Don Bivens Should Say Bye-Bye as Democratic Party Chair in 2011, but Who Should Replace Him?

THERE SHOULD BE BLOOD

Arizona Democratic Party Chair Don Bivens needs to exit stage right, and his moronic remarks at the party's November 20 state committee meeting, held at the Wyndham Hotel in downtown Phoenix, are a prime example of why.

Faced with the stark reality of Arizona as a one-party state ruled by Republinuts, Bivens told the morose collection of Dems at a morning "post-election forum" that they should hold their heads high, despite the Election Day shellacking they endured.

Then, he made an incredibly dumb analogy, comparing the Dems to the Spartans during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., when the Spartans faced an overwhelming army of Persians led by King Xerxes the Great.

"Xerxes came to [the Spartans] for a parlay," recounted Bivens, "and the notion was, hey, you guys, you're stupid. Look at how many people I have here. I have so many arrows that when we launch, it will block out the sun. And the attitude of the Greeks was, 'Great, we'll be fighting in the shade.'"

Bivens told the donkey-kongs that they must have that "fighting-in-the-shade mentality" coming out of the day's meeting.

Um, great, Don. Just one problem: The Spartans were defeated at Thermopylae, and their king, Leonidas, was slain. Sheesh, didn't you see that flick 300, dude?

Before the history nerds get all over me, the Persians ultimately lost that war, but Bivens was talking about the battle itself. And if the previous election is any indicator, Bivens ain't no Leonidas. And the local Dems, save for a few exceptions, don't fight like Spartans.

As the meeting droned on, and each of the party hacks dutifully reported how many doors were knocked on and how many phone calls were made in the get-out-the-vote effort, it was stunningly obvious that, for the most part, they just didn't get it.

Despite all the shoe leather expended and money raised — a hefty $4.2 million — the D-hacks handed a supermajority to Cactus Country pachyderms in the Legislature and nearly complete control of the state.

What were they missing? The ultimate weapon in any party's arsenal: a message.

From observing the November 2 debacle, can anyone tell me what Arizona Democrats stand for? They argued to the electorate that they weren't Republicans, doing their best to play margarine to the GOP's butter.

On immigration and Senate Bill 1070, the Dems kept their noggins beneath their collars, either trying to ignore the issue altogether or peddling a diluted version of the Republican Kool-Aid.

Whenever GOPers intoned the names of President Barack Obama or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Dems cringed in shame. They did ditto — for the most part — when it came to mentions of healthcare reform.

You can have all the loot in the world, but lack of a message and a strategy is a fatal flaw. Add to that a dearth of courage and passion, and you've ceded victory before the battle's begun.

In general, the refrain from the leadership was, "Hey, it wasn't our fault," that "it was a Republican year," that the Dems faced a "tsunami going in the other direction," and that they were wracked by a "perfect storm" on the national front, which, gosh darn it, they just couldn't do a thing about.

The problem with that line is that in 2008, when a different tsunami rode Obama to the White House, Arizona Dems also lost seats in the Legislature. The national tide is not irrelevant, but it is not a satisfactory excuse.

Jeanine L'Ecuyer, former flack for ex-Governor Janet Napolitano and deputy campaign manager for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard during his latest failed gubernatorial bid, made a revealing comment when asked to opine on the election results as part of the panel Bivens led.

"We are, and we see ourselves as, a party of intellect," she noted, adding, "The other side is a party of feeling . . .and the feeling that was communicated tremendously well throughout [their] campaigns on every level was anger. It didn't make any sense to us."

Good point. But the lesson the Ds should take from that is: Get angry! There was plenty to be angry about during the election. And with state Senate President-elect Russell Pearce now captain of Arizona's doomed dinghy, there's even more reason to be incensed.

Sadly, in the crowd that day, there was a real paucity of any "feeling" other than malaise. Before I entered the gathering space, Dems came up to me and said they were ticked and were about to prove it by pulling out metaphorical guillotines to do some head-chopping, as I had recently suggested they should in print ("Arizona Democrats' Defeat Dissected," November 11).

But when it came time for questions from the floor, the mood was phlegmatic. It took a man named Jarmel Kennedy, who told the crowd that he was neither a Democrat nor a Republican, to ask a money question.

He wondered, rightly, why Dems locally took it on the schnoz for so long from the GOP's negative attack machine, which used the national political situation against them.

"Why did the Democrats not put out these fires as they were springing up before they took momentum?" asked Kennedy.

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Stephenw
Stephenw

some of the worst writing on AZ politics i've seen-- self distructive andchildish

Leonardclark385
Leonardclark385

Rodney Glassman, what a laugh, this guy is not just more of the same, he represents the new democratic party today...tell people what they want to hear and continue to take suitcases of money (Citizens United) from multi-national corporations.Rodney Glassman, what a laugh, this guy is not just more of the same, he represents the new democratic party today...tell people what they want to hear and continue to take suitcases of money (Citizens United) from multi-national corporations.The hope for saving our democracy is not a two party system but a system of Proportional Representation. For example if the democrats get 30% of the vote then they get 30% representation for that particular state. In this way, even parties like the Green party with only 6% of the vote get six percent of the representation rather then this all or nothing system which allows corporations to have a much easier time controlling our political system because two major sold out political parties (democrats and republicans) are much easier and cheaper to bribe than say 5 or 6 different political parties. For example if the Green party were allowed 6% of the representation from the votes they get corporations would have a much more difficult time controlling the political process because the Green party does not allow contributions from corporations or unions.Leonard Clark

Mack
Mack

What a bunch of junk....another paper that is on the side of those who worship greed

Loosecannonsbluesband
Loosecannonsbluesband

The democratic party is NOT a top down organization. The Chairman basically chairs the meetings of the State Dems and encourages the members of the state board to attend meetings and do their jobs in the local districts and precincts. It is most absurd to suggest replacing one person on the State party's board would make a difference. There are rules that are in place governing the operation of the state party and the chairman is also subject to those rules. The responsibility for the losses rests on all dems' shoulders, not just one person.

Take responsibility for your activity in the dem party people - it was your responsibility, not just the Chairmans! Trying to blame one person will only make things worse next election because you will have gotten away with not taking personal responsibility once and you'll do it again.

CooperG
CooperG

I don't know what you're looking at, but the ADP is top down. Always has been and unless something changes, always will be.

Party officials are elected to run the joint. If they don't run it properly, there isn't some backstop to put it back on course. There is a hierarchy that starts at the top. If the chairman says change course, they change course. If the chairman says support these candidates, the party supports those candidates. Changing one person CAN change the party because that one person chooses who are hired to run day-to-day operations. Now who they hire is another issue, but that's still top-down.

I do agree that passing the buck or living in denial isn't going to solve the party's problems. But change in a political organization starts with leadership.

Rational Reader
Rational Reader

Cooper G, You are correct to say that the leaders of the democratic party are elected (by other democrats who show up at party elections), but you are wrong to say that they run the joint. The position of Party Chair isn't a full-time, paying job (Bivens is an attorney), so it's not like the Chair has 40+ hours a week to dedicate to getting people elected. Rather, it's up to people to get involved. The chair just gives direction. And like Loosecannonsbluesband said the position of chair is merely a managerial, budgeting and spokesman position, chosen to facilitate things.

As you can see from their own party bylaws, available to the public on the AZ Dems website, the roll of the Chair is very clear:

The State Chair shall direct the affairs of the Party and shall be the spokesperson for the Party. He or she shall preside over all meetings of the State Committee, the Executive Committee, the Executive Board and Party Conventions or meetings as may be held. The chair shall submit a proposal for approval for an annual budget to the executive committee. He or she shall, after consultation with the executive board, assign appropriate duties to all vice-chairpersons. The chair shall, after consultation with the executive board, appoint such committees as required by these bylaws or deemed necessary by the Chair to carry out the programs and policies of the Party. He or she shall direct the central office of the party and other offices that it may establish.

Long story short, the democratic party is not a monarchy; if the chair says jump, members of the party have the free will to stay standing. So, don't open your mouth with nonsense when you don't know what you're talking about.

FU
FU

do the same thing for the next cycle and you will lose yet again. get a clue. learn from your f-ups. otherwise enjoy living in loserville, democrats

Moving
Moving

CopperG.  Your interpretation an arguments provide even more insight to how clueless you are.  Congressional candidates (or any candidates at all for that matter) become a part of the coordinated campaign according to the viability of their candidacy.  This means having the ability to fundraise while running a their own solid field effort in a competitive district.  This is exactly how it is done in EVERY single other state.  What is does NOT mean is that the candidate is arbitrarily assigned priority at the whimsy of the State Party Chairman.  In a mid-term election year where Democratic turnout is historically less than 50%, competitive districts are hard to come by.  The Chairman does not control this, nor is he the chief campaign strategist that you are imagining.  Show me someone who is and I will show you that that person is actually working for a campaign and has no interesting becoming state party chair.  As someone who worked for an underdog candidate this year, I can tell you that she and her staff did EVERYTHING they could to battle the prognosis of a poor political environment.  On this election cycle I was more coordination between candidates, volunteers and the State Party than I've ever seen before.  In my opinion, heading straight for the guillotine is throwing the baby out with the bath water.

CooperG
CooperG

"Don't know what (I'm) talking about?"

Really? As an elected state committee person first elected in 2004 and as someone who has never missed a state committee meeting, I think I do know what I'm talking about.

What exactly does "Direct the affairs of the party" mean if it doesn't mean decide what the strategy is? What "affairs" do you think that refers to, extramarital? Are you saying there's no leadership in developing a budget? What do you think"assign duties" means? The paragraph you posted says the chairman runs the place because he "directs the affairs," "presides over the meetings," submits the budget, and tells the vice-chairs what they'll do. And you're telling me I don't know what I'm talking about?

Are you telling us that candidates can walk into state party headquarters and say, "the coordinated campaign isn't and I deserve to be supported" and then staff, on their own, can decide to help them? Are you telling me that Congressional candidates like Rebecca Schneider can call the head of the congressional campaign staff and say, "send me a check and give me some help" and they will do that on their own?

At the state committee report two weeks ago they put up a chart that showed they made no calls into CD-6 on Schneider's behalf. Who does she see about that? Staff?

I never said it was a monarchy, but there is a clear "leader" and many of us are tired of hearing the same old reports year after year after year from our "leaders" saying how great we did only to look at the win column and see losses.

As for your comment "members of the party have the free will to stay standing," the members of the party have been clamoring for change for years and they're not getting it. They should "remain standing," whatever that means, but they should also insist on winning some elections and elect a chairperson with an eye on increasing Democratic representation, not just incumbent protection. We can all see how well that has been working.

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Sampson
Sampson

LOL...I think the democratic party should pick Jarrod Maulpin :)

Seriously?
Seriously?

Rodney Glassman is an embarrassing idiot. People see that right? He will run for just about anything that seduces his ego, regardless of his qualification. After he loses this one, what else should he run for? President of the Navajo Nation? King of Russia?

Rational Reader
Rational Reader

This article is unrealistic, biased and should really be placed under the op-ed category. The position of political party chair has less political clout than one might think. It is mainly an organizing and fundraising position that helps those who want to run for office make that a reality, as well as managing the general happenings of the party throughout the year. So, demonizing the party chair, who is really just a volunteer, is quite presumptuous. The stark reality is that this was a mid-term election year. During midterm years voters are reactionary and generally punish the party in power out of frustration if they are not happy with current affairs. Pair that with the fact that Arizona is a traditionally Republican state and the divisiveness of SB 1070, and the Democrats had one hell of an uphill battle. And speaking of battles, the "fighting-in-the-shade mentality" was a more than relevant analogy about staying passionate during hard times.

CooperG
CooperG

They don't call it "Chairman" for nothing. If it's some PR and fundraising gig, call it something other than "Chairman." As in a corporation, the chairman is supposed to set the direction of the organization. It's their job to lead.

Democrats had loads of opportunities to make headway on the issues and chose not to. They chose to run the other way instead of getting in there and fighting. It's easy to blame the national political climate, the "tsumani," but the fact remains they raised more money than the Republicans, called more people, and still didn't have a message.

The best thing the Dems could do is change the CEO and let them hire people with an idea of how to win rather than looking for whom to blame. That's the point I think Lemons is making.

FU
FU

Cooper G is right. Plus if Don Bivens job is meaningless then there's no reason not to replace him, right? Bivens is the coach. When you have several losing seasons, as the Dems have. It's time to change the coach.

Droptheballdems
Droptheballdems

You are right concerned citizen. the demacrats dropped that ball. AND it is not over with andy thomass, still the law suits flying, after we voted him out!

Concerned Citizen
Concerned Citizen

Felicia or Andre Cherny need to head the Dems!! It's time for immediate change. How can the Dems not even field a candidate for Maricopa County Attorney?? The most powerful position in the state controlling peoples' lives, overcrowding the courtrooms, jails and prisons with their 200,000 plus convictions under former MCA Thomas??

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Dr
Dr

Entire Dem team needs to be replaced. No plan before, no plan now.

Steve
Steve

I would like to see Felicia chair the ADP... has she said anything to anyone about it?

Some readers might already know that Tucson blogger Three Sonorans wrote last night (Tuesday) that he has heard from multiple sources that Rodney Glassman wants to be the new chairman. What a freakin' joke that is, or would be rather. Knowing Rodney from the primary election campaign for the US Senate nomination, I tend to believe he would want to do that, but I can't imagine anyone actually supporting him in such a bid. He was an incredibly piss poor match for McLame.

Steve
Steve

I meant to say, has she said anything more specific to anyone about it lately... :)

 
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