NC Democrats—This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things—Part I

This post is about North Carolina democratic politics—so unless you live in NC or have NC connections you may  get bored to death.

RALEIGH, NC—Here’s a news flash—if you happen to be part of the State Executive Committee or a member of the Executive Council then what goes on at The Goodwin House(Democratic headquarters located in Raleigh) is important.

8But, if you’re a regular, every day, run of the mill, armchair democratic voter—watching the 6 o’clock news—while sucking down your TV dinner—you could probably care less about all this bickering. You may not even wonder what all the fuss is about.

North Carolina Democrats have a reputation of being dysfunctional.  I can only imagine your shock, but yes—it’s true, and like you, I was devastated when I heard the news, but it gets worse.

We also have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot just when we start getting things right. And, that—if for no other reason—is why we can’t have nice things.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if all the North Carolina Democrats got together in one place and actually got along with one another. Seriously, just think what could happen. I’m not talking about agreeing with each other 100%–I’m just talking about getting along—supporting one another, going with the game plan even if you don’t like it or think it’s wrong. In other words, being a team player.

For the first time -in a long time- we could focus our efforts on what’s really important: voter suppression, racial equality, equal justice, poverty in NC, better education—and I could go on and on and on. All of these issues (and then some) have been made worse by GOP legislation.

The Republicans don’t have to campaign against us when we tear ourselves apart like clockwork. All they have to do is sit back and watch the show. At what point do we become tired of giving the NC Teapublicans ammunition? This drama is starting to sound like a bad Hollywood reality show.

The Real Issues: Voller, Mann, Chavis and the five hundred pound gorilla in the room called the Plan of Organization (POO).

But first I think we all need to remember (or figure out) what the NCDP (North Carolina Democratic Party) is and what it is not.

The North Carolina Democratic Party is a business.  It’s put in place to get Democrats elected.  Period.  We can argue about it’s effectiveness and we can get philosophical  about ideology—but all that is secondary.  The goal is to get Democrats elected.  

Having said that, lets mention a few things about the POO. It’s basically a playbook for the Democratic Party like a policy and procedure manual is for a regular business—if you want to read what it says—click here.  It’s not meant to be a game plan (I don’t think) and I would argue that the guidelines and rules are in place to clarify the management structure of the NCDP and make clear what people can and can’t do. 

But, here’s the problem—it doesn’t cover every little thing that can happen and secondly, what the POO does cover is sometimes ambiguous. But, it is what it is—like it or not. If it’s in the POO then democratic leaders can do it, if it’s not in the POO then they can’t. You would think that would be simple enough.

Here’s a novel concept: if you don’t like the language of the POO—then work to change itBut, voice your concerns and opinions to the people who actually can make something happen: members of the SEC and the Executive Committee because they are the ones who get to vote.  

Now, let’s talk about the Chairman—

1Let me share with you one of my favorite quotes.  Anytime someone asks me why I’ve got so much to say but I’ve never run for office or taken a leadership role in the Democratic Party—I pull this quote out:

“Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.”

― Terry Pratchett

Let’s just take a look for a moment at what all NCDP chairmen face.  It doesn’t matter who’s got the job—this is generic to chairmen past and present.

As chairman, you’re the first one to get blamed when something goes wrong and the last one to get credit if something goes right.  If Democrats don’t get elected somebody somewhere is going to blame the NCDP chairman for it.   As chairman, you’re the target of the NC GOP and disgruntled Democrats 24/7.  In essence, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Imagine having to go around the state giving speeches knowing that everything you say and everything you do has the propensity to get picked apart-distorted by media because they’re looking to go viral and end up on Comedy Central.   

As chairman, you’re expected to come up with a game plan and hire people competent enough to help formulate the plan and carry it forward.  All because the business of the NCDP is to get Democrats electedall Democrats vetted or not.   And, if that wasn’t enough, the chairman is bombarded daily with people wanting to express their “good ideas” of how to move the Party forward.  It usually has something to do with their pet issue or pet project they want put on the front burner trying to make it a state wide Democratic agenda.

While you’re listening to them talk, you know—in the back of your mind—their plan makes no damn sense whatsoever.  But, you can’t tell them that because—for all you know—they’ll get mad and call some reporter they’ve got on speed dial—make crap up (it’s called miscommunication)—and cause a bigger headache than what you already have. 

Oh, and while I’m at it…let me tell you the other part of the illustrious job description of NCDP chairman: it doesn’t pay “jack squat.” 

For all of this hard work, long hours, constant headache, whining and complaining, you don’t make one thin dime. 

The Republicans pay their guys.  And, I understand why.  People don’t value something they don’t have to pay for.

By this point, you probably think I’m a lapdog for Randy Voller, but I’m not.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to be anyone’s lapdog.  I’ve been critical in the past and I’ll be the first person to admit Voller’s made some mistakes. 

But, I always…always try to keep in mind that you don’t have to like someone to be a team player: salute the rank not the man. 

I’m not a Randy hater either.  That seems to be a cottage industry in North Carolina.  For all the BS he’s having to put up with he hasn’t done that bad of a job.  The POO gives him the authority to fire any executive director, at any time, for any reason.  Like I said before, if you don’t like it…then work to change the POO.  I would also add here, that many people have gone onto social networks saying things about an arbitration agreement Randy Voller supposedly signed.  I frankly don’t care what he may or may not have signed, if it went against—and was in direct contradiction to—the POO, it would make at least that part of any agreement void. 

While we’re on the topic of social media gurus who have all the answers and none of the responsibility—let me just say one thing about the last executive director:  many have gone online and made statements that he was doing a great job and no one ever said a derogatory word about him, ad nauseam.

True or not—I’ve heard with my own ears people complaining about him for at least the past 3-4 months—maybe longer.  And, NO—I didn’t hear any of that from anyone connected to The Goodwin House.

Here’s one of my social media responses to some airheads wanting to equate the media leaks to whistle blowing:

It’s not whistle blowing when everything Voller is doing is within the POO. Don’t like the POO, then change it. Don’t like Voller then don’t reelect him. I was there when he was elected, I didn’t see a stampede running up wanting the job. A job by the way…that pays ZERO dollars. At least the Republicans pay their chairman. Something else the Republicans do…they have the same problems we do except they argue face to face and keep it out of the media–mostly. And, just to clear things up…I wish someone would come back to me and say all I’m doing is supporting Randy. I’m just stating the facts–I’ve said from the very beginning we need to support our leaders whoever they are and at least look like we’re unified. There’s noting in the POO that calls for a Chairman recall. Don’t believe me…read it for yourself. You’re stuck with Randy. This BS of having (insert reporter name here) on speed dial is the reason nobody wants the job in the first place.

T9he only thing I would say about Ben Chavis is that I don’t know him and I really don’t care. I don’t care who gets hired as long as they can—once and for all—galvanize the Party and move it in the right direction.  Don’t fault Voller for trying to create a Democratic revival.  It’s like herding cats in a thunderstorm.  We need a good cat herder.   But, I will say that anyone wanting the job (ED)—or wanting to be chairman, for that matter—will more than likely know how to GoogleAll this controversy makes it that much harder to recruit good people, with good ideas, to come and lead the North Carolina Democratic Party. 

I’ve already gone way over my cardinal rule of never writing more than 700 words on a blog post.  Research has shown people usually don’t pay attention after 700 words.

Stay tuned for part II. I’ll give you the backstory on why some of the Democratic leaders are doing what they’re doing—I’ll tell you some things you may not know about the media, I’ll raise an argument on why some issues need to be put on the back burner and I’ll try to tie everything together and connect some dots. 

Disclosure: Randy Voller is often a guest on a political radio program I co-host.


About George Fisher

George is a freelance writer, an author and a former Democratic political consultant. He has worked as Deputy Communications Director for a Senatorial campaign and Campaign Manager for several NC House races and two congressional races. He previously worked as a news producer for a local television station.
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14 Responses to NC Democrats—This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things—Part I

  1. Robert Kellogg says:

    You raise many valid points and give food for thought. I do think this is much more serious than what your post might convey and I do think that any allegation of cronyism and political retribution needs to be addressed. In a nutshell if our state party can not rise above the same actions of cronyism, abuse of power and lack of transparency that we point out in our friends on the other side of the aisle than what we stand for and what we fight for does not amount to a hill of beans. If we can’t be above the fray then we are no different and the party begins a slow painful death.

  2. Damn this is goood! Now I don’t have to write anything just post yours. Love it my brother, this is Right On!

  3. Pingback: NC Democrats—This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things—Part I |

  4. Beth Ebert Ostgaard says:

    I do not know Randy well enough to dislike him, however, his actions and behavior are not what I would consider a unionizing force for the Democrats of North Carolina. I have been around a long time and I have never seen such schizophrenic like behavior from some of the members of the NCDP. As I have said, I am an eternal optimist and part fool.

  5. Ann Wood says:

    Still no answer to who is Randy Voller, and from where did he come.

  6. Bert Bowe says:

    Thanks for bringing up this important issue.

    I worked closely with Randy for two years as Treasurer of the Chatham County Democratic Party when he was CCDP Chair (2011-13). In my opinion, he is a brilliant political strategist and extremely hard worker who has the betterment of the lives of all citizens as his driving force. Randy has been willing to work with Republicans, Unaffiliates, and those Democrats who disagree with him to accomplish this.

    Who among us would have not only the ability and desire to “herd those cats” for no pay but also the patience to keep moving forward and always promote what George referred to: working together as diverse Democrats with the primary purpose of electing Dems to public office at all levels?

    Sure, Randy is human and makes mistakes, but to me someone’s true motivation is what to value. When there are inevitable disagreements, resolve them within the family versus via some sort of public feud that weakens the party and ultimately election results.

  7. William A. Franklin says:

    Fisher: you have right!! There is a rump group of old Dems who want to cause the party to fail so they can move it to their own advantage, with NO care about the party members. The crazies have cost the party $2 million or more since this bunch of sanctimonious boobs and their ignorant friends insisted that folks give nothing to the Party – just to their C4s and friends. Unfortunately this included Bev Perdue, recently Jim Hunt, Beth “The Auditor”, Nina Szlosberg-Landis, a bunch of hyperventilating YDs, some consultants who hated David Parker and foisted that hate onto Voller and some media types who also have assisted in his persecution by this self appointed elite – Think Thomas Mills, Gary Pearce and other strap hangers. Lord, let us not forget little Frankie Eaton. Well, donors cut way back due to the controversies which were really contrived, inane and stupid.

    Randy Voller wants to rebuild and buttress the actual parties in counties for the long term, to win long term. Part of the 2013 issues concerned, in the absence of a governor and lieutenant governor, who would speak authoritatively for the Democratic Party. But, these people, through their treatment of Voller, cost this Party well over several millions over the last year – and they are too stupid to see that. Keep supporting Randy. You are the one sane voice in the crowd.

  8. Beth Ostgaard says:

    William A. Franklin, still you very classy self.

    • wafranklin says:

      Hi Beth, Never did figure anyone might ever call me classy. But thanks. Just fighting the rear guard actions for the Party, which really deserves and needs it.

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