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View Diary: Walter Cronkite's Letter to the NYT: An Idea for Dems (281 comments)

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  •  Good idea but reasons why it won't happen (4.00)
    The Cronkite piece posed an interesting idea that I initially liked, but there is one huge problem with the idea:  it violates party rules.  Here's why, from someone who has worked with party rules and delegate selection issues since 1988.

    There is no provision in the party Charter or by-laws for a midterm convention.  While the DNC can change the by-laws, changing the Charter requires a vote of the National Convention, which can only be held in a presidential election year under the current Charter.  A second impediment is that a midterm convention leads to innumerable questions regarding the delegate selection process.  In presidential years, Democratic voters select the delegates (indirectly in most states) by voting for presidential candidates.  The entire process is governed by the Delegate Selection Rules Convention Call approved by the DNC and individual state party delegate selection plans that are vetted by the DNC's Compliance Review Commission for compliance with the national party rules.

    While the DNC could conceivably convene under its authority some midterm gathering short of a National Convention, the question of WHO would be represented remains unanswered.  Allowing state parties to select the delegates seems the only viable structured option for such a meeting but that approach would shut out whatever faction happens to be out of power at the moment, particularly in a year where state parties are often divided by gubernatorial and other races.  Allowing anyone at all to attend is another option, but that raises the question of whether such a self-selected gathering would be representative of the party as a whole.  I suspect that it would be skewed towards party activists and the affluent rather than the types of swing voters that we will need to reach in 2006.

    Thus, while the idea of some sort of midterm convention has appeal on its face, the practical issues of selecting delegates are substantial.  Cronkite proposes using the 2004 delegates, but not all of them are in the financial position to spend another week away from home and, as happens every year, some party voices worth hearing did not get delegate positions in 2004 for a variety of reasons.  For instance, many Dean supporters in large states did not get delegate slots because of their campaign ended for all practical purposes before their state's primary or caucus.  These delegate selection issues present the danger that rather than fighting the common foe in Senate and gubernatorial races, intranecine party warfare will break out over delegate slots that at best will make us look disorganized and at worst, both disorganized and not ready to govern.

    I just cannot see how it can be pulled off in a way in 2006 that will give a voice to all who wish to participate.  While there may be merit in some sort of scaled down proposal, such as roving open DNC meetings in various parts of the country, the ability to present a cogent message to the country that you have in a national convention would not be present.  You simply won't get the TV coverage you're looking for.  Moreover, even if one could figure a way around the problems I've come up with here, there is no guarantee that the networks would cover it.  There are plenty of problems with presidential election year coverage of the conventions, let alone a midterm convention that would be, in essence, a party infomercial that is not producing hard news.

    I do think there is value in exploring the idea of a midterm convention for future years and I would support a commission being formed to study the idea before the 2008 National Convention with a view toward adopting a Charter change that would make it possible to have a midterm convention in 2010 if the idea is deemed to have merit.

    •  You should diary this (4.00)
      Shoot, I wish that this comment was further upthread so that more people would read it.  This is exactly the kind of nuts-n-bolts information I was hoping would emerge here.

      While at lunch I was thinking about the problem of calling something a "convention" when it would not serve the purpose of selecting or confirming candidates, but just the platform.

      I then thought that it might be feasible to construct maybe 5 regional mini-conventions or large-scale town hall meetings with multiple speakers and a large, enthusiastic public.  This forum could be used to field questions about a midterm Democratic platform while promoting such a platform.


      "I'm not interested in that same liberal claptrap. That meow, meow, meow, ironic detachment." -- Stephen Colbert

      by SneakySnu on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 10:57:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How about 50? (none)
        How about asking each state party to sponsor town halls with state and regional leaders talking to 'ordinary folks'.  Let each event focus on one or two areas of concern, ideally one that's a hot issue in that geography.  Then bring together one or two of the participants from each town hall meeting to a conference, representing their state.  

        It stimulates real grassroots, local, and truly emocratic involvement in the process of setting our ideals and goals, and it also has the benefit of giving our midterm candidates and presidential hopefulls a place to show their leadership, gain some exposure, and start developing a following.

        Great idea!

    •  Rules, schmules (none)
      Do the rules specifically PROHIBIT a mid-term convention?

      Seriously -- the rules provide structure for the party's historical operations.  But the rules do not provide for a history-making event, something that is called for by the unusual nature of the current circumstances.

      Think about it: we may be days away from having an indicted administration.  Where does the party's SOP and all its rules stand on this?

      I think we have to consider this extra-curricular.  If you don't want to call it a convention, fine -- call it a Democratic Conference.  Do the rules exclude that?

      Quite frankly, playing by the damned rules gets us in the mess we're in.  The RNC doesn't play by the rules (or the law, but we do draw the line there).  Neither should we.  We need to be flexible, adaptable, light-on-our-feet, everything we are expecting our democracy to be in a wired age of connected citizenry.  What Walter is suggesting -- calling the delegates of 2004 to come together -- may actually provide us with the ability to change the rules.

      Be open to possibility.

      •  I think they do prohibit it (none)
        From my reading of the Charter this morning, I do believe that a midterm convention is prohibited under the current charter.  The provision is for one national convention that meets during presidential election years.  The National Convention is the highest authority in the party and the only entity authorized to modify the Charter.  Control over the Party and day to day management of Party affairs rests with the DNC between conventions.  That seems to me to exclude the holding of a National Convention; however, there are other options for meetings that could be convened by the DNC.  A Midterm Conference could be held, but it would lack the authority of a Convention to do anything binding, such as pass an "official" platform.
        •  Conference. Symposium. Forum. (none)
          Seminar.  Caucus.  Reunion.  Gathering.  You-name-it.

          There is nothing barring STATE or LOCAL organizations from having such an event, with DNC underwriting.  DNC's rules don't pose any barriers to determined people.

          This exchange reminds me of James Carville's response towards the grassroots' push for Dean as DNC chair: ..."Somebody should have fixed this damn thing in November. I wish someone would have taken charge and three or four people would have gotten together in a smoke-filled room. ... They're not running for president! They are running for party chair. This is supposed to be a rigged deal. You think the Republicans would do it this way?"

          It was never in the damned rules in the past, but that's how the DNC chair USED TO BE named, in smoke-filled backrooms out of the limelight and away from the disinfecting sunshine.

          The OLD DNC played by unwritten rules.

          We're done with that, we are so over it.  The same people who organized and made Dean chair can just as easily find a way to organize an event, make the platform that of all state and local parties, which in turn pushes the platform back towards the DNC.

          Now lead, follow or get out of the way.  We don't need more naysayers and devil's advocates.  We need more people who can make barriers disappear and help the American people get back on their feet and out of the clutches of the neo-con junta squatting in our nation's capitol.

    •  The rules (none)
      For this reason- just agreeing on a framework will take two years, I suggest an non affiliated ONLINE convention, where we invite the many candidates as guests, and people from that region craft a winning message with the help of the online community.

      We should at least show up in all 50 states, like Howard wants.

      Continuing the national debate---People for Change --*help us TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK*

      by MikeHickerson on Fri Oct 14, 2005 at 11:31:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why can't it be a caucus with (none)
      every Congress person invited?  Do we need delegates in attendance?  State party leaders?

      Just wonderin'.  

    •  Just an idea (none)
      If a corporation can pay no taxes is it possible that the Dems could make a Conference that did not break da rulz?

      Are we can do? There are always obstacles and if that is your focus you will fail. Eyes on the prize.

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