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!
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.
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.