Another victory for democracy, transparency in the Democratic Party—this time in the Pennsylvania Democratic party!

Some friends of mine who are very disillusioned with the Democratic Party and see little hope for improvement ask me why I bother working within the Democratic Party. Every once in awhile something happens which makes me think it might be worth it after all.

Progress shouldn’t be this painfully slow, but the determination and persistence of Tracey Gordon and Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus has finally paid off. The Philadelphia Democratic Party finally acknowledged that Tracey Gordon won election as committeeperson in 2010 and seated her. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Pennsylvania Democratic Progressive Caucus, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party is becoming more democratic, more transparent.

On June 9 a resolution initiated by the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus was passed unanimously by Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee. The resolution stated:

Whereas, that in all 67 counties in the State of Pennsylvania there is
only one process in effect for the election of Democratic Committee
people and that the Committee person election process has guidelines
set forth by the Pa. Dept. of State and State election laws; and

Whereas, we recognize that that all 67 Democratic County Committees
are obligated to have rules and by-laws that are consistent with our
State Party by-laws; and

Whereas, it should only be practical, that in all 67 counties that
there is only one process in effect to remove an elected county
committee person from office within the Pennsylvania Democratic Party;

Therefore, be it resolved, that we the elected committee people of the
Democratic State Party respectfully request that the leadership of the
State Democratic Party commission the state by-laws committee to establish a review and recommendation process for a due process procedure of the removal of county committee people and to submit a draft to all state committee members for the Jan./Feb. 2013 30 day call.

Last Fall the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus asked the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus to bring the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s refusal to seat Tracey Gordon to the PA Dem. Party Executive committee and seek a remedy. Initially there was reluctance to deal with this issue but the Progressive Caucus persisted and the July 9 resolution was the result. Special thanks to Bruce Slater, Chair of the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus who made many, many phone calls to state committee members all around the state getting their support for this issue. That outreach will no doubt pay off in many other ways.

The By-laws Committee will have a draft of new by-laws consistent with the resolution by the next State Committee meeting and Party Chair Jim Burn made a public commitment that this would be done. I have seen a change in Burn. I think he now recognizes that the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus is a force to be reckoned with and Burn is now talking about making the Party more democratic, more transparent.

Also two additional resolutions initiated by the PA Democratic Progressive Caucus, support for same sex marriage and for women’s rights, were passed at June 9 state committee meeting. The women’s rights resolution was passed unanimously; the same-sex marriage resolution passed by an overwhelming margin. The energy in the Pennsylvania State Democratic Party is with the Progressive Caucus.

Irv Acklesberg and the ACLU intend to pursue legal remedies and are currently considering options which could result in a ruling enjoining the Phila. Democratic Party from ever again nullifying the results of a democratically conducted election for a county or committeepersons.

Of course it shouldn’t be so hard to get the Democratic Party to conduct its business in a fair, democratic manner. And some times I question whether it’s worth working within the party , BUT at this point I think a reformed, revitalized Democratic party is the only option for keeping an energized, well-funded radical right at bay and creating some space for progressive politics.

We Don't Want A Uniform Policy That Encourages Purges

At the Democratic Party State Committee meeting on June 9th, some members of Democratic State Committee were circulating a draft policy that linked purges of committee people to failure to attend a certain number of meetings. It did not pass that day, and hopefully will not pass in the future.

The danger in having a uniform policy is that the policy may make things worse. Right now, the purge of a Democratic committeeperson anywhere in the state is exceedingly rare. If any committeeperson could be purged for missing meetings however,the number of purges could increase exponentially.

We need an active Democratic Party that is inclusive and responsive to the voters. We do not need a Democratic Party engaging in "gotcha" tactics to routinely get rid of Democratic committeepeople.

The goal of any reform ought to be a ban on purges for any reason other than gross misconduct. To the best of my knowledge and belief, not a single member of any Democratic ward committee in my legislative district has been purged from a ward committee other than by defeat by the voters during my many years in the Pennsylvania legislature. I think this is a good record, and it should not be replaced by attendance tests or other forms of "objective" pejorative evaluation.

The goal of the Democratic Party is to win elections. Committeepeople should be an integral part of that. Any attendance test or the like can be applied selectively. It would be a backward step if committeepeople purges became routine in the interests of uniformity when in fact they are now extraordinarily rare.

Mark, I agree: “The goal

Mark, I agree: “The goal of any reform ought to be a ban on purges for any reason other than gross misconduct.”

I think arbitrary and capricious behavior on the part of county chairs may occur more often than you think. I have heard quite a few stories like this at state committee meetings. One county chair tired to remove a committee person because he refused to put up a lawn sign!

I also agree with you about attendance requirements—there’s too much danger of selective enforcement.

I was interested in your report that “At the Democratic Party State Committee meeting on June 9th, some members of Democratic State Committee were circulating a draft policy that linked purges of committee people to failure to attend a certain number of meetings.” This is quite consistent with what I heard about a planned attempt to get rid of a Philadelphia state Committee delegate who was involved in the Tracey Gordon legal case.

However the rules of PA Democratic Party already stipulate that committeepeople can be removed for failure to attend 3 consecutive meetings. Were the Phila people unaware of the PA Party rules or where they seeking to make them more stringent?

I Have No Idea Who Was Aware Of Anything

I, for instance, was not aware it was possible to remove a committeeperson for missing three consecurive meetings: likely hundreds of committee people I have served with over the years could have been removed if that provision were enforced in my legislative district.

I do not believe that the draft was submitted by Philadelphians; all or almost all the names on it were from outside of Philadelphia. I did not study it closely: I was focused on the election for delegates at large (I was elected an at large delegate for President Obama) and other convention-related business. I was greatly relieved when a resolution to merely study the issue and produce a report was voted on instead.

In any case, the goal ought to become as close as possible to a purge-free party, not a party that uniformly in every county, in every ward, routinely purges committee people for poor attendance. The issue should be protection of individual and constituent rights, not the promotion of uniform committee purging.

Nothing in the party rules stops the party leaders from appointing auxiliary committee people to get the vote out where committee people are not adequately doing the job. Nor does it stop candidates from recruiting other workers or party leaders and anyone else who is interested from recruiting new committee candidates. But the idea that there is going to be a new focus on "uniform" purging methods is very worrisome unless there is going be a uniform "no purge" policy.

I believe the intent of the

I believe the intent of the PA progressive caucus is a "uniform no-purge policy."

I certainly hope so.

I certainly hope so. And I hope the Progressive Caucus will make certain that it's idealistic goal of preventing purges is not hijacked by those who want many additional "uniform" purges.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Syndicate content