Saturday, November 19, 2016

Cogs which work or break down

By Faith Chatham - Nov. 19, 2016

I am disappointed to learn that the County Chair in Smith County, the largest county in East Texas, decided to step down without giving advance notice to the Democrats in her county. A few years ago, our County Chair in Tarrant County encountered personal conflicts which prompted him to vacate his office between elections. Texas Democratic Party rules specify that a County Chair vacancy is filled between terms by a vote of the pct. chairs at a CEC meeting within 20 days after the County Chair steps down. However in large counties, the best way (thoughtful way) for that to occur is for the County Chair to notify the CEC in advance of the intention to vacate and stay on until the precinct chairs (and hopefully other Democrats in the community) are notified. It is not necessary for the vacancy to be filled by a precinct chair. Notifying the community in advance gives a bigger pool of candidates.

Watching what has /is occurring in Smith County really gives me an even richer appreciation for Steve Maxwell (our previous County Chair in Tarrant) than the rich appreciation I already have for him. Steve absolutely did it the "best way." He assessed his situation and evaluated the needs of the county. He announced his intention several months in advance. He gave the CEC opportunity to announce the date his office would be vacant (several months in advance). He allowed candidates to step forward and to form campaign committees and to compete for his office. There was a public forum at UTA where all candidates who had announced spoke to the public.

They announced in advance what the date would be for the CEC meeting when the precinct chairs would elect the new County Chair and he stepped down once that election was held instead of merly showing up at a CEC meeting and resiging that night!

Also, Steve has remained at Deborah People's side as one of her strongest supporters, advisors and has chaired capital fundraising drives for the party. He is dedicated to the Democratic Party and is invested in seeing that the current chair is as successful in the job as he possibly can enable her to be.

This is how it should be done. I fear that in Smith we are not seeing this kind of transition. I commend Mr. Tolbert in being willing to serve. I regret that the resignation and election occured at the same CEC meeting, and that meeting occurred without an agenda being published and widely distributed in advance announcing an election for replacement of the County Chair. It is also regrettable that it occurred at the very time that Smith County was seeing an important milestone for the Black Community --the installation of Tyler's first Black Fire Chief.

Mr Tolbert needs lots of help. Texans need the Smith County Democratic Party to be robust. I was honored to travel a lot this past year into the many counties in US -TX 1. I was impressed with the hard work and zeal of Democratic volunteers througout East Texas. Crunching the numbers between US TX 1 and the rural East Texas counties of US TX 3, it is obvious that there is a 10 point gain in US 1 over the rural counties in US 3 where no Congressional Candidate ran and /or built infrastructure.

It seemed to me, as an outside observer, that the support and leadership in Smith County did not match some of the leadership of County organizations in some of the other counties in US-1. I saw new political clubs and groups emerge in other East Texas counties in US 1 but not much seemed to be coming out of the Smith County Democratic Party. Smith had a first term County Chair and it takes time to learn the job. Yet Smith is the more “affluent county with the largest number of voters!” They now have another new county chair.

The two most important roles that this County Chair needs to fill are. 1. Parliamentarian. The parliamentarial needs to understand Roberts Rules of Order and know the Rules of the Texas and National Democratic Party backwards, forwards and sideways. This person should be dedicated to the ideals of the Democratic Party and passsionate about ensuring that the process unites instead of divides us. Process is what we rely on as we debate and contest different visions of how we should accomplish what we must for our community, nation and party. I think that if the Parliamentarian had insisted that instead of electing a new county chair Thursday night, they scheduled the election within 20 days and announced the vacancy, the person elected would be on sounder ground than they have propelled this new County Chair into 2. Financial Committee. Without money the Smith County Democratic Party will never be able to reach the voters with the messages necessary to engage and enlist and persuade.

I am so very thankful that in Tarrant, our previous County Chair continues to do everything he can to augment what his successor does for the common good of all of us.

What occurs in the larger counties in Texas impacts people throughout the state
. The lack of Democratic turn-out in a few larger counties determines statewide and federal elections. This year Texas was only 600K votes away from giving all of our state's electoral votes to Hillary Clinton! We saw a few resources coming into Texas from the Presidential campaign for the first time in over three decades this year, but they did not reach to most of the counties. The showing that Texas made in GOTV efforts this year is largely due to the zeal and dedication (and enthusiasm) that volunteers have for our candidates and especially for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Instead of waiting for a national campaign to lead or fund GOTV efforts, we saw individuals stepping forward to create, lead, and execute GOTV campaigns. I saw this pattern in East Texas and in other parts of the state. I am very proud of the people I know and what I saw our “rag tag band of determined Democrats” accomplish this year. I wish we’d have more to work with and that we had not been “discounted” so much and ignored so long by so many! I wish more Texans had believed in ourselves sooner and stronger because that lack of faith from within ourselves held us back. Combatting this is one of the most important roles of county and state and national party leaders.

Fundraising and leadership from a few of the larger counties (and Smith is one of the larger counties) either propells us there or moves us away. I watched Shirley McKellar and her volunteers raise the turn-out for the top of the ticket 10 points above what occurred in neighboring counties in US 3 where there was not a Democratic Congressional Challenger working to bring Democrats together to support the ticket. I wonder what might have occurred if the Smith County Democratic Party had been at the top of their game instead of merely 'coasting by.'

Smith is an exceptionally "hard nut to crack" for Democrats.
Racism is engrained in Smith. Unfortunately Smith County has lots of company in that. Also, the level of education of the White population in Smith does not seem to be on par with some other parts of the state. More than one in every four children in US-TX1 Congressional District lives in homes where the household income is below the National Poverty Level despite many of these children living in households where both parents work. The unemployment rate in East Texas is among the highest in the state and nation, yet the marjority of voters continue returning the same old people to office! Too many people continue pulling the lever and voting straight Republican while retaining their preconceptions that Democratic liberialism is responsible for their “not getting ahead!” I specifically mentioned “white” because I observed a different attitude between most of the minority and most of the white citizens I met while at the Smith County Fair!

Poverty is not limited to minorities in East Texas.
It is obvious from the data and from meeting the people, that it is rampant throughout all racial groups in the region.

I was appalled when I visited the Smith County Fair and spoke with people there. Among minorities it seemed similar to those I met at other events in other counties. When I spoke with whites, as a white woman, I was both shocked and stunned. I felt that many I encountered were more in the socio economic and on the educational level of Appalachia than with other East Texans. As a native daughter of East Texas, I have few illusions. However, I have always seen Tyler as being one of the leading centers in East Texas. Somehow, now, their excellent hospitals, incredible civic institutions and beautiful buildings make less of an impression on me now that I have seen the faces of so very many really poor people who are not thriving, not progessing, and are not voting to promote the welfare of their children or others in the community. Too many people vote against their own best interest in Texas.

The nation knows that Louie Gohmert is not the brighest person in Congress. However, many of the voters in other counties have never met him. In Tyler, there is absolutely no excuse for anyone not knowing him. In Tyler there is absolutely no excuse for the local residents not knowing that he has failed to attract jobs to their communities. It is not just the responsiblity of the candidate who runs against him to communicate the failures of a Congressman to address the needs of the community. The Local and State Democratic Party should be continually calling the failures of incumbents to the attention of the voters through every messaging and 'bully platform" possible. Campaigns are short-term (even though they seem to last perpetually). Party organizations are supposed to be robust 12 months of every year. Campaign committees come and go. The Party should be the RESIDENT infrastructure which leads, builds, messages, fundraises, guides, trains, elists, encourages, inspires.The County Chair must be on his or her game to protect the voting rights of all voters in the area. It calls for perpetually viligance and multi-tasking.

It is difficult to attract Democratic candidates to run for public office in counties where few offices are held by incumbents from their party. The new County Chair in Smith County will have to work to attract candidates. This means he must learn how to support candidates and how to inspire others to support candidates.

I do not envy him. The job is difficult in Blue counties. In Red or Purple Counties is is hundreds of times more daunting. The outcome impact every man, woman and child in Texas, and in Presidential Election years, in the entire nation.

I hope this will cause people in other places to think. I hope that it will inspire those in other places thinking of stepping down to think about the absolutely BEST WAY to go about it and to help make the smoothest transition possible.

My mother taught me when I was in elementary school that it was unfair to nominate a friend for an office unless I was going to do everything possible to help that friend succeed. I wonder how many of the people present at the CEC meeting in Tyler Thursday night are committed to doing everything they possibly can do to enable the new county chair and the Smith County Democratic Party and potential future candidates succeed?

When voting becomes a ‘formality” we are weaked. This year, more than any time in my lifetime, Americans must accept that voting is more than just a responsiblity. It is the survival of everything we hold dear. It isn’t just the election of a President which determines our fate. It is the election and service of everyone of us in a multiplicity of roles and offices and slots from volunteer on a local race up the ladder and up the ticket that makes our process work. We cannot reliquinish the responsiblity because we are discouraged or afraid. When we are disheartened or disgusted is when it becomes even more important than it usually seems for us to redouble our efforts and find better ways of understanding and communicating and enlisting and persuading.

We have to be even more Strategic in Hard to Win Counties, States and campaigns because we don’t have the resources, attract as much outside help, and we get more people discouraging us and others to do our/their part. Perhaps if eventually they abolish the electoral college we will see a bigger push to reach all the states, but even then there will be a discrepancy between the attention that is given areas with fewer Democratic Incumbents. The sad mentality of the Democratic Party is that we ignore the hard to win races and pay the greater attention to incumbents and those running in the bluest places.

It is sad that the patterns prevelant in allocating resources for Democratic campaigns resembles the pattern seen in Eastern Europe during the rise of Nazism. You have heard the story: “They came for the Jews and I watched. They came for the gypsies and I watched. They came for the catholics and I watched. When they came for me there was no one left.” As Democrats in Texas (and in the nation) we have focused on the races we preceived to be the most “viable” for so long that the seats held by Democrats has dwindled so much that there are not enough left to protect us from the policies of Donald Trump. Only supporting candidates in the easiest to win seats has left us with few incumbents! It has also caused us to have fewer “easy to win seats!”

We must develop new ways of viewing the world, viewing our situation, viewing our resources, and developing strategies. It means that we must be more thoughtful in how we conduct our local, state and national party affairs. We can’t go about business as usual. We live in a time when there is no longer a time which is “usual.”

No comments: