My MCDC Gripe

Every time I read a story about the dire state of Monroe County, or think about the 2008 election, I get really, really angry at the group that's supposed to be filling the role of the loyal opposition in my home county: the Monroe County Democratic Committee (MCDC). Part of the reason has to do with my experiences working for a Democratic party that worked hard to fulfill their role as the loyal opposition. If you have nothing better to do on Labor Day, you might be interested my political history and how it relates to the current state of the MCDC.

I grew up in the reddest part of a red state: R + ∞ on the Cook scale. When I was growing up, my Dad was occasionally the County Democratic Party Chair. Now this was a tiny county, so his position was anything but an honor, and the work was mundane. In addition to organizing the work of others, Dad did things like helping canvass, distributing yard signs, and -- most importantly -- recruiting candidates.

Now the candidates that Dad recruited almost invariably lost. So he had to work hard to cajole some poor soul into spending his or her time and money to run for whatever piddling little office was up for election. Once in a long while, the Republican running against the Democratic sacrificial lamb would lose, mainly because the GOP candidate was widely recognized as a gross incompetent. Those were days to celebrate.

But victory celebrations were few and far between, so election day wasn't usually a hell of a lot of fun. No matter: in the weeks before the election, Dad would be on the phone coordinating poll workers and telephone callers. The day of the election, Dad and the rest of his motley crew would provide rides to the polls and stay up late waiting for results.

Though he's 76 and retired from work and party leadership, my old man is still volunteering. Recently, he was out canvassing in a bad part of town and some daytime drinkers offered him a party and perhaps a blow job if he played his cards right. Since he's not a Republican US Senator, Dad didn't know what to make of that offer, so he politely turned it down and went to knock on the next door. If you want to find him on election day, look for the guy giving the old ladies a ride to the polls and turning down unsolicited bjs.

A lot of what I know about practical politics was learned from my old man and his Democratic buddies. As I went through High School and came home from College, I'd give Dad a hand in his quixotic tasks. I was even a delegate to the State Democratic Convention one summer when I was 19 years old. (As you might imagine, Dad couldn't get some other poor idiot to do the job.) So I've seen a grassroots, hard-working group of Democrats fighting against bad odds to eke out the occasional victory.

When I moved to New York a few years ago, I figured that my days of watching a pathetic Democratic party struggle in vain were over. Surely a town with a solidly Democratic urban core would be running full slates with lots of winners. Even my poor Dad, who had no money and little time, was usually able to get a full slate of candidates, even though most of them went down in flames.

For the first couple of years, my New York state of mind was blissful ignorance. When I pulled the lever for a Democrat, they usually won. Louise Slaughter, my representative back then, would poll 70/30 without breaking a sweat. I'd never seen that before, and, man, did it feel good.

"These Democrats out here are living the dream," I thought to myself. "They don't need to run the risk of unsolicited bjs from toothless drunks. This is how it's supposed to be."

Though I noticed that Democrats never seemed to run in uptight Republican Pittsford, my first real wake-up call was when I got gerrymandered into the 29th district. After Amo Houghton retired, I figured we'd get a strong Democrat to run for the open seat, and that person would campaign hard and have a good chance to win. Hell, even the shitkickers in my home state could field a good candidate for important offices like United States Representative.

Suffice it to say that Sam Barend, a poor candidate who ran a crummy campaign, shattered some of my illusions about the Democrats out here. The lack of support from the rest of the party was even more surprising to me. Where was Louise? I didn't get a letter or call from my former Congresswoman, telling me how great Sam Barend was and why I should vote for her. Where was the MCDC? I didn't get a single get-out-the-vote call. Nobody checked to see if I was old and needed a ride to the polls.

The Monroe County Democratic Party spends more money on catered lunches than the yearly budget of my hometown Democrats. But, for some reason, the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort of that bunch of rural yahoos trumps Smugtown's best. One example: the first time anyone has ever asked me if I needed an absentee ballot was last election, after Hillary Clinton's campaign paid the MCDC to get off their leaden asses and run a half-hearted GOTV effort.

The last straw was this year's Monroe County Executive race. They couldn't even field a candidate. This makes Baby Jesus cry. The most important office in the county, and no candidate. I don't know Joe Morelle from the man in the moon, but I can assert without fear of contradiction that he's incompetent, lazy or both.

I don't self-identify as a progressive. I don't go to protests, because I don't like the impatience or absolutism I see there. I'm one of those awful centrists, a compromiser or worse. So why is it that I'm the radical on the topic of the MCDC's fuckups? When I say that Morelle ought to be canned, today or sooner, the same group of progressives who think I'm wishy-washy a little too conservative tells me to be more patient, to wait until after the election. Things, they say, will work themselves out.

Bullshit, I say. The MCDC has been doing a crap job for long enough. Their latest fiasco with the County Exec position probably cost every county leg candidate a good percentage of their votes. The only thing left in this election is GOTV, which the MCDC does poorly. If you're taking the 2007 election seriously, you've realized that it was mainly lost the minute that the MCDC failed to fill the top of its slate. The next opportunity is 2008, and it's time to change MCDC leadership now. We need to give a new team time to build a winning organization for one of the most important elections in the last quarter century.

The fear that Democrats will do worse by replacing MCDC leadership is similar to the fear of the abuse victim who stays with an abuser out of an inability to imagine a better future. Progressives are supposed to be able to imagine a brighter future. Put that imagination to work and visualize a MCDC with new leadership.


Disliking absolutism doesn't make you a centrist. I rarely hear you invoke those awful words "the truth is in the middle" or "both sides are right/wrong." You're being too tough on yourself when you say you're a centrist.

This whole thing is too tough. Monroe customarily at least puts up some quality judicial candidates--though they rarely if ever make a dent in the robotic GOP vote down here in Steuben. And I think that Samara Barend did a remarkably job for someone so young and inexperienced. She gave our hometown Randy a run forhis money.

Exile: I should have put "awful centrists" in quotes. However, I'm still waiting for RT to push back on the MCDC.

Watching: "some quality judicial candidates" !!! That's the barest minimum a party can do -- you make my point for me. Don't get me wrong: Sam Barend is a fine person and did the best she could. But she was inexperienced and ran a poor campaign.

However, I'm still waiting for RT to push back on the MCDC.

You'll have to wait until after the elections. If they pick up the County Lej, it will be awfully hard to criticize them. I'm not saying that will happen, but I don't enough to say anything about the County Lej races.

Seriously: you can't call for the Morrelle's head two months before the election. I just don't see how that makes sense.

If they pick up the County Lej

That's an awfully big if.

I realize it is in some ways unreasonable to ask for Morelle's head 2 months before the election. But consider two things.

First, his main work for 2007 (building a slate) is done. I have to imagine that the real, practical effects of him leaving would be minimal. The real risk is that the picking of his replacement would take up too much party bandwidth.

Second, sometimes you need to be unreasonable in the pursuit of an important goal. The goal is a more responsive MCDC. If the party regulars signal that they're ready to make leadership immediately accountable, the next party leader will try a little harder the next time they have a tough challenge.

A dead-on take on the baffling question of why the MCDC didn't even try.

Sure they want the County Leg, to make Brooks's life hell for 4 years.

And don't you make that more likely by having someone at the top of the ticket?

The one guarantee about punting is that you're guaranteed not to score.

Hey Rotten -

Unsurprisingly I'm with Exile here.

I have a question. With a long and distinguished history of family involvement are you involved in your local committee and, as such, part of the county committee?

Finally - the link to the comments where you claim RT has told you you are too conservative. I don't get that from the comments. The section in italics is my quote the rest is yours.

So going into the 2007 elections the expectation is to toss Morrelle overboard? The Dem Machine here in Monroe County won’t do that prior to an election cycle and I’m not sure it should.

You’re right — the day after the election will be good enough. But that shouldn’t keep you guys from critiquing Morelle and suggesting replacements. I think once-a-week should be sufficient.

In response to that...

As I said before - it is a target rich environment here in Monroe county. I can write a post about COMIDA or the MC Leg Tax intercept or fiscal deficients (50M anyone?), or anything Randy Kuhl / Reynolds / Walsh or the Water Authority, or the Seimens Contract, County Corruption or Open Access to the MC Legislature or any of the local governments (I know I'm missing something else). We can focus on state stuff with what we have written about Bruno and financial contributions. We have, of course, written about more topics that is enough to illustrate the point.

Or I can write a post about Morelle and how he failed to run a candidate.

Philbrick: For some odd reason, I figured you'd agree with me on this one...

StLo: I do zero for the local Democratic committee, for a variety of reasons, including laziness and contrariness. That said, would it make any difference if I did?

No, you guys didn't call me conservative -- I projected that you think I'm conservative because I usually take a less radical line on this blog and in my comments. You just told me to cool my jets on this one.

And, yeah, there's plenty to write about in Monroe Co. But I think this issue should get more attention, even thought it's a little off-topic for this blog. There's no harm in criticizing the MCDC, and I really don't like the notion that we need to just be quiet until after the election. And I have changed my position a little - Morelle can go now without much harm to the party. The lack of a County Exec candidate is a firing offense.

Nobody's happy about this.

It would be great if we could push him out the door and take our pick from a field of excellent, qualified candidates, all eager for the position...

But that's not the reality. If I remember correctly, Morelle took the job mostly because NO ONE ELSE WOULD.

The problem is the party, not the chair.

I'm not up on the history of Morelle's nomination - I'll take your word that nobody else wanted the job. I wonder why nobody wanted the job in the first place. Maybe there's some deeper dysfunctionality in the MCDC hierarchy.