Monday, March 30, 2009

Am I Pissed Off At Party Leadership? I Don't Think "Pissed Off" Is the term I'd use.....

My dear friend Anonymous left a comment on an earlier post:

Bob, you've been pissed off at party leadership for some time now and I think your prejudice has missed the point here.

But, before I get to the main point of the comment, I just want to share a few things about the comment:

1) Anonymous could be anyone. Wayne Holland, Todd Taylor, Tracy Van Wagoner, Rob Miller.... Heck, it could even be Paul Mero trying to rile me up. I doubt it's Paul, and I also have my doubts it's Todd or Rob.

2) Most of the post was cribbed from another blog. So, it wasn't just my prejudice.

However, let's get down to the nitty gritty of this post. I've been accused of being "pissed off" at party leadership.

"Pissed off" is not the term I'd use.

Frustrated and Disappointed are the words I'd use.

Frustrated and disappointed at the deafening silence on local issues during the legislative session. This despite the blacklisting for the first third of the session of any bill coming from a prominent Democratic Representative.

Frustrated and disappointed at the deafening silence when our Democratic Legislators took on legislation that promoted Common Values of love and compassion supported by the majority of Utahns. Legislation that the only statements made by the LDS Church were in support of the issue. Yet nothing from party leadership. We heard a lot from Republicans opposed to the issue.

Frustrated and disappointed at the deafening silence when our legislature, despite overwhelming support from the citizens of Utah, failed to pass meaningful ethics reform. And the small ethics reform that were passed, Republicans are claiming victory for.

And don't get me started on liquor reform.

Frustrated and disappointed at celebrating failure. Sure, we had a net gain of two members of the House. But our goal was 4. And in the process, we lost a part of the state we've held since statehood. And, there was statistically insignificant gain in Democratic voters statewide from 2004-2008. In fact, if you take away Barack Obama, there was a decline. And this with spending the most money ever.

Frustrated and disappointed with a party leadership that, until a month or so ago, treated the Internet like it was 1999. And still doesn't quite know what to do with it.

Frustrated and disappointed with a party leadership that uses Rovian tactics when challenged (take push polling, for instance).

Frustrated and disappointed with a party leadership that uses faith as a stepping stool for political gain, yet discredits many people of faith. (Note: I want to clarify that while I worked for the party, my faith was never challenged.)

And, as a personal note to anonymous, if you really want to see me "go after" the party, I will. I have pulled so many punches over the last 18 months or so, it sickens me....



Robin said...

I think you and Jason at the Sidetrack are both brave for saying what you said, and so are many others being ignored by the party. I've felt for many years now that as Democrats we are fighting such an uphill battle in this state against the misinformation and bs coming from overly confident Republicans that we hesitate to criticize our party leaders for fear the possible media attention will cost us elections. But we're not winning elections. We are attracting candidates, and we don't have even 1/10th the outreach and online engaging presence of other D parties in equally as red of states. Our leaders have shown us they have no vision, and it's a shame anyone would try to silence your criticism with an anonymous comment rather than take what's being said to heart, and heaven forbid try something new in response.

Holland had/has potential, but the resistance to vision he's shown is trickling down to other party leaders, dilluting even their own vision. We're dead in the water with him at the helm.

There, I said it.

craig41 said...

bob, you're right, it's frustrating, embarrassing, off pissing, and all in all puzzling. anonymous on the last post was confused, and i think their prejudice is causing them to miss the point. either that or they can't read election results.

the party has a long way to go in this state, and ideas need to come from either those in the state office, or anyone else that has them. but right now we're running around like a basketball team down big late in the game, looking for someone to foul. it's time to get back in the game, and saying that we should all look good losing isn't really that inspiring, nor is it a plan to do anything other than lose, hopefully looking good while doing so.

Voice of Utah said...

While we're venting, my pet peeve is when Democratic legislators agree to carry the water for the GOP on bills that (rightfully) would be viewed as self-serving if sponsored by a Republican legislator (e.g., Brent Goodfellow, Gene Davis). That is one reason why I have quit donating to the Democratic party, and only donate to individual candidates.

CAxford said...

First, I don't know whether to be hurt or flattered you left me out of the list of possible Utah Democratic staffers posting anonymously on your blog. Hopefully it goes without saying since I am using my name here (Craig) it wasn't me. Also, I am speaking purely for myself here - and not the state party.

That said, it is very easy to criticize the state party for this that and the other thing. And much of the criticism is valid. We could do a better job at internet outreach, we could put on more trainings for candidates and others, and we could put out more press releases on a variety of issues - though it seems no matter how many we put out someone will inevitably say we should have focused on something else.

So why don't we? Well there are three paid staffers in this office. One works exclusively on events and fundraising, the other on conventions, blogging, updating the website to the extent time allows, and now a Facebook page - which one assumes is what Bob is referring to when he says we discovered the internet about a month ago. Oh, and then there is the writing of press releases - which are often ignored by the media. Don't assume just because you don't read something in the paper we have been completely silent on an issue.

Add to that the tasks on our third staff person's desk including, but by no means limited to, monthly FEC reports and all the bookkeeping that goes with it, dealing with payroll, and several hours of conference calls a week with other state party leaders, the DNC, etc. and hopefully you get the picture.

We would very much like to update much of the software we use in this office including new internet tools and better graphic design software. Indeed, give me an hour and I will create a whole list of things I would buy for this office if the resources were available. They aren't. All this criticism amounts to nothing if people aren't willing to put a few dollars where their mouths are and get a lot of other people to join them.

I don't mind constructive criticism. Really I don't. But I do mind it when the criticism is couched in the assumption those of us working at the state party could do it, we just don't feel like it. We are doing all we can with the resources currently at our disposal. And please identify the red states with bucket loads of money doing wonderful things on the internet we could do here if only we had the inclination.

If you would like to donate - go to We would love the help.

Rob said...


Thanks for your thoughts.

During this last legislative session Chair Holland and I where on the Hill almost daily fighting the good fight, and supporting our Democrats.

Minority Senate Leader Pat Jones expressed her gratitude to Chair Holland and to the Party for our assistance and the direction the Party has taken this last four years.

With the loss of our SPP staff it has been difficult to message online, but it wasn't that difficult to work the process and open doorways for our elected representatives to do so. Maybe you missed some of the stories in the news that we helped to develop, or the opportunities we set up for our legislators to speak on the radio. Maybe you were not aware of that work, but I know it happened and I know those messaging opportunities didn't happen by accident.

That's just a small example some of the work the Party did this session.

It was wonderful being on the Hill this session. It was good to see you up there too, Bob, but I do disagree that we were silent, we simply did the best we could do with what we had at the time.

I also very much enjoyed being there with Chair Holland, participating in the process, and assisting our legislators. Even Stan Lockhart mentioned how noticeable our Democratic presence was on the Hill this year.

Bob, If you are really that frustrated and disappointed with our leadership, and if you believe you can do better I would encourage you to run for Party office. It has been one of the great service experiences of my life, but it does take a lot of time, devotion, and patience, and a thick skin.

As for the post by Jason on the SIDETRACK and your blog: I absolutely disagreed with your analysis. Had Chairman Holland's comments been released in context you may have had a different opinion of what Wayne was trying to express, and then again, maybe not, but the fact remains that Wayne wasn't trying to discourage candidates, he is trying to help some candidates realize that if at first you don't succeed, try, try again, just like President Obama who only received 29 percent of the vote during his first run for congress. Like Calvin L. Rampton who ran six times before he became Utah's most beloved governor. Just like Jay Seegmiller, and Trisha Beck, and Laura Black, and Lisa Johnson who I believe will be a legislator if she will run one more time.

I have seen decent candidates run, who ran to win, but when they did not, they went home never to return. Happily, this is changing, and it's that fighting spirit that Wayne is trying breed and embrace.

Thanks again for your thoughts Bob, and thanks for your continued support for Utah's Democratic Party, and for your patience with us over the last 18 months.

Jason The said...

Rob, you know I love you man, but there was not a PEEP coming from the party on several chunks of legislation that deserved -- nay, demanded! -- a good thrashing.

I agree with Mr. Axford's thoughts above, and recognize the challenges the minority party up against such a super majority faces, but when volunteers meet resistance, and when ideas go nowhere in the face of leadership unwilling to experiment and challenge the status quo, there is a need to try something new.

I've no doubt you and Wayne were on the hill fighting the good fight for Democrats, but it doesn't change the fact that we heard NOTHING about this supposed good fight in the newspapers or on the blogs, and then when we did finally hear something, it was Wayne and Tracy telling the Tribune that Democrats "don't win in Utah."

David said...

No offense, but Rob's comment sounds like so much smoke being blown up our collective asses it's sickening. It's time to be realistic about how little ground we've gained, and at least explore the possibility that it wasn't a pre-destined certainty, but rather the result of poor leadership. Maybe the party wouldn't be so understaffed and underfunded if they had won on any issue (other than vouchers, which was a collective win, not driven by the party) in the past few years? And Rob, Seegmiller won that race himself, the party didn't do it for him.

Anonymous said...

Rob, don't blame the loss of the SPP on poor performance BEFORE you actually lost them.

The State Party spent most of the whole of the last two years being as Republican as possible.

What about Prop 8? What about the fact that Obama beat you guys by several hours on the death of Hinkley? What about the unions? What about messaging in general?

What about maybe taking a hard look at the actual math of the elections instead of dressing up what, without Obama's race, would have been an abysmal failure?

What about freeking Buttars?

It's all a bunch of happy talk and window dressing. You've been moving toward a watered down version of the Republican party and the loss of the SPP jobs is, without a doubt, the lamest excuse for political malfeasance I've ever read.

You, Holland, Dunn, VanWagoner, whoever - are locked in permanent failure mode.

This "lose with dignity" BS is pathetic and sad.

Instead of standing on your principles, messaging on controversial issues, educating the populous on what Democrats REALLY ARE, you spent another election cycle trying to make the party look like the little GOP.

So, good job. You're more like them than ever before and it's moved you nowhere but into deeper irrelevance.

I feel bad for a guy like Craig - who actually is a real Democrat.

Paul said...

Anonymous, who would I rather have running our party? An anonymous asshole who calls our party vice chair a Republican, or an optimist like Miller who has worked harder than any vice chair I've ever known.

I don't see where Rob blamed anyone or anything. What I read was that the party doesn't have much of a staff right now. I also believe that the party is there to support candidates and their elected officials. Sounds like that's what the did.

At least David had the guts to post his name, but if I were Rob I would be offended by the blowing smoke up are asses comment. I have only known Rob for four years but he has always been forthright in my dealings with him,and you shouldn't put words in his mouth. He never said the party won Seegmiller's race, he said that Holland was attempting to build a culture where candidates don't give up.

Both David and Anonymous are out of line and owe you an apology Rob, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Ihowever, do appreciate your hard work.

Jason The said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...


I appreciate your comments and I thank you, but nobody owes me an apology. Part of being an office holder is listening too, and dealing with, criticism. That is simply part of the job.

I do concur with your statement on Jay's race, I never said the Party won Jay's race, and I didn't blame not having SPP staff, I just pointed out the fact that we have been short handed since and after the election. I do however believe that the Party did greatly contribute to Jay's race. If he feels differently I'm sure he will let me know.


My comments were genuine, not that I haven't blown smoke before, but I let you be the expert on that since it is obvious you have some experience in that field.


I recognize your writing style and I understand your motive, so I won't be offended since I understand that you are working on your agenda instead of the being honest. But, just to be clear, no Republican I know says that Utah's Democratic Party leadership is trying to turn the Party into a watered down Republican Party.

I'm not sure what you mean about Obama and Hinckley, since I believe that The Utah Amicus was one of the first, if not the first political blog to report his death, but I was proud of our President and how he handled that situation, and I approved of the press release the Party put forward at that time.

You asked, "What about Buttars?"
Well, what about Buttars? The Amicus was again the first blog to report his incident last year, and quite frankly our candidate did better than any candidate in recent history in that district. Nobody wanted a Buttars' loss more than we did, but we came up short, and I have no problem if you want to blame the Party, but then David might have to give us some credit for Jay's race and we wouldn't want that now, would we?

As for Buttars' statement this year? I think I said my peace in The Davis County Clipper, and what could we add that we haven't said already.

It would be easy to go on, but what's the point. Two, or three of you could actually be the same one person, but I won't stamp my own personal innuendo of who that is like Bob did. Again, I appreciate your support and thoughts Bob, but throwing our names out like that was wrong, even if you had any idea who made that comment. You chose to allow anonymous comments, and you should honor that choice. In my eyes that's pretty disingenuous to make those allegations even if you are frustrated and disappointed.

Thanks for letting me share.

Jason The said...

ITake Two, as I can't spell today)

Paul, I, for one, would never argue that Rob hasn't worked hard for the party, as I know from first hand experience that he has. That said, his comment above is irrelevant. The state party's job is not simply sitting up on the hill "fighting the good fight" for senators, but ALSO fostering an environment where there are simply more candidates up on the hill in the first place. My argument is that I've given up on Holland being the leader to do that.

David and Anonymous owe no apology, and it's asinine of you to even pretend to demand it, as this discussion is an important one for us to have. It's a lack of criticism, and "good ol' boy" politics that have a tendency to stagnate parties, and I think that is the obstacle we face now.

And another thought on the comments above about lack of funding, volunteer support, etc. Doesn't that take us back to the original criticism Bob offered? Perhaps what funding IS available is being spent unwisely (something that again falls back on Holland) and perhaps the "outreach" is lacking, as it seems insufficient in garnering public support in the form of volunteers. Good leadership draws support, always. If we lack support, perhaps it's because we also lack direction

All viable questions we should be asking, rather than defensively demanding apologies for critics.

craig41 said...

Rob, I agree, you personally do a lot to get the message out for the state party, through your blog. The state party's blog is a little lagging, particularly when it comes to the good fight you were fighting on the hill this session.

I do not doubt you guys were up there making your opinions heard, but the message isn't getting out. Your blog had great coverage on the legal notices bill, but other than that the minority party voice was nothing more than a footnote on stories being told about what the majority did.

Potential donors, volunteers, and candidates are watching teevee and reading newspapers every day, the ones that wind up in the state party office are there because they are sick of what the republicans are doing and want to do their part to stop them. They aren’t there because they’re inspired by what Utah democrats are doing, or the battles they are fighting because no one knows about them. Simply being the ‘other’ political party in the state isn’t enough to have meaningful impact on the state’s government, but for the past few years that seems to have been the center piece of the strategy and message coming from the state party, ‘We aren’t republicans’ like a pork commercial gone wrong.

Also I agree that dealing with comments/criticism is part of the job, but you have gone out of your way to do so, and I appreciate that. Having said that I don’t understand why you would diminish that effort by calling into questions commenter’s motives, or suggesting that someone is commenting under multiple names (although if you find a way to make one democrat into two democrats that would put us in a majority in the legislature, so by no means am I discouraging that endeavor).

Lastly, in your response to anon.’s comment about the state democratic party being a watered down version of the republican party you said “no Republican I know says that Utah's Democratic Party leadership is trying to turn the Party into a watered down Republican Party.” Even in that rebuttal you’ve deferred to the republicans to define what the state democrats are. Until that mentality changes in party leadership we might as well be watered down republicans, at least we’d win more elections that way, maybe put the brakes on a few crazy bills that get passed by the majority. Or we could try and engage the electorate with our ideas and win them over to vote for us, instead of against them, just a thought. Unless, of course, you perfect that multiplying democrats technique, in which case this will all be taken care of.

J-Man said...

No offense fellas, but maybe you're spending too much time on the Internet. I read the papers and watched the news during the session and thought the dems had great coverage.

I even heard them on the radio.

utd said...

Maybe they do spend too much time on the internet, maybe we all do.

However, if the Dems are getting "great coverage" and getting nothing meaningful in terms of legislation through, or still showing us losing people if it wasn't for the star power of Obama at a time when the rest of the country is showing a gain in party power doesn't that make it a loss for Utah?

I'm glad you guys are willing to take a little criticism and even get on here to defend yourselves. However, in the future might I suggest not making lame excuses, claims of lone-gunman with 3 internet accounts stirring up the bees, or inviting people to run for your job if they think they can do a better job. YOU ran for the position. YOU got elected to do a job. If you are unwilling or incapable how about just stepping down?

Some days you get that job you wanted done though. However, most of the people I talk to feel like you are missing too many opportunities to strike and get the party moving. You guys (our party officials) do that double-speak bull sometimes addressing us. How about you let the real politicians be the middle of the road double talkers. Our party people need to be cut throat killers. So, put the blackberry away, quit daydreaming about 10 year plans that are generally unrealistic, pull out your bowie knife, aim it at the heart of whatever strength the Republicans are going to be professing next week, and learn how to stab.

If it becomes a necessity for people to run against the seated party people because they are failing, then you are not in it for us or our party, you are in it for you.

Rob said...

Again, thanks for your comments and suggestions.

Jason The said...

J-Man, I see what you're saying, but your habits don't change the fact that the majority of 18-35 year olds are getting their information online, and those are the the most likely of volunteers and grassroots organizers/donors out there. I read the newspaper every morning as well, it's no reason to be unrealistic about what the future holds.

And "utd," the criticism (again only speaking for myself) offered isn't about the inabilities of any specific person. I think we have capable leadership. I think we have opportunity. Sometimes I just wonder if our leaders are capatalizing on the opportunities fully.

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