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Time to blow up the Michigan Democratic Party

by: Eric B.

Wed Nov 07, 2012 at 09:49:29 AM EST

I'd hope that none of you are in the least bit exuberant over last night. Yes, Democrats won the White House, and yes Democrats maintained control of the U.S. Senate (and yes, Debbie Stabenow beat back what will go down in political history as an epically inept challenge from Pete Hoekstra). But, those victories all belong to Democrats who live in other states. Michigan -- its electoral votes and Debbie Stabenow's seat -- were never really in play.

As for the rest of it, Michigan Democrats lost everything. I mean, there were a few victories -- Janice Daniels was recalled, the Eaton County vigilante mob was fired, a couple of state House races went their way -- but everything else failed. They even lost to a guy who thinks he's Santa Claus. Democrats spent a ton of money in Jase Bolger's district and really only managed to buy about five percentage points (based on his lowest percentage), and more importantly failed to win back a majority of seats in the state House.

You can expect Right to Work legislation to come down the pike here shortly, and it'll probably have some sort of stupid appropriation attached to it so that it can't be challenged in a referendum. You can expect that because Republicans retained control of the Legislature, and Proposal 2 failed badly.

If Peter Hoekstra's Senate campaign was memorably inept, so was Proposal 2's. I don't know who made decisions about how to communicate the thing, but they were horribly late rebutting the child molesting teachers and bad cops nonsense; and when the Freep's editorial endorsement went against them -- an event the Freep telegraphed from a-bazillion miles away -- they spent two weeks whining about it on social media (and, by the way, it was an endorsement that probably did nothing to them). They appeared to believe that no one would believe what they'd see on Tee Vee and just go with what they knew in their hearts. Folks, that's how the Republicans approached the last two weeks of polling data in the presidential race.

Meanwhile, they managed to cling to one of the three seats on the state Supreme Court, and along the way helped to make a further farce of our courts by producing candidates selected not because of their experience and credentials but because women with Irish names do better in polling (with all due respect to the respective candidates). In the end, the incumbent designation on the ballot proved too much.

The bottom line is that the Democrats lost badly in the state of Michigan last night, and will suffer as a result of it. It's suffering that is richly deserved, in my opinion. For the last couple of years, I've been saying that it's time for new leadership and new direction in the state party (although, admittedly, I ain't a Democrat ... but at this point and time I'm forced to rely on the Democratic Party to offer up candidates who don't exist in an alternative universe), and Democrats just keep yoking themselves to a model based on the world of 1972.

Last night, the state of Michigan couldn't have sent a louder, more clear message: "Blow up your party apparatus and reform it, because what you are selling we don't want." I think it's time to face facts that the successes of 2006 and 2008 were a reflection of the national political mood, and that the Democratic Party as it exists today isn't a terribly relevant entity in state politics.

Eric B. :: Time to blow up the Michigan Democratic Party
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I'll just say this (4.00 / 5)
Not saying that I agree with everything that you said here (because I don't), but let me just say this:

In the past, I have defended Mark Brewer on this blog more than most. I've criticized him too, but I've been willing to defend him.

Not so much right now.

In addition to some of the things you described, there's the meddling in primaries, wasting money on initiatives and projects (RMGN, anyone), the backroom deals, the refusing to fight back hard against the Republican attack machine, a giant disadvantage to the Republicans when it comes to building a "farm team" for future candidates...

My feeling has been that If we weren't going to win the State House and Supreme Court this year, we would have an even tougher time of it in 2014. Now we head into 2014 facing the very real possibility of a repeat of 2010, unless things change quickly.

I heard it said last night that nationally, Republicans need to do a lot of soul-searching. I agree. Democrats need to do some soul-searching too. A lot needs to change with the Democratic Party here in Michigan (and even nationally, but I digress).

Brewer did well for many years as Chair, and I applaud him for that. As the saying (and the song) go, "To everything there is a season." Brewer has had his season. Perhaps now it's time to move on. And those of us who are Democrats need to evaluate what lessons we need to learn and how we can move on.

Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott

In which I quote Rich... (4.00 / 1)

More than four years ago, this same discussion raged. Was the MDP out of touch? Irrelevant? Did they need new leadership? The Dem Wave seemed to put out the burning embers of discontent a bit only to fire back up too late to make any real changes. Some of us (myself included) have moved away from statewide politics and are working on local issues and with local elected officials. Others have dropped out entirely. I'm guilty of focusing so much on my local stuff that I haven't been as deeply involved as I should have been until pretty late in the game but I find myself having deja vu all over again.

Rich once dubbed the Brew Crew as the "Meathead Wing of the Democratic Party" and I think that statement is as true today as it was four years ago. We need real change and maybe some bleach. 

Do stupid people know they are stupid?

I do not disagree (4.00 / 3)
But I've seen this conversation taking place off and on for a couple years. A question, that has not been answered as of yet, is who would replace him?  

It goes deeper than Mark Brewer (4.00 / 4)
The entire party structure needs to be blown up and rebuilt.  You cannot in this day and age have a major political party dominated by the United Auto Workers, when there are comparatively few autoworkers left.

Put this way, four years ago, I remember having a conversation with someone who did Election Day canvassing in Flint. This person went to Flint unsure of where to go, so he went to the UAW hall. The sound he heard was of crickets.

Everything was taking place at the OFA office around the corner.

The Democratic Party is still the party of the middle and working classes. The problem is that few of those persons are actually still in unions. The other problem is that the Democratic Party is still run by union bosses, and their response has been to try to simply grow the unions.  It's not working.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Agree but skeptical (4.00 / 1)
Time for a change but am betting if there's any change it will simply be a personnel adjustment.  The unions are the financial backbone of the Democratic Party in MI and they are able to turn out their members when needed to promote or block policy or politics within the party.  But I guess you've got to start somewhere.  

[ Parent ]
Guess what? It fucking failed last night (4.00 / 1)
Despite a huge national victory for Democrats, they won nothing in Michigan. Oh, there was a race or two here and there, but overall, Democrats lost everything. Supreme Court races, failed to take back the House, Congressional races. Huge opportunities blown.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
With RTW, that "financial backbone" is about to be hit with brutal osteoporosis (0.00 / 0)
Once the Legislature is done and Rick Michigan signs it (no later than 31 March 2013), funds coming in to AFSCME, the MEA and AFT, and the state employees' segment of the UAW will drop by at least a third.

The MDP will need new revenue streams, and an organization that attracts younger people, non-union workers and minorities

At the same time, we've just come out of an election cycle where, aside from Proposals 2 and 4, union members who wanted to volunteer were pretty much on their own. For them, OFA was the organizing entity for their canvassing, phonebanking and GOTV efforts...and they went out of their way to make sure their scripts and messaging included the downballot and non-partisan contests.

OFA worked well with local clubs and candidates, making use of rented office space or peoples' homes with equal ease. The Obama/Biden smartphone app was a godsend and a lifeline, informing people of events and deadlines posted by other activists.

The only time I heard from the MDP was when they had conference calls for precinct delegates, and they were mostly telling me things I already knew -- from my local OFA reps. There was no real follow-up after the September convention...even when I was there I felt like I should be doing something more productive with my Saturday (didn't even bother to go Sunday -- WHY is it still a two-day event, now that the "Endorsement Convention" is established and likely to continue?).

I even called 866-OUR-VOTE Tuesday, and never heard back from them after I registered my concern. Probably because I was calling as a poll challenger, not an actual voter -- but still.

P.S. For what it's worth, we can add Dave Curson to the list of successes -- the UAW stalwart denied Reindeer Man Bentivolio an opportunity to drive our economy off the "fiscal cliff" during the lame duck session.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
Didn't get to finish my statement, it just posted without my clicking "Preview" again (0.00 / 0)

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
Agree with a number... (4.00 / 3)
... of comments here and most of the original posting.

We (Dems/Progressives in Michigan) got HAMMERED yesterday, that I totally agree with, no rejoicing beyond a few highlights. Lost the supreme court opportunity, one that may not return for some time - close races with little or no real resources - multiple props lost. The GOP remains in complete control. Strategically, we got our butts handed to us... again.

Time for s change, and it needs to be complete overhaul, agree with that too. The type of change that is needed is just not easily accomplished with the same people in the same structures, with the same tactics over and over.

Thank them, retire a few folks, make them mentors (what is what we REALLY need - leadership by developing younger folks - not the first to say that) and move on.

Have never actively opposed Brewer, but the time may have now come.  Many have done their time and service, but it time for a new generation, in this new world we now face. It just ain't the same anymore, period. Have to accept that.

Agree with a number... (0.00 / 0)
... of comments here and most of the original posting.

We (Dems/Progressives in Michigan) got HAMMERED yesterday, that I totally agree with, no rejoicing beyond a few highlights. Lost the supreme court opportunity, one that may not return for some time - close races with little or no real resources - multiple props lost. The GOP remains in complete control. Strategically, we got our butts handed to us... again.

Time for s change, and it needs to be complete overhaul, agree with that too. The type of change that is needed is just not easily accomplished with the same people in the same structures, with the same tactics over and over.

Thank them, retire a few folks, make them mentors (what is what we REALLY need - leadership by developing younger folks - not the first to say that) and move on.

Have never actively opposed Brewer, but the time may have now come.  Many have done their time and service, but it time for a new generation, in this new world we now face. It just ain't the same anymore, period. Have to accept that.

Where is the MI version of Howard Dean when you need him? (0.00 / 0)

Agree with most (0.00 / 0)
But, I think cutting the Republican margins in the House will be meaningful on some tough votes.  While they have largely  been uncompromising, if I remember correctly, we were able to peel off a few on a few issues (maybe it was the Senate?) that prevented some disasters, and that was with their 64/46 majority.  With the majority cut, I see us being able to peel enough votes to stop a whole lot of bullshit that came out of the House.  It's the only silver lining I see, but a meaningful one.

I thought the real disaster was at the congressional level, and that was a result of both the state and national parties.  MI-01 and MI-11 were easy gets.  Benishek is as weak a campaigner and politician as a newborn infant as we've seen in both primaries and generals he's run in.  And, Kerry Bentivolio is quite possibly certifiable.  There was no excuse for losing those.

McDowell (0.00 / 0)
In MI-01 you had an even weaker campaigner in Gary McDowell.  

[ Parent ]
There is no way (0.00 / 0)
That McDowell was a weaker campaigner than Dan "Catch me if you can, constituents/talk to me through the locked glass door/I hate human beings" Benishek.  Sorry.  Gary may not have been the best choice, but he could have easily knocked of Doctor Dan if given more attention by the state and national parties.

[ Parent ]
McDowell campaigned hard (0.00 / 0)
Viewed from outside, McDowell campaigned hard and spent a lot of time raising money. We certainly were personally called by him repeatedly. And there was a fair amount of outside money spent there ($3.8 million on our side). It's just gerrymandered enough. Clearly, the Republican packing and cracking analysis was good enough.

If MDP hadn't wasted all that money on the overly complicated RMGN, and instead adopted the simpler plan we developed on Michigan Liberal.... :(

[ Parent ]
People like Brunner Vote with Republicans (0.00 / 0)
on a lot of the issues we care about.  So, is peeling off a few MI House seats going to do that much good?

I often wonder about that ... are there any Democrats at all from Bay City who are from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party?  After experienceing Barcia, Mays and now Brunner, it doesn't seem like it.

[ Parent ]
They got a lot of onerous things through with (0.00 / 0)
58-52 majorities in the Engler days...

Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott

[ Parent ]
So (4.00 / 1)
We get a few seats, and we take absolutely nothing good from this forward movement?  I don't get it.  Legislatures don't flip every two years.  Sure, it's more common now, but if each party is expecting to flip a house every two years, they are delusional.  

This is forward movement for us, and yet we're acting as if we loss seats.  Jeeze, excuse me from finding a silver lining, you guys.

[ Parent ]
Progress? (0.00 / 0)
The frustration comes from the fact that Democrats should have been able to pick up more than a few seats. You need to get those seats in the years when you have someone like Obama at the top of the ticket who can carry you across the line. What do you do in 2014 when the people who only vote every 4 years aren't running and the marginal and vulnerable Republicans who could have been picked off this year have 2 more years to build name recognition and the advantage of incumbency?

[ Parent ]
I agree (0.00 / 0)
With the size of the Obama majority, the Dems should have been able to get at least a small majority (given the Rep gerrymander) in the state House. That they didn't is on the leadership of the MDP and the local parties.

WRT MI-11, this is just proof that parties should have credible candidates in all remotely winnable districts, just in case lightning strikes, and be willing to back them up with resources when the lightning does strike.

Taj (0.00 / 0)
Regarding the 11th and credible candidates: I don't know the district inside and out, but were there more credible candidates than Taj? Not saying there weren't, because again I don't know the district that well, but...

Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott

[ Parent ]
State rep or senator (0.00 / 0)
Was there no former or current state rep or senator with any kind of name recognition?  I can't imagine that a Canton Township trustee was the best we could have put up (name recgonition-wise) in a district that stretches all the way from Western Wayne and around Oakland.

[ Parent ]
Timing (4.00 / 1)
Almost everyone expected McCotter to run for the seat. If he had run, he probably would have beaten any Democrat who ran, which is why no one stepped up and it was left to Dr. Taj to carry the flag for the Democrats.  

[ Parent ]
Good point (0.00 / 0)
Perhaps someone else will step up in 2014 to run against either a widely despised Bentivolio or, more likely, a Republican establishment pick who beats Bentivolio in the primary (but who won't have the advantage of incumbency).

Probably more of a longshot in 2014, but you never know.

Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott

[ Parent ]
Isn't that why (0.00 / 0)
You should always be prepared?  I could totally see why someone serious wouldn't run against say, Mike Rogers or Dave Camp given the lean of the districts, but while MI-11 is Republican-leaning, it is not an impossible district.  Honestly, you don't even need a self-funder in a district like this, just someone that's served with some name-recognition willing to spend some time.  This is a perfect district for a retired state rep or senator to contest every election.

[ Parent ]
Sounds good (0.00 / 0)
But if you look at the district, especially the new configuration, there aren't any communities that have Democrats who have served in the House or Senate. Also, with the district split between Wayne and Oakland County, it's the rare candidate who is able to bring name recognition to the race that would cross county lines. But the 11th needs better quality candidates. Although Dr. Taj was held back by factors beyond his control, he at least had a record of running and winning elections and the ability to raise money. Prior to him, the candidates who had run against McCotter were very weak.  

[ Parent ]
The problem with the 11th going forward will be the gerrymander (4.00 / 1)
2012 was the Democrats' last, best and only realistic hope of winning the 11th until the next redistricting election in 2022. That the incumbent imploded and the eventual Republican candidate had so many flaws to exploit was just gravy.

But the universal belief -- among Democrats and Republicans alike -- was that the seat was Thaddeus McCotter's to lose.

Sen. Mike Kowall (a Republican whose district is entirely within the new 11th) made noises about challenging Thaddeus during his national joke of a Presidential run -- but by the time the 2011 Mackinac Conference came around he'd already surrendered. Bet his ass is sore from all the times he's kicked himself over that act of cowardice.

On the Democratic side, Rep. Gary Peters would have been unbeatable in the 11th once Thaddeus was out of the picture -- even in a head-to-head matchup I thought Peters could have beaten McCotter outright. Also, Peters in the 11th would have saved Rep. Hansen Clarke in the new 14th, for a net gain. Had he won here, Peters would've been very difficult to challenge in 2014 and beyond, given his incumbency and moderate reputation.

But Peters took the logical course for his own career propects, and the 14th District is now his for as long as he wants to stay in the House.

Perhaps by 2016 or 2018 demographics will shift again, making the new 11th more competitive -- but I'm not holding my breath.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
Long term prospects (0.00 / 0)
The west side of Oakland County isn't going to go blue for a long time, if ever. But as you can see from the map, Novi is starting to trend blue and over time, more of the city is going to go blue.


In 2008, it went 55/41 and this year, it was 49/47 with Taj making a race of it. Novi was one place where Taj outperformed Curson which might have been an indication of his support in the Indian community.

I could see a Peters-style Democrat making inroads into Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills against a Kowall and maybe even the Wayne County communities like Northville and Plymouth. The new 11th doesn't have the blue collar areas that helped push Curson passed Bentivolio.  

[ Parent ]
Kowall is strictly a Plan B or C for the GOP in '14 (0.00 / 0)
L. Brooks Patterson and "Bobby" Schostak will happily bestow the privilege of challenging Kerry Bentivolio on David Trott -- who also has deep inroads into Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills, along with the deep pockets to self-fund into seven figures if need be.

If Trott doesn't step up, then there are several second choices who would gain the support of the Oakland and western Wayne County GOP establishments: Marty Knollenberg, Rocky Raczkowski, Mike Kowall, or even (and it pains me to type this) Mike Bishop.

But no matter what, mark my words -- barring a catastrophic failure of McCotter-esque proprotions during the 2014 primary, Kerry Bentivolio will be a one-term Congressman.

And whoever beats Kerry in August will have no trouble with the tomato can Democrat in November.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]
Change needs to happen (0.00 / 0)
Eric's exactly right. For everything that went right last night nationally, the Democrats in Michigan blew it. There's no reason that they shouldn't have been able to flip the House. The Republicans gave the Democrats a once in a generation opportunity to run on a whole range of issues related to taxes and spending that should have been winners with the voters. But the usual failings of poor candidates, lack of funding, misdirected funding and lack of messaging took its toll. There are a lot of good potential candidates but Democrats consistently fail to get them on the ballot or talk candidates into running but fail to back them with the resources to get them elected.

I know that the unions are a big part of the Democratic coalition. But the power structure needs to expand beyond that. Out here in the suburbs, other than the teachers, there's not the base of union support to provide the people and money for candidates to run for office. I don't have all the answers but I know what the Democrats are doing now isn't working and allowing the Republicans to run roughshod over state government is hurting regular people all over the state.  

If not Brewer who? (0.00 / 0)
I can't think of one person.  Willing to listen

It goes deeper than Brewer (4.00 / 1)
The entire party structure is archaic. The reaction to declining union membership has been to simply try to grow union membership. It ain't working.

The Democratic Party needs new direction.

Among the Trees

[ Parent ]
Neither the problem nor the solution is unions (4.00 / 2)
First off, liberal/progressive Democrats have spent most of our lives butting heads with union leadership. They're rather parochial.

But the underlying problem is education of the remaining members, who seem to think that as long as they've already got something there's no reason to have a union anymore. I've heard it over and over: "they" haven't done anything for "me" lately. There are a few active members (many are retirees) who are continually involved, but most of the time the halls are empty up until the last few weeks of a campaign season.

Grebner has outlined the political solution here: continuous active organization, long-term investment in data, developing local institutional memory, etc.

[ Parent ]
Darn right! (4.00 / 1)
I'd post a link to my GOTV opus, except that the link doesn't seem to load correctly. It can be found by clicking "Technical Politics" and paging down.

What needs to be done seems obvious; how to get there given the present Democratic establishment is a lot less clear.  We'd be in much better shape if we used our resources carefully and following a long-term plan, rather than throwing huge amounts of money at "magical" solutions.

[ Parent ]
Kevin Hrit (4.00 / 1)
seems to be interested in gathering up resources and maintaining long-term organization. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and plenty of local campaign experience.

I don't always agree with him, but I'd support him over Brewer.

[ Parent ]
As would I, but I doubt 2013 is his year (0.00 / 0)
Kevin has all those qualities you mention, but also no name recognition and no clearly identified power base.

Now, if Mark Brewer was smart he'd be grooming Kevin to take the reins, perhaps as early as 2015 to give him a full year before the pressures of the next presidential race become too great.

Heck, maybe that's already happening.

"The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity." ~ Harlan Ellison

[ Parent ]

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