A Message for Our Democratic Leaders

Fellow Democrats,

Like most of you, I found Donna Brazile’s book excerpt released yesterday, distressing and very hard to swallow.

Whether you were a Hillary supporter or a Bernie supporter or just a committed Democrat fighting for the election of Democrats up and down the ticket I’m certain that you were profoundly disappointed to learn that our national party had become so financially weak as to be completely dependent on one candidate for its survival.

For some of our troops, the narrative of how this crisis led to a quiet arrangement for control of the DNC immediately became a validation of their long-held beliefs about dishonesty at the center of the Party. For others, it was a deep and confusing shock – quite simply a heartbreaking revelation. Judging from commentary on Facebook, still others feel that nothing has changed; that although the DNC members were kept out of the loop it was legal and therefore a non-event.

I disagree that it’s a non-event. The ground has shifted in the debate that has dogged the Party for more than a year. To be clear, not all accusations that have been made have been validated, but in reality this report from a credible source confirms that, in at least one case, a basic commitment to open processes was ignored. And that the opportunity to misuse leverage was granted.

In addition to its impact on people’s belief in the fairness of our processes in 2016, this brings to a head long-standing concerns about Presidential campaigns taking center stage for the Party every four years with pretty regular negative results — even when we win. Non-swing states (like our own) get left behind; and too often in the end the national party is left with no cash (and possible debt) to start the next cycle.

It’s clear that we need a permanent infrastructure to support a wide range of Democratic candidates that does not depend on the charisma and fundraising capacities of a national candidate.

Even before these revelations, we are witnessing the beginnings of a new Party orientation. A commitment of funds is in place to provide resources to all 57 state and territorial parties. The DNC is avoiding the mistake of focusing only on Presidential races by engaging in races all around the country at the Congressional level, state legislative levels, and even local races. Even more critically, in the attached message, Chair Perez commits to the outcomes from the Unity Commission and a fair process for the next Presidential candidate selection.

While his statement may be missing what some want more than anything – an apology on behalf of the previous leadership – it does give us something to measure future actions against and to press our Party leadership to assure the future is different from the past.

I came into this office hearing a myriad of accusations and counter accusations, about what happened nationally and locally in 2016. Today, I have a specific reason to express my own regret at what our party leaders did and how they did it.

While your officers were not involved or aware of this situation until now, we absolutely share an institutional sense of responsibility for both the past and the future. I believe I can fairly say that all of us have a renewed commitment to transparency, accountability, and fairness in our own processes, and for advocating for those values at the national level.

I am proud that the Democratic Party of Oregon’s partnerships over the years have been with a whole coalition of Democratic groups, candidates and elected officials. No one candidate pulls this Party’s strings. We will continue that tradition going forward, while looking for still more ways to live our values of inclusion and transparency. We also will not lose focus on developing additional strategies for accomplishing our mission: making Oregon and the nation a place where everyone has a fair shot at a decent life through the leadership of Democrats.

As we make our way forward, let us pledge to listen carefully and seek to be persuasive, not accusative, to one another. Our work has never been more important and our dependence on each other is irreplaceable. I look forward to seeing many of you in two weeks for our 4th quarter SCC meeting.

As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions.

Thank you for all you do.

Jeanne Atkins
State Party Chair