One of my aims with the "Five Thoughts on the North Carolina Democratic Party" series was to talk about the very real problems facing the party, and divorce the conversation about NCDP's future from the personality conflicts and infighting that are a product of the party's failures. I think I did a pretty good job with the former, but one glance at my Facebook feed tells me I've failed at the latter.
When I wrote, "I have pity for those who are so consumed with vitriol over something as cosmically insignificant as a Democratic Party chair election," I sincerely meant it. Being consistently negative isn't an effective strategy for advancing a point of view, so the people who put all of their time and effort into six-page screeds and conspiracy theories are not only too consumed by anger, they're also not convincing others to support their argument. Making a demonstrable impact, creating meaningful change, and treating others with compassion are three things I try to do daily, and while I don't always succeed, I pity those who don't know where to begin.
Granted, the leading candidate for NCDP chair, Patsy Keever, was absolutely in the wrong when she misgendered one of her opponents, and when she characterized the incident as blown out of proportion. Though many people who support the status quo at the NCDP have taken to Facebook, Twitter, and their personal blogs to take advantage of Keever's gaffe and make the race as vitriolic as possible, too many others thought it would be a good idea to engage them.
Pro Tip: 9 times out of 10, the most rational action to take in response to being libeled on the Internet is to ignore the unemployed trolls who will always have more time to libel you than you have to defend yourself.
The people who post the same argument over and over again in every forum they find aren't going to engage in constructive conversation, so don't engage them. That being said, there are many people in the party who want to reconcile, who want dialogue, who want solutions. That requires the hard work of calling people up, engaging them, giving them another chance, and starting conversations.
Starting a dialogue also requires vulnerability. I served on the party's executive council from 2011 to 2014, and during that time I made a lot of mistakes. Though I never started a cult to try and take over the party (yes, that's an actual conspiracy theory), there were times when I was involved in the party that I lost my cool. I assumed I could win over others simply with the veracity of my arguments, and I didn't take time to engage enough people who thought differently than I did. I held grudges sometimes, and I could be mean-spirited. To anyone I treated unfairly, I apologize.
One of the lessons we learn sometime in our twenties is that very few people "have it together" and the world simply doesn't work as it should, but that's no reason to give up (those who don't learn that lesson become angry online commenters). I think for many of us, our largest source of frustration at the Democratic Party never had anything to do with the people who were leaders, but with the dysfunction and organizational decay that elevated leaders who we thought weren't up to the job. I don't have animus for anyone in the party, but there were times the frustration at the system was overwhelming. That's where I'm coming from.
Patsy Keever will probably be elected chair tomorrow. She's the only candidate for chair who's ever done heavy lifting in the fundraising department, and the party desperately needs that. However, the status quo at the North Carolina Democratic Party won't automatically change. Whoever wins will have to start a dialogue while they work to raise the money to keep the party afloat. They'll have to ignore the trolls, but engage people they disagree with. They'll have to build a coalition to change the party to be relevant in an out-of-power, post-Citizens United world.
It's not going to be easy, but I hope the new chair's team can do all tat. As for the rest of us, if you truly believe the party has value and still serves a purpose in the political arena, please don't miss the opportunity this weekend to start a conversation and start fixing the party.