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Much has been made in recent weeks about the autopsy the Republican Party has conducted in the wake of two devastating national elections. This introspection is unprecedented and overdue. Although the Democratic Party’s has fared better in the last couple of cycles, I’d suggest a measure of introspection is in order for us as well.

Though a lifelong Democrat from a family of lifelong Democrats, I’ve only recently jumped headfirst into the inner workings of the Democratic party as an elected member of our county’s Central Committee. Shortly after being sworn in, I was appointed to serve as a delegate to the annual state convention.  It was at a training for the upcoming convention that I first observed what is expected of a “good Democrat.”

The friendly, genteel Regional Director I had just met was offering pointers to the group on how to navigate the convention. We were instructed to bring plenty of business cards for networking. We were then advised that we better plan on using a union shop when getting our cards printed. The next comment took me somewhat aback. The R.D. said, “when someone hands me a card, the first thing I do is look for the union ‘bug’, if I don’t see one on there, the card goes straight in the trash.”  Another union representative also stood up and reenforced the notion that to get along and make connections at the convention, you better stay at a union hotel and order business cards from a union printer.

I chewed on this over the next couple of days as the thought of being given an ultimatum didn’t set well with me. While I am a supporter of labor and understand the push to support union businesses, the perceived threat made me uneasy. I later learned I was not alone in my sentiments. A fellow new delegate apparently turned in his resignation the following morning in response to the strong-arming. This generated a variety of responses from the party faithful ranging from, “glad to accept his resignation” to “perhaps we need to take a closer look at how we communicate our ideals.”  I’d suggest the latter was the more appropriate response.

Although I’m a supporter of labor, I am a Democrat for a whole host of reasons. I support full reproductive rights for women and equal pay for equal work. I am an advocate for marriage equality and the rights of all LGBT individuals. I am concerned about climate change and support the pursuit of alternative, renewable energy. I want to live in a country where healthcare is available and affordable to all. I think sensible gun legislation is overdue as is comprehensive immigration reform. I believe a quality public school education should be available to all. I am concerned about the widening gap of income inequality and support the right of workers to organize. I believe that all of these ideals are important strands of the Democratic DNA and no single issue should serve as a litmus test of party loyalty.

My Democratic sensibilities were shaped by my father who was a community college instructor and a member of the teachers union. I was raised to have great respect for the public school system and attended public schools until I graduated from college. My two children are also products of the public school system and they both walked the picket line with me a couple of years ago in solidarity with their teachers who went on strike after failed contract negotiations with the local school board. We made signs and delivered cases of bottled water to our neighborhood school sites for teachers walking the picket line. I am a supporter of teachers, teachers unions and labor in general yet it is union tactics that I find myself most often defending when talking about Democratic ideals with others. The perceived lack of flexibility and the “strong arm tactics” are complaints I frequently hear. So sitting in a room full of political allies and being on the receiving end of those tactics made the complaints more real to me than ever before.

If one of the positive attributes of the Democratic Party is our big-tent, inclusive philosophy, should we really be so quick to throw away some of the most committed amongst us because of a business card? This type of divisiveness is what currently ails the Republican Party who is cleaved down the middle by the hard liners on the right and the more moderate wing of the party on the other side. Tea Party Republicans draw a line in the sand on their pet issues, and if you don’t stand on the right side of that line, you are not welcome in the tent. As a result, moderate Republicans are leaving the party in droves, Decline-To-State registration is skyrocketing, and the disengaged turn off the TV set and stay home during elections.  

Democrats must not fall into the same trap of creating hard line, single issue divides which drive loyal and potential members away. To essentially tell a room full of committed party activists, many brand new to party politics, that they are not welcome because they don’t fall in line in one small way on a single issue of ideological purity is political malpractice.

My suggestion, as a set of fresh eyes and ears within the party “apparatus,” is that education, collaboration and teamwork go a lot further than threats, intimidation and inflexibility. Let’s practice what we preach as Democrats and focus on the big picture of justice for all rather than squabbling internally and eating our own. There is much work to be done and we are on the right side of the issues. And when we do have the inevitable internal disagreements, let’s adopt the, “perhaps we need to take a closer look at how we communicate our ideals” approach rather than the, “glad to see them go” response.

Originally posted to vrhodes on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:01 AM PDT.

Also republished by New Diarists.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I will vote Social Security and Medicare (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TomP, Words In Action, codairem

    I do get where that guy is coming from.  The Democratic Party has wanted it all ways for far too long.  They are mushy on virtually every issue and you can't depend on the party to back you on anything anymore.  But they want your vote.  Oh, yeah.

    My single issue is support for Social Security and Medicare. I will vote on this issue.  

    If that union guy is out there, if you've got my back, I've got yours.  Yes we do indeed collaboration but we need collaboration with people who will have our back on our issues.  

  •  Interesting, and probably common (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JamieG from Md

    As always, there is a divide between the "party apparatus" and the general Democrats who live and work and vote.  Sometimes it's a looming gulf, sometimes it's just a bit of snideness on the part of the "party powerful".   This is probably the latter, but it does underscore the difference between inner and outer sanctum.

    Does it affect us in the real world?  Probably not.  Does it keep some really good minds out of the apparatus?  Definitely.  

    Minority rights should never be subject to majority vote.

    by lostboyjim on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:18:10 AM PDT

  •  Let me see if I have this correct (5+ / 0-)

    Shorter: If somebody makes me have a union bug on my business card I don't want to be a member of the organization that does that.

    That's what I got out of this diary. Please correct me if I'm wrong and try to do it without, well, demonizing either side.

    -7.75, -8.10; . . . Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall (h/t cooper888)

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:18:17 AM PDT

    •  If you read that.... (2+ / 0-)

      ....I don't want to be a member of the party because of the union bug edict, I didn't make myself very clear. To the contrary, I am suggesting that we risk alienating those who come to the party for a wide variety of reasons by issuing single-issue litmus tests. I am a Democrat based on a broad range of issues I identified in my diary.

      •  Then you are perfectly capable (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        gustynpip, Eyesbright

        of remaining one despite the issue you describe as a "single issue litmus test." I'm a single-issue voter myself, on LGBT issues, and I have been very frustrated with the party at times since I began voting 43 years ago, but I am a Democrat based on a broad variety of issues beyond that, one of which is that labor deserves the same respect as management.

        You might want to make yourself clearer in the main diary, and thank you for representing us.

        -7.75, -8.10; . . . Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall (h/t cooper888)

        by Dave in Northridge on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:54:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Making sure there is a union bug (8+ / 0-)

    means you used a union shop.  Yes, it matters.  I'm glad there are Dems that still support organized labor.  As for "intimidation," I don't think you know what that word means.  Solidarity with working people should be a fundamental principle of Dems.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:22:29 AM PDT

    •  Isn't a union bug on a business card anachronistic (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JamieG from Md

      ...these days? Personal or business card are more frequently printed at home or the local sundries store - a lifetime supply for $15. How would one even find a union shop?

      •  I'm sure they exist and they may (4+ / 0-)

        cost a little more so workers get paid better.

        Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

        by TomP on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:51:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The issue is not of principles, solidarity or cost (0+ / 0-)

          ...but business cards. There simply are not unions in the corner mom and pop mail, print, check cashing bodegas that print cards these days. On a corporate level, OK, but not on a personal or small business level anymore.  

          •  Then don't hand a business card to them. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kck, Dirtandiron, gustynpip, Eyesbright

            This does not have to be a big issue.  Write your name down if you want.  

            the author is all pissed off over a Dem standing up for unions.  I'm glad when a Dem stands up for unions.  If there are none, then I guess that guy throws away all business cards and no one gets an "advantage" if that is what their activism is about.  

            Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

            by TomP on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 10:39:32 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Seems to me that a noob arrived... (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              TomP

              ...perhaps a bit too meek, but nevertheless a simpatico, who ended up feeling intimidated by one or two pushy, blustery types who used some kind of an initiation type (un)welcome reminiscent of a religious litmus test.

              S/he noob needs to toughen up. But there's also a cheap lesson here for people involved with Party expansion.

        •  So someone just breaking into the field (0+ / 0-)

          ...should go out and pay for cards to be printed, at a premium, by a union printer, when they can just run some blanks through their home laser printer, or run down to the mom-and-pop shop that has no reason to be in a union because it's got two employees?  What they have to say is irrelevant because they didn't go out of their way to find increasingly rare union print shops?

          How very democratic. sarcasm drips onto and burns hole through floor

          While I agree that unions and labor rights are one of the most important planks of the Democratic Party, this is just crazy asshole bullshit.  It's one thing to look down on a candidate for national office because they're not using a union printer; it's another entirely too hold it against someone small-time.

          This doesn't encourage the participants in the process.  It simply discourages participation or encourages people to copy the union mark and put it on the card design when they print it.  It's not like their desktop printer is going to object, and most mom-and-pop shops probably wouldn't give a crap either.  This kind of thing actively hurts the cause of labor and unions because it incentivizes cheating the process, and/or leaves people with a bad taste in their mouths.  

      •  If you are a union printer (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TomP, Dirtandiron, gustynpip, Eyesbright

        Your job may be anachronistic but it's the only one you've got.  

        Might be a good exercise for a party intern to make up a list of union shops.

        •  A quick Google found several, none local... (0+ / 0-)

          ...but within 40 miles, only 1 included business cards on its web site. Although they probably did cards they appear to target more substantial jobs. Cost wise, the cards were 3x price I pay locally to a mom and pop store, and then shipping would be added on.

          It's a matter of proportionality and style, IMHO, the principle can be affirmed without such a ham handed example or manner.

          •  I'd have to know the history of the district (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kck, Dirtandiron

            to know if the guy is just a jerk or if it's a local issue that someone active in the party should know.   For example, if the party normally depends on this union to do organized GOTV part of the quid pro quo may be throwing some jobs to the union.

            The Democratic Party used to deliver the goods on some of these things.  Now, they send you 1000 emails asking you for money and think that's enough.

  •  Maybe you need to recalibrate how you respond... (0+ / 0-)

    ...to pushy people.

    I sure agree that the Democratic Party needs its own assessment right now. My formerly reliable money is unavailable to the Party until the primary process is overhauled. I stopped contributing and won't as long as nationally raised funds are used for any state nominating process but an election. No more arcane caucuses. And these schedules that convey great dominance to Iowa, NH, and South Carolina have to go.

    Being and agent for change requires impenetrably tough skin and steely optimism in the face of insurmountable goals and defeat. Plan on the first to engage almost always being those most attached to the status quo and with the most fear of loss from change.

    Good luck.

  •  If you aren't with me, you are against me (0+ / 0-)

    But not in today's party!  Now, it's I'm the lesser evil.  I am against you too, but I am not quite as much against you as the other guy is so vote for me to hurt you less  than the other guy.  

    It's like you've got your choice of mobsters.  The ones who beat you up or the ones who kneecap you.

  •  I guess it depends if you're the one being (5+ / 0-)

    thrown overboard.

    Some of us would prefer to keep all the planks nailed together. I guess that makes us "purists."

    Others, just cling to their personal favorites while being ready to throw others under the bus at any moment.

    And still others only cautiously pick up whatever they perceive is safe to carry publicly and/or pragmatic to raise up as policy.

    Mindfulness is the first necessity of sanity and survival and the first casualty of Consumer Culture.

    by Words In Action on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:32:47 AM PDT

  •  This Isn't for Your Whole Life, Is It, Just During (5+ / 0-)

    a convention.

    I print my business cards at home too but I wouldn't have a problem demonstrating my solidarity with some of our most important activists --not mere constituents-- for networking during a few days at a convention.

    The damage being done to unions by conservatives of both parties is part of the destruction of the middle class. I think under these limited circumstances it's a smart idea to strongly encourage demonstrations of union support.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 09:50:41 AM PDT

  •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, gustynpip

    I once was sitting in a room helping stuff envelopes for a pro-choice group and another woman at the table said something that reminds me of this - "I am a single issue voter, and I don't care about the party. I'll vote for whoever will support reproductive rights." She really did not care about any other issues.

    The reality, like it or not, is that there are some people out there who are not going to be flexible about the issue that is most important to them. That is not going to change. What you get to do is to listen to that perspective and decide what makes sense to you to do based on that information.

  •  This is interesting. I stopped participating in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron

    the local party a long time ago.

    Not because they strongly supported unions, but because it was clear as day to me that the regional and state party were dominated variously by high-school style hero-worship cliques and corrupt power-peddlers who literally did not care about anything other than how much money a candidate could raise so they could pad their political resumes in that never-ending quest for more power/visibility within the state party. I see this reflected in a certain segment of bloggers here on this site--people demanding purity in support of the party or certain individual politicians, exulting in the notion of raising money "for the party" and what not, but also somewhat fractured in that specific, progressive-issue groups are around as well, often competing for the same resources.

    The state and national party apparatus is nothing more than a corrupt organ of the same oligarchy that controls the Republicans. They're bought and paid for (or owned, depending upon how one looks at it), and they're certainly not on our side. And at least here in Florida there are precious few local/regional committees with any real influence or power to be on our side (even if they wanted to), either.

  •  As a young teen in the early 60's, I recall (0+ / 0-)

    some Republican candidate coming to the door asking for my Republican foster parents' votes. As he produced his business card, he pointed out the Union symbol, bemoaning his being forced to use a Union printer in order to make sure he got more votes...  

    I support real democrats. I support unions. I support labor. I do not support bullying.  I wonder if we could educate and encourage without the scare tactics.

    Dance lightly upon the Earth, Sing her songs with wild abandon, Smile upon all forms of Life ...and be well.

    by LinSea on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 11:19:22 AM PDT

    •  I didn't see any scare tactics being used here. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eyesbright, Dirtandiron

      Advice was given.  Use union shops for anything you can or expect there to be some negative consequences.  People might complain, you might not be considered a serious Dem, etc.  But it was hardly a "if you don't, we're going to be coming after you".  Methinks the diarist is more than a tad sensitive.  If s/he doesn't' understand the importance of being a strong union supporter and the reason that all delegates should be openly supporting unions, I really have to wonder about the person's being ready to be a Dem delegate.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 12:13:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This ^^^ x 100 (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dirtandiron, gustynpip

        Diarist seems incredibly uninformed about the history of labor unions.  There are strong, lasting reasons why labor unions and Democrats are natural allies.  Diarist is benefiting every day of her life from the battles our labor unionists fought and died to win.  There's an intellectual laziness and whining in the diary that proves her undeserving of the sympathy she seemed to think she'd get by writing it.

        Heaven help us if this is what the new generation of Democratic delegates are like.

        To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

        by Eyesbright on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 03:42:32 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you Eyesbright... (0+ / 0-)

          ....for making my point more concisely than I did.

          •  Obviously facetious, (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            gustynpip, Dirtandiron

            but at least you're reading the comments.  OK, wait, this is me dropping back a step or two and addressing you, Vrhodes, personally.  Please, please do some reading on the history of America's labor movement.  I believe you'll be fascinated (and, at times, outraged) at how horrible conditions were for workers in America and what labor unions have accomplished.  I could write about it all day and it wouldn't mean a thing to you until you read it for yourself.  Please think about this:  you've heard about the working conditions in the typical off-shore factories in China, etc. where so much of America's goods are made today.  Conditions for American workers used to be similar.  Why did things improve so much for Americans?  Hint:  it wasn't magnanimity from the corporations.

            Oh, by the way, I'm not in a union.  I was, for about a year, a long time ago.  I write from sheer principle.

            To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men. -Abraham Lincoln

            by Eyesbright on Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 06:31:09 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  A couple of points (0+ / 0-)

    1. Not all union shops put a union symbol on their print jobs.

    2. In right to work states, there are very few union print shops. Sometimes just finding a print shop that is not actively ant-labor can be difficult.

    So if someone is throwing away business cards because they don't say that they are union made, they could be throwing away contacts with people who support unions as best they can.

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