Disaster Recovery: A Path Forward for the TDP and Texas Democrats

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The impending departure of TDP Chairman Boyd Richie initially offered the promise of rebuilding our state party, our party infrastructure and developing a real blueprint for a path forward towards some success at the ballot box.

Make no mistake-we have suffered a disaster.  And it is way past time to begin the recovery.

To start with, Chairman Richie is to be commended for his willingness to serve at all.  Party Chair isn't exactly a position for which we have a large number of willing applicants.  And, for the record, I don't question for one second that he did the best job he was able to do.

His announcement creates both a dilemma and an opportunity.  The dilemma is that we are going to be starting over again.  The opportunity is that we are going to be starting over again.

There are two main points that all Texas Democrats should be intently focused on at this critical time: adding top-notch staff, and ensuring that the 2012 election cycle is the first step on the long journey to becoming viable and electable across Texas.

And these two main points must be considered in the most basic, simplistic framework: you cannot rebuild and recover from a disaster until you have a period of demolition…get it down to the frames and start over.So let us discuss demolition.

Richie lacks the ability to oversee this operation or he would have already done so.  Therefore, the best interest of the TDP and all Texas Democrats is for Richie to accelerate his timeline and depart no later than 90 days before the end of the filing deadline.

This will allow for the SDEC to appoint a replacement who can/will oversee the demolition and initiate reconstruction of the staff and infrastructure while charting a new course and creating a new path forward.

There is no greater indication that this change is needed ASAFP than Richie's recent appointment to serve as Executive Director.  

For the record, Bill Brannon is smart, experienced and an operative whom I have admired for 15 years.  But, to a great degree, it amounts to a continuation of the current, failed path and a clear impediment to the necessary demolition that must precede our recovery.

(I first met Bill in 1996 while running a race in East Texas.  I looked up to him very much and have admired his work for Cong. Sandlin and other Texas Democrats in the region.  I like Bill and think the world of him and his record of service.  This is by no means a swat at him, it is intended to be a reality check and inspire a discussion about where we are and where we need to go.)

With all due respect to the men and women who have worked so hard to give us even an outside chance at some electoral success, for us to erase the dramatic institutional deficiencies and culture we need to tear it down to the frames and start over.

At this point we need a new chair that will scour the country for the best and brightest young Democrats who have proven success at the state party and/or state caucus level.  We should commit to a meaningful search for a free agent that can bring new energy, institute a new culture and enact new policies, procedures and strategies to help us move forward (finally).

To assume for one instant that the best, most accomplished talent in the country could only be found in Texas is both arrogant and inaccurate.  There are a lot of talented young people who are directing caucuses with great deals of success.  Let's go get them!

Rebuilding

By appointing a new party chair no later than 90 days before the filing deadline, the new chair will have the opportunity to recruit candidates, raise money, retain new staff and chart a course for the 2012 cycle.  For Richie to rob Texas Democrats of the chance to start the demolition, rebuilding and recovery process this year would be a travesty and cause harm that I am quite certain he would not intend to cause.

With a new staff in place, the inevitable new policies, new structures and recovery can begin to help Texas Democrats turn the corner and start pushing the boulder up the hill (and the hill is steep, believe me).

There can be little debate among objective, thoughtful Texas Democrats that we desperately need a new path forward.  I maintain that there can also be little debate among objective, thoughtful Texas Democrats that what we have been doing has failed, failed, failed.

Therefore, the Chairman should do the right thing and resign early so that the folks that will be here fighting (the SDEC) can begin the recovery this cycle.  The SDEC should appoint a new chair who is committed to a total tear down and reconstruction of our staff and infrastructure.

By employing the top free agents and empowering them to employ the best practices from successful operations from around the country, we will be finally acknowledging that we lack the ability to turn the corner on our own and the TDP will be putting our best foot forward in 2012.

Reality Check

Forget all of the bull about swinging for the fences, getting the perfect candidate, finding all the money we need, developing a narrative that makes any sense at all, and winning East Texas. Forget it all.

We absolutely cannot continue to assume that what we have in place works on any respectable or acceptable level.  

The most meaningful and important thing that we can do to chart a new course, turn the corner and move forward is to admit our weaknesses and address those weaknesses in real ways.

I have lived the incrementalism that has defined our Texas party for the past 15 years.  I remember losing the Senate a few special elections at a time because existing statewide Democratic officeholders didn't help.  I remember losing every statewide office (sometimes by a nose) because Democrats refused to modernize, coordinate and work together to get out the base vote.  I remember losing the House because we lacked a narrative and allowed them to tell voters what we stood for.  And I remember giving up a supermajority in the House because we allowed the reputation of the national Democrats to define us and kept trying to use the same old folks and the same old tactics.

I hope I'll remember turning the corner.  I hope I'll remember taking a step forward.  And I hope I'll remember Texas Democrats saying en masse, “Enough. This isn't working and we need to fundamentally change our philosophy and approach to running the state party.”

The fact of the matter is that it ultimately will not matter how great our candidate is, how bad their candidate is, how much money we have or how many goofy concepts and attempts to play on demographics we employ if we cannot put the rubber to the road.

Demolishing what is hopelessly broken, rebuilding from the ground up, and charting an entirely new course forward is our only hope for recovering from this disaster that has been the Texas Democratic Party for the past 15 years.

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  1. Better operatives or a better path?
    The TDP hasn't managed to articulate what we as Democrats stand for in the past 20 years. Yes, we're against all of the nonsense that the R's are pushing, but what are we actually FOR? A generation ago we were a party of middle-of-the-road whites with backup from a much smaller minority population than currently exists.  Then the conservative whites leaders all died, retired, or got swept out of office, a whole lot of middle-of-the-road voters abandoned us, and now we're a fractured coalition that can't summon the critical mass to actually do anything effective. (Tom Delay's game plan worked like a charm.) This legislative session has been an absolute disaster, but we can only watch from the sidelines since we have almost no say at all.

    I'm all for getting the best possible talent in the TDP, and your suggestions are a good start, but unless we take a hard look at ourselves from the bottom up, we're never going to succeed.

    For the record, I don't have any magic suggestions for what our unifying theme should be, either. There are a lot of issues that I care about, but they're not the sort of things that winning coalitions are built around. All I ask is that we start talking about our vision, and not just about our tactics.  

    • I agree
      Basically the theory is that if you put a Ferrari engine in a Model T…you aren't going to reach the full performance potential of the engine.

      And, conversely, if you put a Model T engine in a Ferrari…well, you get the point.

      The narrative is vital…but until the TDP develops the ability to construct and tell a narrative, it will be up to each campaign to do so (status quo).  Therefore, we need the TDP to prepare itself for the grunt work of developing tangible benefits and structural advantages to our candidates.

      And, as I stated in the diary, we need to bring in talented free agents that have experience setting up and running large party operations.

  2. Alvarado Campaign on

    Texas Democrats: The Mission: To Undermine

    “Demolishing what is hopelessly broken, rebuilding from the ground up, and charting an entirely new course forward is our only hope for recovering from this disaster that has been the Texas Democratic Party for the past 15 years.”

    I can think of a couple of individuals that have this same message, but for some reason many democrats are just not buying it. You elevate the language, but the message is still the same. And I believe the reason democrats don't buy the message is because they don't accept the messenger as acceptable or viable.

    Either way, a few people may believe that we do not need to “reinvent the wheel” as drastically as you propose, and a few more may agree 100% with what you say about tearing down and reconstructing a new party, but the point is, and you said it plainly, enough is enough. You have offered some constructive criticism, but are democrats ready for “any” kind of change? I would like to share some thoughts.

    First of all, friendship and nepotism is a powerful force to reckon with in Texas politics. And these friendships are undermining the party. The leadership has created a party of the status quo. The status quo has got to go!  The status quo gives rise to the “good ole party” and results in confusion. Is it true representation when democrats support ineffective leadership and where personal friendship carries more weight than loyalty or allegiance to the party, to the very values that democrats purportedly share?  It is time to demolish the ways of old and chart a course that leads to a brighter future for all Texans, but how are we to accomplish this?  

    I can commend Richie for his desire to recruit so-called “winnable” candidates, but unfortunately, I want to choose my own candidate from a list of candidates, as do my voting friends. We discussed the possibilities of all seven gubernatorial candidates in 2010 and we were all disgusted with the lack of support for all the candidates from the TDP and the various democratic groups, clubs and such. But let me add, I also loath and find insulting, the idea of pairing Hispanic candidates with a white candidate simply to attract the Hispanic vote. And I disagree that we need to do a nationwide search for talent to create a new culture for Texas democrats.

    There are plenty of willing individuals with the tenacity, the fortitude and the commitment to direct the party in the right direction. The question is, are we all interested in going in the same direction, because it is not about recruiting democrats for statewide office, as much as it is about attracting a preferred candidate for statewide office.  

    What you prefer and what I prefer may be different, hence the Democratic Primaries. This individual does not need to be an attorney, or have a list of endorsements from elected democrats, the same elected democrats that have failed Texans as far as I am concerned. I don't think we should use endorsements as a qualifying attribute for the position of state chair. The right candidate, however does need to have leadership skills in dealing with large numbers of people and groups, a plan and a means of putting that plan into action. He or she must be able to regain the trust of those that matter and at this point, everyone matters.

    At this point we need a new chair that will scour the country for the best and brightest young Democrats who have proven success at the state party and/or state caucus level.  

    We should commit to a meaningful search for a free agent that can bring new energy, institute a new culture and enact new policies, procedures and strategies to help us move forward (finally).

    In this passage you suggest we hire a “free agent.” Isn't a free agent simply someone who does the bidding of the highest bidder.  How is that any different than what we have now? We have plenty of talent in Texas… and quite astute about how Texas politics works. The problem is democrats only want to hear from individuals they can identify as viable.

    I was at a recent Summit in San Antonio, and I heard much the same messages: we need to bring out the Hispanic vote? The democratic base is not voting. Hispanics tend to vote democrat. At some previous meeting it had been proposed to conduct a nationwide search for someone experienced in Hispanic outreach. All you have to use is the compadre network.    

    Nevertheless, the talent is there. The talent is ready, but are you ready to accept the talent of someone that does not meet or represent your every desire, your image, and your impression of an acceptable or viable democrat? That is the question every democrat should be asking themselves. And by the way, I do resent the reference to bright young democrats being the ones that can create change; we should be attracting democrats, and individuals with a passion to do what it takes to create change in Texas.

    You want young. I don't want young. I want someone who knows where the TDP has been and where it needs to go, and it is far from where it needs to be. Today's young democrat is not prepared to get the party where it needs to go. The Democratic Party has a less than an appealing history and it must be remembered so it does not digress from its objective. I tend to believe that is why the party remains fragmented.  

    As to whether Richie did his best, I would disagree. I say that only because his political director was quite boisterous about the party simply wanting to improve the numbers for a future win. For me that was a reflection of his leadership.  Come on! Is that the mind set of someone who wants to win an election, a person who only wants to finish in second place? I am all for getting rid of the whole staff. I have been hearing that message since before Chris Bell. Twenty-ten was going to be year! We must be ready for 2012! Now, it's 2014. Now what! I think his biggest downfall was not being able to create solidarity, or any kind of cohesiveness among democrats or democratic groups. A desire to actually win statewide elections that would have been a good quality to possess.  

    I know many people disagree, but Richie should have supported the Bexar County Chair and sought out an amiable resolve rather than joining the lynch party and dragging a county chair through the media mud. As far as I am concerned, the entire BCDP should be ashamed for trampling over the majority vote. The democratic voters of Bexar County should have been given the opportunity to vote in another or keep the current chair, but instead only a select few were able to vote. The entire incident was a disgrace for democrats and democracy.

    Further, with a fragmented party, it would be unlikely that someone from another part of the country could create a new culture, or change the political landscape in Texas. First, they have to get past the Republican voters. We want to forget that Republicans work of ideology, and that democrats do not. From my observations there is nothing that creates commonality among Texas democrats, democratic groups or democratic voters, not even electing a democratic candidate for president. I cannot express my displeasure upon hearing that Bexar County precinct chairs had resigned after Obama won the Primary; that speaks volumes of the division in the party.  

    That is just the way it is. Democrats do not need a new culture; they just need to accept the culture that is Texas. Texas is a growing, very diverse and conservative culture, whether people like it or not. It will take a couple of generations to change it, and it may or may not change. And it is the Hispanic population that is creating a demographic change in Texas. Hispanics, whether people acknowledge it or not, are more traditional, more conservative when it comes family matters, but not completely intolerant. They may accept difference, but might not be quick at acknowledging those differences. And you will find that Hispanics from the south are more influenced by the Hispanic culture because of their proximity to the original culture than Hispanics in northern parts of the state.

    I do not agree with all your points, but you are right on target on many of them. That we desperately need a new path forward, perhaps, but we just need to move forward.  Everything democrats have been doing has failed, failed, and failed, as you say, and they will continue to fail if Richie has his way.

    Your reality check… getting the perfect candidate, finding all the money we need, developing a narrative that makes any sense at all, and winning East Texas, well, I totally agree, forget it all. Some democrats are never going to accept certain representation, they will never accept change and they are socializing their children likewise. That is the reality that many Texans and democrats live with, and are determined to change, but they also realize they have an uphill battle.  

    I don't believe the Democratic Party leadership knows what their weaknesses are, or that they even have any. So, to chart a new course, to turn the corner and move forward means they need to recognize, confess and identify those weaknesses. For the most part, the TDP leadership, the influence, the deep pockets are still hanging on to their past glory and simply do not want to let go. So, I believe the best place to start evaluating is from the top down and not the bottom up. We know what is at the bottom, but we also know what is on top and those on top are not going to give up without a real ideological battle.

    As I said, people may or may not agree with your opinion, but one thing I wait for – are the critics, because they will come to tear down anyone who attacks their world view; these critics attack people on personal attributes, rather than reflect on their own beliefs, practices, opinions and such. At this juncture, there does need to be a time of reflection – if – Texas democrats truly want to change the political landscape…but then again, unfortunately we have two types of Texas democrats, so which one will make a stronger show of power? Which one will have to compromise so the party can move forward?

    There is an old children's rhyme that seems to fit so appropriately with the dilemma facing Texas democrats…

    Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall;

    Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

    All the King's horses

    And all the King's men

    Couldn't put Humpty together again!

    Will this be the fate of the TDP?

    Great reading!

    Irma Mathis

    Former campaign manager for Felix Alvarado

    Texas voter

    Texas Hispanic

    http://felixalvarado.wordpress

    • Identity politics

      We want to forget that Republicans work of ideology, and that democrats do not. From my observations there is nothing that creates commonality among Texas democrats, democratic groups or democratic voters, not even electing a democratic candidate for president. I cannot express my displeasure upon hearing that Bexar County precinct chairs had resigned after Obama won the Primary; that speaks volumes of the division in the party.  

      This is exactly right. Instead of being united by a common goal, we are an alliance of diverse groups, most of which do respect the goals of the others, but all of which mostly care about what hits home for them. This makes it almost impossible to get a united message out, and makes it easy for the R's to brand us as a bunch of “special interests”.

      We need to talk a lot more about the common interest. Of course we still need to support the rights of Hispanics, African-Americans, labor, GLBT, etc., but not because of the past. The fact that organized labor won decent working conditions for everybody is 100% true, but it is also ancient history. Texas's terrible legacy of racism, some of which continues to this day, is more relevant, but is still missing the point. The real point is that everybody deserves a decent education, decent health care, a living wage, an opportunity to walk with head held high, and a better life for our children.

      When a minority gets treated badly, we need to cry “foul”, but not on the grounds that “blacks deserve better” or “Hispanics deserve better” or “gays deserve better”. Instead, we need to argue that victimizing any group is a betrayal of the American ideals that we all subscribe to. I'm not pro-Hispanic, pro-black, pro-women, or pro-LGBT.  I'm pro-diversity, pro-Texan, pro-American, and above all, pro-human beings.

      We disagree about a lot of things, and we'll never find an ideology that fits all of us.  But the more we talk — and the more we think — about what's good for everybody, and especially what's good for the next generation, the closer we'll be to rebuilding the party.

    • thanks for the thoughts
      You make many great points and do so in a thoughtful way.

      While we disagree on some key points, I fully appreciate that we have a shared frustration.

      There are plenty of willing individuals with the tenacity, the fortitude and the commitment to direct the party in the right direction.

      I have to say that, although it would appear that we disagree, I actually concur with your sentiment here. We have the intangibles…we lack the tangibles.  We lack folks with a proven record of running a modern, large-scale party operation.

      As to whether Richie did his best, I would disagree.

      You assume that he could have done better. I maintain that his abilities to run the party were wholly deficient…but that he did everything he could think of. That, of course, implies that he lacked the ability to do more. (And he did.)

      but one thing I wait for – are the critics, because they will come to tear down anyone who attacks their world view

      Dear God and Tiny Baby Jesus: please let anyone give a shite. Unfortunately this diary doesn't deal with the minutaie of a totally insignificant City of Austin election, so the probability of 100 comments is virtually nil.

      {As an aside…I do disagree with you entirely on the Dan Ramos issue. If we raise hell when the other side says bigoted/racist/stupid things, we need to be prepared to raise twice as much hell when our own elected folks do. If Dan had only apologized, he would still be chair.}

      • Alvarado Campaign on

        I think it was Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
        It is frustrating, disturbing and downright frightening

        All democrats should be concerned about the SDEC appointing someone who is not the best (even if they are good), who will then have too much of an upper hand when we elect someone at the convention next year.  

        It's obvious that democrats, perhaps not all, realize there is a problem with the organizational structure of the TDP.  And most democrats recognize and commend the willingness of individuals with the tenacity, the fortitude and the commitment to direct the party in the right direction; still it becomes a matter of finding the one individual that will satisfy everyone's requirements.  

        I have to say that, although it would appear that we disagree, I actually concur with your sentiment here. We have the intangibles…we lack the tangibles.  We lack folks with a proven record of running a modern, large-scale party operation.

        I guess, I just think the intangibles are more important, at least at this juncture. If democrats want to attract talent from other parts of the country to lead the party…salary will have to be the motivator.

        “The best people working for organizations are like volunteers. Since they could probably find good jobs in any number of groups, they choose to work somewhere for reasons less tangible than salary or position.” Max Depree

        We need someone that has a desire and a vision….

        Seriously… the Republicans are entrenched and I doubt a Democrat that speaks their language will move them. He still carries the stigma of D.

        I was working on some research and came across some old Richie articles…

        During his first speech as Chairman, Boyd's message to Texas Democrats was “our job is not win arguments, but to win elections” and announced his five point plan to revitalize the Texas Democratic Party and expand field staff and grassroots trainings, build a pro-active communications team and incorporate modern technology into the Party's fundraising, communications and outreach strategies.

        It's true that of the 29 statewide offices available, the Texas Democratic Party doesn't hold a single one. The party's chairman, Boyd Richie, says it's legitimate to criticize the Democrats for that – but not to blame him for it.

        “That's been going on for 15 years,” he said in his Austin office on Friday. “I've been chairman for four.”

        Richie says, the first time he was able to weigh in on candidate recruitment was in the current 2010 cycle:

        Does Richie think the Democrats' first statewide victory in 16 years will come from among this year's crop of candidates?  “Absolutely I do,” he says:

        …after Gov. Rick Perry's campaign called for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White to drop out of the race, alleging unethical business practices – a charge Richie calls “absurd.”

        Really, how many candidates were on the gubernatorial race? And he asked them to step down so White could run unopposed.

        “We ought to have choices in elections,” Richie says. “Rick Perry doesn't want anyone to have a choice except him.”

        Now how is that for major contradiction!!

        In the next presidential election, Richie says, Texas has the potential to become “a battleground configuration.” Democrats, he says, have the opportunity to “turn this thing around.” The first step will be introducing the statewide candidates and getting everyone “fired up” at the upcoming state convention…

        If 2010 doesn't go as he plans, Richie only asks one thing: competitive districts. I can get my candidates; people will be better served…

        As to whether Richie did his best, I would disagree.

        You assume that he could have done better. I maintain that his abilities to run the party were wholly deficient…but that he did everything he could think of. That, of course, implies that he lacked the ability to do more. (And he did.)

        I can see your point….

        {As an aside…I do disagree with you entirely on the Dan Ramos issue. If we raise hell when the other side says bigoted/racist/stupid things, we need to be prepared to raise twice as much hell when our own elected folks do. If Dan had only apologized, he would still be chair.}

        For me, this is not about Ramos, (BTW, BD's wanted Meza to win, popular said different.) but about Richie not being able to build common ground with the various democratic factions.  The leadership should have stepped in to mediate, not join the lynch party. So, Ramos used a bad analogy to express his frustration. The entire incident was a result of pure frustration and further fueled by frustration. Ramos was only saying that these various group differences were undermining the party. I have been to meeting with the BCDP, it is appalling and scary to attend their party meetings. The point is… if Richie would have done a better job at the helm this incident might have been averted.

        LSadun nailed it…

        “This is exactly right. Instead of being united by a common goal, we are an alliance of diverse groups, most of which do “respect” the goals of the others, but all of which mostly care about what hits home for them. This makes it almost impossible to get a united message out, and makes it easy for the R's to brand us as a bunch of “special interests”.

        The answer could rest with agreeing to disagree about a lot of things, and redefining goals and such.

        I disagree that a party leader must have a polished look, or must be a lawyer, or must have endorsements – at this point they are meaningless and serve only to support the status quo. Maintaining the status quo is hurting democrats.

        Nevertheless, the party chair should have vision, because leadership is more than just meeting objectives. This is one of my favorite quotes:

        “Management is the process of assuring that the program and objectives of the organization are implemented. Leadership, on the other hand, has to do with casting vision and motivating people.” John Maxwell

        I must add, perhaps Richie also has a valid point in that we should “not blame him” for party failures, after all, he does have a loyal following, so really there is plenty of blame to go around.

        I am reminded of a quote from Ann Richards…

        “I believe in recovery, and I believe that as a role model I have the responsibility to let young people know that you can make a mistake and come back from it.”Ann Richards

        So thank you….this was a very delightful conversation.

        Look forward to reading more of your stuff…

        • Motivation?
          “Leadership, on the other hand, has to do with casting vision and motivating people.”

          I can motivate myself — thank you very much.

  3. One thing that I would worry about
    I'm worried about, in such a scenario, the SDEC appointing someone who is not the best (even if they are good), who will then have too much of an upper hand when we elect someone at the convention.

    Maybe. Maybe not. Something to think about, though.

    • HMMM
      Yes choices are important but just because someone is excellent does not mean they can who we need them to be.  I'll take someone who is willing because if need be they will step aside if they are ineffective…. at least I hope they will.  

      Were at the bottom of the barrel…. knocked down but not out. I for one am willing to fight fire with fire.  Our opposition has burned down the house around us.

      amperage

  4. Starting Over
    While I admit I am not that aware of what goes on at the state level I do have concerns as what goes on at the local level as all politics are local.  We do need change but at what cost?  We have lead those oppose to TDC ideals go on and on with no real effort to respond.  What we need at the state level is means to communicate and gather our forces when necessary.  Who at TDC is willing to do this should stay. Anyone who is unwilling to implement change should be polity asked to leave (provided they do have a good reason to oppose the change).

    Communicate at all levels, open to ideas and implement them.  Be able to change our message immediately instead of waiting for this to be done at a convention.

    Drew  

  5. Couple questions
    I think we need to understand how big a system we're evaluating, and identify key participants in that system. With the system and its participants defined, we should understand the roles each participant has in the system — both what work is defined as each participant's responsibility by others, and what work each participant defines as his/her own responsibility. Then, with the failed action defined, we can understand why there was a failure and what work needs to be done to do better next time. Then, it's the long process of setting a plan in place to achieve that work, and how to get all participants in the system to understand each others' roles — both self-defined and perceived/placed on them.

    Having thought through this, and having read this post, I'm left wondering:

    1) Colin, whose work are you evaluating — the TDP or “Texas Democrats”? How do you separate challenges/problems that arise in individual campaigns or counties vs. what the TDP is in charge of? And how do you separate what people perceive/place as the role of the TDP vs. what their actual role is?

    2) Colin, why would the perceived problems/failures that arose out of an Austin-centric, consultant-driven, top-down model be better solved by an Austin-centric, consultant-driven, top-down model run by a newly chosen SDEC candidate…..to eventually be replaced by someone from not in Texas?

    3) How does your solution for demolition address the cultural tensions in the system?

    —————

    Finally, thanks for the discussion. I look forward to reading how this goes, and will continue to engage as best I can.

    • where to begin?
      Thanks for the thoughts, Phillip.

      Your questions aren't short answers and I certainly don't pretend to know that I have all of the answers you seek…but I'll take a swing from my limited perspective.

      I support a full autopsy.  The problem is, I've yet to see someone admit their own failure. That leaves it to the failure being uncovered by, or reported by, others. I don't see a propensity for honesty or accountability. I see that no matter how bad we do, everyone that wants to stay can do so.

      Without a full KPMG performance audit, I can safely say that they all need to go. There is a broken culture at the TDP. It was there before Richie, thrived under him and we must eradicate it in order to move forward. (Personally, I'd go so far as to abandon the entire building and find a new joint.)

      1) I'm limiting my critique to the TDP and what I see as their inability/unwillingness to recruit candidates, raise money, provide material services, drive a narrative or assist county and local parties in their efforts to perform those tasks. I believe that the state party is responsible for providing material support to individual candidates and local party operations. This include, but is not limited to, polling, fundraising, email lists, training seminars, negotiated consulting, media buying, generalized talking points, direct mail assistance, straight-ticket ballot push, and statewide early voting petition gathering and submission. Individual campaigns are just that and their own disfunction is their's to own. It is certainly the TDP's responsibility to work with those campaigns to try and get them functional and effective.

      2) Austin-centric is only a problem if it means anything more than located in Austin and closely follows the legislature. I don't care where it is situated, I believe that some minor level of consulting (mostly gratis) is needed, and although my proposal seems to be top-down…it actually isn't.  I'll explain: my recommendation of bringing in a hired gun with a proven track record will mean that we have someone who understands that the state party's role to employ a structure of services and to provide material support to local parties and individual candidates. While we would need a captain steering the mothership, they would not be tasked with steering EVERY ship in the fleet. Every consultant needs to be completely cleaned out. If they've had any impact at all, it is immeasurable at best. No offense, but those contracts should be based on performance, not personal relationships. By keeping around the same old folks, we choke out the emerging talent base in our party and leave untold sums of money on the table. (I don't really understand the last stanza of your #2. I don't believe the SDEC picks the ED, nor would the person picked by the SDEC (the Chair) be from outside of Texas. Sorry if I'm misunderstanding that part!)

      3) Specifically? It doesn't.  But if we enact a modern, professional state party action plan it will diminish many of the cultural tensions.  Some of the tensions among various regions can be directly attributed to the TDP allowing an outside, third-party to dictate what races/regions get attention. Furthermore, ethnic tensions largely exist because of direct action by the TDP. There has been too large of a focus on white, rural seats. IMO, Black and Hispanic voters are largely ignored…even at election time.  This isn't new, it has been that way as long as I'm aware.  I am wholly convinced that a modern, professional outfit will recognize that we don't have to fight over 9,000 swing voted in County X because we can make it up by increasing GOTV in County Q.

      • A response
        Not Rick Perry-level response, but here's what I got to each of your points:

        1. The TDP recruits candidates, raises money, provides material services, drives a narrative, and assists county & local counties on many issues. Linda Chavez-Thompson — the #2 on the ticket — was a TDP-recruited candidate. The TDP raised and spent money on direct mail programs that drove Democratic turnout above projected levels in major Texas counties (if anyone goes and looks at the numbers, they can verify this; I can't but I've seen them before). On the narrative, the “Top Ten Rick Perry Failure” series and “Top Ten State Agency” series were echoed for a year. The TDP did many, many trainings for local and county parties throughout 2010. Now, on the issue of whether or not everyone agreed or thought any of those efforts were effective, I'd submit that each requires its own scrutiny — and, upon doing so, I think a lot of people would be pleasantly surprised by how much the TDP was actually doing.

        I also know, from my direct and personal experience, that many county parties choose not to engage. When we attempted to do major online pushes, and wesbite development — a whole audit of the online capacity of state and local parties — no more than a couple dozen county parties responded positively. Those that did, their work improved. But the vast majority of county parties did little to nothing. This goes back to a big theme of mine: county parties need better leaders, too.

        2. Since my Dad — Ed Martin — is currently a consultant for the TDP, I'm going to skip this one on conflict of interest. On the SDEC part, I'd offer that Richie was originally picked from among the SDEC in April 2006, giving him a big (and as many Glen Maxey supporters would argue, unfair) advantage heading into the summer 2006 State Chair's race.

        3. The third-party targeting provided by the Texas Democratic Trust, among other groups, in 2010 was critical. As you know, I worked for the Texas Democratic Trust from summer of 2009 through the election. I'd offer that, much like the Dallas Mavericks have scouts that make recommendations to the head coach on how to call a play, the Trust (and its consultants) would make recommendations on how to call a play. And what's most interesting is that many decisions made in 2010 were driven not by the TDP, but by the top-of-the-ticket candidate, Bill White. (And for those who may not have liked White atop the ticket, remember that before him our best bet was Tom Schieffer). On your GOTV efforts in other counties, I'd agree.

        —————-

        Since I've engaged, I wanted to offer some of my own ideas:

        1) Start at the county level. Let's look at county performance in elections from the last decade. Let's look at how State House districts have seen an increase or decrease in performance. Let's look at how State Senate districts have seen an increase or decrease in performance. I offer this because, until the last cycle or two, Travis County was underperforming (in my opinion) in turnout. Even now, while we've improved, we should be doing better. If Austin really is such the liberal bastion we all take pride in, Democrats should be turning out 5-6 percentage points better than we currently are (more like 65-66% than 60%). Let's identify the counties/House Districts/Senate Districts where solutions on the local level have worked, and share best practices.

        1A) Evaluate the SDEC. The SDEC is, as its set-up, an entity that can/should be helping set the direction. Which SDEC members are truly engaged and helping, and who is not? Which SDEC members are willing to spend a majority of their time on improving the party in their area, and who is not? A vibrant SDEC could and should be a great recruiting ground for moving ideas throughout the state. I've always had the impression that the SDEC is thoroughly underutilized, when it shouldn't be.

        2) Pick one thing and do it well for 3 months. I'm often overwhelmed, in my own life, when I try to do too many things at once. The TDP has never been fully staffed — at no time in Richie's tenure was there ever enough staff to do all the work the TDP should have been doing. To a large extent, that's just the nature of the job. There's so many ongoing tasks that are required to be done by those that work there — or that would need to be done by entirely replaced new staff — that taking the time to make a big shift is challenging. We have a laundry list of things to improve; I think we should pick one thing, and work on it for 2-3 months.

        3) Knock down all walls not built for legal reasons. County party walls. Elected official walls. Consultant walls. Lawyer walls. Activist walls. Race walls. Financial walls. Ultimately, this is what the struggle is. We have X number of people who work in politics professionally, Y number of people who work casually, and Z number of people who are regular voters we're trying to connect with. Too often, the X and Y groups spend so much time focused on each other that we forget Z. (You make a similar argument, I know). The answer, I'd offer, isn't to demolish the TDP. It's to tear down those walls. More valuable than eliminating staff and/or consultants with institutional knowledge is eliminating the barriers that prevent the work from being done. We could put a whole bunch of new people in place, but that won't make it any easier for elected officials to want to work with the party infrastructure if they just don't want to. I will maintain that correcting those cultural tensions will always remain, first and foremost, the obstacle to us getting our work done. Other states just don't have this problem. I worked in New Hampshire for the 2008 election while I was in grad school, and the organizations and state party there just don't have any problem working together like we do here.

        Thanks for the response. I hope the conversation continues, not just with you and me, but with others on BOR…

        • Well put
          Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I'm not sure there is a hair between our positions on this.

          Many of your points back up my contention that the plans and personnel in place ain't going to cut it.

          Although many arguments exist that something other than what I suggest is appropriate, I've not seen one yet that was even borderline compelling.

          The reality that we must own up to as Texas Democrats is that what we have in place and what we are doing does not work at all.

          I love LCT and have long admired her work. She is one of the reasons I got into politics, but to know that theTDP itself raised and spent money on her behalf and allowed Ortiz's district to go the other way is startling.

          I've been working general election campaigns since 1996 and have NEVER seen the TDP step up to the plate. I've never been contacted by anyone from the TDP since 1996 offering help (or at least critique) .

          And I have little doubt that, were they to do so now, I would reject it out of hand as mindless meddling. Until we can illustrate that we have turned a corner in our structural culture and skill level, and start proving to folks on the ground that there is a method to the madness, no one will heed the counsel of the TDP.

  6. Specifics on a new path?
    It's not enough to know that we need changes and to rebuild the party.  The biggest problem isn't figuring out that we can't stay where we are, I think most people can acknowledge that.  Or even figuring out what our problems are.  It's figuring out where to go and how to fix those problems.  What is the recovery process going to look like?  How specifically can we change things for the better?  Those are the questions that really need answering.

    • I disagree, slightly
      I think we haven't really “figured out what our problems are” because I've yet to hear consensus, or see a study, about what the best practices are. What was done that worked, what was done that worked but just lacked funding, what was done that worked but that was too expensive, what was done fine but could be scaled up or down, what was done that failed for outside/legitimate reasons, what was done that failed because of bad strategy or execution, what was done that failed this time but worked all the other times?

      I've yet to see any kind of list like that. And again – what scale are we talking? Statewide? Countywide? Campaign wide? The whole system needs evaluating, but we got to pick a spot and start from somewhere or we're gonna never get going…

      • absolutely
        I'd settle for what was done and where the money went.

        Individual counties (or local parties) and campaigns are in control of their own destiny. And, unfortunately, (due to the incompetency at the TDP)have been left to their own devices.

        The spot I'm starting from is 1) Richie has to go now, and 2) the staff has to go.

        It sucks, but our present course is unsustainable. Unless there are some folks willing to step forward and answer some of these questions and clarify some of the inner workings, our only point of advocacy is to clean the freaking house.

    • missing the point slightly
      Timothy, what you say makes sense.  But I think you are missing one of my base points: the TDP is a broken-down mess. Truth be told, we could shutter the damn building, send the staff home and have been just as effective last cycle.

      If anyone can tell me of 3 races where the TDP had any measurable impact, I'll kiss your ass on main street. (And then I'll ask where in the hell they were in 20 other races.)

      I actually get pretty specific in my diary.  But the bumpersticker version is: get a new Chair ASAFP, hire an ED that is the best qualified that we can get in here, clean the whole building out, start over, change the culture, chart a new course.

  7. donaldbankston on

    Disaster Recovery
    I agree with the need for drastic change now. In fact at the last two SDEC meetings I called for the Executive and Deputy Executive Director to be dismissed as well as Ed Martin. I believed that our defeats called for new leadership and a new direction.Such was met with parliamentary games and personal villification from the leadership. Since The Director has resigned and the Chair isn't running. We did pass a resolution calling for the Chair and staff to seek an experienced Hispanic outreach director in a nationwide search.Further we directed the Chair and staff to consult with Party leaders in New Mexico, Colorado,California,and Nevada about their best practices in engaging the Hispanic vote. Lastly, we urged the setting up of a working SDEC taskforce to set and implement strategy for 2012. We are waiting for action by the staff and the chair.As to the Chair, I respectfully urge Boyd to step down. We need time for a new Chair to recruit candidates and seek a new strategy and plan of attack. We need to move from DCCC type consultant driven GOP lite media campaigns to field operations designed to motivates base voters. Having put up with the likes of GOP lite campaign of Lampson and Bill White in FT. Bend Co, I know the futility of such efforts. I would also propose the training and hiring of 25 student interns to be placed in key areas of the state in 2012 to coordinate field operations, similar to Clinton Campaign in 96. I am also in favor of issue referendums on the ballot in the Primary to help increase voter interest. Lastly,I would favor any constructive ideas to cause the Chair to listen and use the valuable minds and resources of the SDEC.  Don Bankston, SDEC#18

  8. TexasBlueAgave on

    Personnel Changes
    Colin,

    Getting rid all of the TDP staff is a serious, not to mention hostile, suggestion. They are extremely competent and talented folks who work their asses off have the same frustrations with the Party that many of y'all have.  Apart from being on a losing team (which we all are) and having worked during a regime thats now ending, you haven't offered any evidence other than for the sake of a clean slate, why these people should be fired. That includes Ed Martin. So, names, reasons: go. If you're calling on someone to lose their job, I need to see a damn good explanation why- don't scapegoat these people

    • fair enough
      Thanks for the thoughts.

      Believe me, I don't take this proposition lightly. I have yet to say that folks there do not “work their asses off”. But effort isn't enough. Sisyphus had one hell of a work ethic…but the ball never made it up the hill.

      The undeniable fact remains that what we have DOES NOT WORK. And I, for one, believe that we have a broken culture there that cannot work itself into a modern, successful program.

      There are many folks there that I think have done a good job and I would definitely recommend other campaigns to hire.

      No one is being scapegoated.  You don't see me calling out names and chastising work ethic…quite the contrary.

      But, since you mentioned it, I'm anxious to hear your evidence that nothing should change.

  9. Involvement is key
    The TDP has failed to acknowledge the importance of rural areas and has insisted that a focus on the cities is the right path–which was the wrong way to think.  Those of us in the rural areas have basically been told that we don't matter so we are less likely to vote and less likely to be involved.  I used to have a very active TDW group and now I can't even get them to meet. Morale is at an all-time low because people feel that they don't have a voice. As long as the TDP focuses on the cities and ignores the Dems out here in the boonies, it won't be strong enough to combat the Repubs.  Repubs have such a stronghold in the rural areas because the Dems have forgotten we exist.  The attempt to redistrict proves this–it was crafted by rural Repubs who know the TDP won't try to stop them.

    • OK so as a rural Dem what specific suggestions do you have?
      Members of the SDEC are here listening, what do you suggest that the TDP do differently. I'm not a fan of what's been going on and how the party is run but without specific suggestions for improvement it's hard to change things for the better.

    • i agree on some level
      our best option is to make a full court press on local school board and municipal races and establish a foothold for higher office. even if the office is “nonpartisan”, we need to recruit and support candidates.

      i don't agree that the TDP has “forgotten” the rurals, but i understand your position.

      i think that there has been a nearly constant chatter about doing something to move rural voters…it just is directed too high up the totem pole.  we need to get local people on the ballot and empowered to turn out votes.

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