red_Riding_HoRecently I got a questionnaire from the California Democratic Party. The gist of it was: What 
are the Caucuses doing? Should they remain in the CDP? etc. It is my 
firm belief that the Caucuses are the only thing that stands between 
the CDP, the Democratic National Committee, and extinction.

Some party leaders and elected offiials (PLEOs) have maintained for many years that the only function of 
the “Democratic Party” is to elect Democrats. I believe they really 
mean “incumbents only.” To that end, the entire structure of the 
Party, as defined in the By-Laws, has been designed to maintain that 
status quo establishment of “electeds” — that is, Incumbents. The Chair has 
stated in public, that these rules will not be changed on his watch. 
He has questioned the validity of the Caucuses, where all he hears is 
talk. He has said that he is more interested in the Party being 
devoted to “shoe leather.”

Any political party solely dedicated to get out the vote (GOTV) or electioneering is doomed. Today, tomorrow, soon. Ask the Republicans. Mickey Edwards, 
former Republican Congressman from Oklahoma, has stated that the demise of the 
Republican Party derives from the day that they decided to turn the Party into an “incumbents-only” GOTV machine. They let go of their 
”ideology”, which then allowed them to run up huge deficits on foreign wars. Incumbents-only was their dead end and it will be for the 
Democratic Party as well, if it is allowed to persist. What we need in our Party is more democracy, not less. What we must maintain is our 
ideology – the Liberal Ideal – to power our GOTV.

All of the Caucuses have played an invaluable role in the recent years culminating in the enthusiasm that has won the last two election 
cycles. The Labor and Progressive Caucuses joined together to pass a “Net Neutrality” resolution that was soon taken up by the entire Party 
across the nation. All of the membership, led by all of the Caucuses,
passed the 2005 “Out of Iraq” resolution. This was followed just weeks 
later by the AFL-CIO passing a similar resolution – the first overtly political resolution in their 75-year history. The fervor for 
Single Payer in the state and the nation has been stoked by its 
embrace inside the Party at the Progressive and many other Caucuses. 
Immigration issues were brought to the main stage by the Caucuses 
working together.

The Caucuses are where we generate the heat and the light of policy for the Party. This is where the “Liberal Ideal”, the long-venerated 
soul of the Democratic Party most actively resides inside the Party. 
Without the Caucuses, the Party will be shrunken to an “incumbents-only” GOTV machine and go the way of the Republicans. Look at the cold, 
hard facts: party registration, Republican and Democrat, is withering. 
”Decline to State” is the only growing political party in America. Reversing that 
trend is not possible as merely a GOTV machine.

If the PLEOs want people to show up and do the “shoe leather” bits, 
they need to give people a reason other than so and so needs to keep 
their job. The Caucuses are the incubator of policy. they give people 
a reason to believe. The rules are already undemocratic – appointed 
voting members in the Central Committees being the most obvious case. 
More democracy not less is required to save the Democratic Party from 
the fate of the Whigs and the Federalists.

brad_parker.gifBefore the Assembly District committees were thrown out of the main body of the Party, we received a similar rationale that the ADs would be able to raise 
money and support candidates if they were shuffled off to the side. 
They were and they disappeared along with the vitality they brought to the dance. I believe that the same result will occur when the Caucuses are removed from the Central Committee as well.

Brad Parker


  1. Sharon Toji says

    I dropped out of an active role in the county and state party when the Party hacks removed our very active Chair, by manipulating the membership, and thus the election, to elect one of their own to the Chair of the Disability Caucus. The Caucus then changed from an active role with the Legislature, where our former Chair was respected, to a Kaffee-Klatch, run by a convicted felon who never paid his debt to society, but, using his wheelchair as a cover, had wormed his way into Party favor.

    The Party wanted a toothless Caucus, and hated the fact that our Caucus was run by an outspoken woman who would not just shut up and toe the line by being a nice, smiling “handicapped person” who posed for pictures with the candidates.

    I spoke with Art personally about this, and was told by him that I should just drop out if I didn’t like what the Rules Committee did. I accepted his invitation, pulled my monthly contribution to CDP, and chose not to run again for the Central Committee. I have concentrated instead on our AD Committee, along with various grassroots efforts.

    We know that, unfortunately, Obama did not have any “coattails” in California in 2008. His crew insisted on using our volunteers outside the state. Without the enthusiastic hoards he brought in, we won’t even have the money we got from Obama tee-shirts and posters to campaign for our local candidates in 2010. The Party has done nothing to keep the energy up among the local grassroots volunteers. I fear for the rsults in 2010.

    Sharon Toji

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