I think some freshman mistakes have been made by the new NJDSC team. Some lack of graciousness. Some lack of mission, at least made known publicly. And there’s considerable unrest among many in the party ranks, some due to the staggering loss of a governor and the malaise that attaches itself to that loss. But not all.
I think this is a lackluster time for the NJ Party. The times are restive, yes. But there is a deflated, joyless mood that settles heavily around our party’s leadership. And some of it is their own doing. The good news is that it’s early. And it’s fixable.
And that’s how some of us here missed a message hidden deep in an email greeting from NJDSC Chair John Wisniewski to Dems. It was a pretty good message, lost in a just-okay email.
I think the party needs a turnaround. A recognition – and a mea culpa that we need a rebuild of the party’s reputation, and that we should own this. This is still a Democratic state, long may it wave. But the Democratic perp walks of Corzine’s summer have morphed into the bizarre Dwekian diner videos of Dems-on-the-take, and trials that have only just begun. To be sure, our fresh Governor played Karl Rovian politics with his US Attorney job, and that’s on him. But the rest of it, that’s on us. We’ve deepened perception that the reformist Party Democracy Act needed to be written more for us, than for the GOP.
What is to be done is a public relations campaign – but one with real teeth behind it – that we won’t tolerate corruption, that sunshine is the best disinfectant, that the self-policing is going to be rigorous. Making that believeable requires an openness, transparency, outreach, and doors to party leadership open. I don’t think Dems are more corrupt than Republicans – even in this hell year. But this isn’t about them; they’re their own cesspool. This is about us.
The base problem – Some of your foot soldiers – too many – have had it, and are giving you every signal you shouldn’t count on their work, or money. Big, big mistake. God damn it, why would you respond to that with anything but understanding, concern and the question, What can we do to make this better?
The NJDSC team had the chance to mend some of that, but chose not to. When Garden State Equality (full disclosure: I’m a board member now) voted unanimously to stop funding political parties, Chairman Wisniewski’s “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” response did nothing but deepen resolve.
Wisniewski’s bathwater statement was presumptuous, because it implied GSE somehow owed something to the party – mind you this is after contributing about $500,000 to Dem candidates since 2005. And that GSE’s decision what to do with its own cash was somehow not its own to make. We heard: Trust us, we know what we’re doing and go sit down. Was GSE’s vote a shot at the Democrats? But they deserved it. Man up, and move on. You don’t get anyone back by disparaging a loyal constituency already feeling beaten up.
I cannot emphasize enough that breaking gay hearts engages the protective instincts of many, many people who are straight.
We’re not the NJDSC’s only constituency. We understand that. Respect that. But there’s considerable unrest statewide, mirrored by an aimless DNC presence and ineffective DNC Chair Tim Kaine.
That’s the mood I was in when I got Wisniewski’s email to Democrats yesterday (posted after the jump). For the most part it felt too late, too laudatory and did little to invest me.
But the real problem with it is that Wisniewski made a classic mistake: he buried the lede. It’s a meh email with a good closer. And it makes an ask I think we should all answer:
Over the next few months I look forward to having the same kind of dialogue with you. Soon we will be announcing a series of meetings to hear from local Democratic elected officials, county committee people and grassroots activists about what you think the State Party and Democrats in general should be doing as we enter this crucial stretch for our party.
In the meantime, please send me some of your ideas, whether broad strategy or specific action, for what we should be doing as a party across the state and in your area at firstname.lastname@example.org.