The Shelby County Democratic Party (SCDP), on whose executive committee (EC) I serve, has experienced a bad run over the past couple of years, culminating in the resignation of Chair Bryan Carson on Saturday, February 21st. This was due to problems with the party's financial reports and undocumented deposits, and more importantly, undocumented withdrawals.
Beginning on March 14th with ward and precinct caucuses, to be followed on March 28th with the SCDP convention, the party will be reorganized, as this happens every two years. There will be new leadership, and a newer, smaller executive committee of 29 people from 14 State House Districts.
While I, a veteran of two different stints on the EC, will be leaving, we need new people from every area of Shelby County to get involved. If you lean Democrat, please show up. We need you.
People look at the demographics of Shelby County and mistakenly assume that it should be overwhelmingly Democratic. They would be wrong. Due to the hollowing out of Democratic strongholds like South Memphis, North Memphis, Frayser, and Hickory Hill by departed middle-class African Americans (who are far more likely to vote than their working and poverty-class brethren), the idea that Whitehaven can ensure Democratic victory after victory has been proven wrong.
The Democratic Party must, without leaving its ideals of equality behind, attract people of all races, creeds, and colors from every area of this county. That really hasn't happened in a long time, except for Congressman Steve Cohen, and Mayor A C Wharton, during his time as Shelby County mayor. We have not developed a bench of strong candidates, as seen in our clobbering by the GOP in every county election in recent memory. We have to be as competitive in Cordova as North Memphis; in Collierville as South Memphis. We need to be strong enough to compete anywhere in Shelby County.
As for the incoming chair (and we won't know who that is until they are elected by the new executive committee after the March 28th convention), this person needs to be a lot of things. In order to regain the trust of Shelby County Democrats and independent voters, the new chair will need to be able to raise money, a more daunting task since the older generation of well-to-do Democratic businessmen have died off.
The chair will need to be able to put together a great team, and then delegate and empower them to do those things that need to be done, like organizing, registering voters, and preparing a plan to ensure all voters have legal IDs. We are stuck with the voter photo-ID law for the immediate future, and we need to have a plan in place to accommodate it.
The chair will need to be a good speaker, one who is not afraid of speaking in one-on-one situations or with medium-to-large groups. The new chair needs to have a plan to train campaign workers and candidates and to weed out those who are only running because they need a job — the type of candidate that gets Democrats beat every four years.
The new chair needs to see that people who want to associate with the party for the sole purpose of making money off of it and its candidates are kept far away; they are cancers on our party, and that includes sample-ballot makers.
The chair also needs to get good people on the standing committees of the party, especially including non-executive-committee members of those committees. The chair needs to find people who will volunteer their time to learn about the party and work to make it more effective. If you're looking to get paid, go join the Republicans; the Koch brothers have plenty of money.
The biggest task for the new chair and executive committee, after cleaning up, will be to recruit candidates who understand and know the positions that they seek. We need people who have experience in the offices for which they run and can evoke confidence in their competence. "Vote for Me Because I am the Democrat" is more done than a two-hour steak. It has not worked.
The new chair and committee will have their work cut out for them. If you lean Democrat, please come out on March 14th at 9 a.m. to First Baptist Church-Broad and get involved. We need you, and want you to help this party to be what it can be.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."