If party organizations are “increasingly irrelevant,” as the Santa Rosa Press Democrat claimed in its November 19th editorial, “Party Favors,” traditional print publications such as the PD are becoming irrelevant even faster. They are a dying breed, and the Press Democrat’s lashing out at the Sonoma County Democratic Party is symptomatic of the death throes.
There are a lot of things that are flat out wrong about the PD’s editorial, which is unsurprising, since I have never seen a member of their editorial staff at a single meeting of the Central Committee or any of its standing committees. My committee, for instance, hosted a public forum on local water issues a few months ago. Was the PD there? Does the PD care?
Anyone can have an opinion, but the public has a right to expect from the press or anyone else who claims the mantle of opinion leader that the opinion expressed is an informed one. Sadly, the PD’s November 19th editorial was an exposition of opinionated ignorance.
The Central Committee did not “want to censure Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein,” we did censure her. Yet, we took no pleasure in it. Our purpose was to send a signal to Sen. Feinstein to make a left turn at the next intersection. It worked. California Democratic Party chair Art Torres spoke to her regarding the mood of the party, and the Senator immediately voted to remove from a federal bill a provision granting huge telecom companies retroactive immunity from prosecution for wiretapping Americans, despite having previously expressed her support for the provision.
Our purpose is not to drive the senator out of the party, but to call her back into the fold. The PD mistakes dissent for disloyalty. I suppose the theory is that you’re either with the PD or you’re for the terrorists.
The idea that “these liberals,” whoever the PD is talking about, are waiting for Ralph Nader to be appointed attorney general, is so brain-damaged that to fully comment on it would probably put me in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. As a disabled person who has benefited from the Act, I ought not to do that.
Actually, “if you want to know why mainstream voters have stopped paying attention to the proclamations of local party organizations,” the PD is a good place to start. It distorts the facts, because it doesn’t bother to go out and get the facts. It tells its readership these “just so” stories in the hope of creating a self-fulfilling prophesy, or perhaps because it doesn’t have the intellectual wherewithal to comprehend and competently report the real complexities of politics. This is not providing any sort of public service; rather, it is the dumbing-down of reportage that is contributing to the destruction of democracy in pursuit of selling copy and making a fat, lazy profit.
The local Democratic and Republican party organizations are competing in the marketplace of ideas for your vote. That’s their job. Campaigning is partisan; however, governing is bipartisan. Voters don’t often see that, because most voters just go to the polls and they participate in the “government of the people” in no other way. Unsurprisingly, they see nothing but the ugly clash of the campaign and nothing of the artful choreography of compromise. This is where the real work of the people gets done, and it is performed by people of good conscience on both sides of the aisle, and at all levels, from the local party to Washington, DC.
I have visited, and I have been warmly welcomed by, the Sonoma County Republican Party. I count among my best political friends and allies not only Art Torres, but former Republican National Committee chair Bill Brock, as I relate in my upcoming book on the presidential primary process. The members of the local party central committees have more in common with each other than with those who sit at home and wish a pox on both our houses. Our labor, our industry, our energy, powers the engine of democracy.
Everything in this op-ed is my opinion, and I am not speaking for the Sonoma County Democratic Party, although I am a member of the Central Committee and I chair its Issues and Legislation Committee.
Thomas Gangale is an aerospace engineer and a former Air Force officer. He is currently the executive director at OPS-Alaska, a think tank based in Petaluma, where he manages projects in political science and international relations. He is the author of From the Primaries to the Polls: How to Repair America’s Broken Presidential Nomination Process, published by Praeger.