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Friday, February 10, 2006

Chairman Knuth and the State of the Democrats

Tomorrow is the 2006 Version; IP Looks Back at the 2005 Promises

Allen County Democratic Chairman Kevin Knuth will be delivering the 2006 State of the Allen County Party Address tomorrow morning at the Democratic Headquarters on Bluffton Road at Brooklyn Avenue in Fort Wayne.

Coffee and donuts will be available at 8:30 AM; the program will start at 9:00 AM.

Not only will Mr. Knuth be there as speaker but there will probably be a Roach in the room as well. Mr. Knuth will get to plenty of opportunities to see Mr. Roach during the coming week.

Mr. Roach filed for the office of Allen County Recorder. Mr. Knuth was able to draft Herb Summers to file for that seat a few days ago. Mr. Roach promptly withdrew his candidacy for that office but just as promptly filed his candidacy for County Clerk.

Mr. Knuth will be busy right up to the candidate filing deadline on February 17th trying to figure which vacant slot on the Democrat primary ballot Mr. Roach will scurry to fill next. It is the belief of many that as soon as Mr. Knuth is able to push, pull or otherwise convince a Democrat to file against David Roach for a particular office, that Mr. Roach will then file a candidate withdrawal and file for the next vacancy. This will go on as long as there exists even one office not having at least one Democrat other than Mr. Roach seeking the Democratic nomination.

So, at 11:50 AM on February 17th expect to see David Roach standing at the counter of the Election Board with a fistfull of candidate withdrawal papers and a fistfull of candidate filing papers. Unless Mr. Knuth has a candidate ready to file for every seat, Mr. Roach will ultimately be on the 2006 General Election Ballot as an official standardbearer of the Democratic Party for some office.

We don't know what Mr. Knuth will say tomorrow but Indiana Parley thought it might be interesting seeing what was promised and what was delivered since Mr. Knuth's 2005 State of the Allen County Democratic Party Address.

IP has provided a little commentary interspersed in Chairman's Knuth 2005 speech. The text of Mr. Knuth's speech is in blue, the IP comments are in red. (There is nothing magical there. IP tried different colors; the others possible combinations do not read as well. However, we knew that if the Democrat comments were not in blue, IP would be hearing about that.)

The regular text of the speech can be downloaded from the Allen County Democratic Party website here.

Welcome to the annual “State of the Allen County Democratic Party” address. This tradition was started in 1996 by Chairman Brian Stier, to report to you on the health of our Party, and our future plans. This gathering has become a shared tradition, one held in good times and bad. (Usually more of the latter.) This address is also a way to reinforce the bond that we share as partners in building a strong Democratic voice in Allen County. There is nothing more crucial than an open and honest report to Party members each year. Information and education are vital to strengthening this organization. It is an important, and gratifying, duty of the Chair.

Clearly, the elections of 2004 were difficult for Democrats across our country. Unlike four years ago, George Bush won both the Electoral and popular votes. Back home in Indiana, our Party lost control of the Governor’s Office for the first time in 16 years. Locally, we did not gain any seats. Our only bright spot is that Win Moses and Ben GiaQuinta continue to represent us in the Statehouse. (As members of the minority caucus in the Indiana House of Representatives)

In the days following the election, I was contacted by several media outlets asking if this was the end of the Democratic Party in Allen County. I assured them it was not. I showed them that locally, we fared as we usually do in a Presidential election year in Allen County, roughly a 60/40 split. We will not take comfort in those numbers. We can, we must, and we will do better in future Presidential election years.

That part of the job - having to deal with a series of reporters asking whether the results meant the end of the county Democratic Party - had to be an ungratifying part of being the Chair.

I am somewhat surprised, however, how quickly it is forgotten how well we did in the previous two elections.

In the 2002 general election, our Allen County Assessor Pat Love showed that a Democrat can win a county-wide race. (She didn't win as much as the incumbent lost.) She is the first Democrat elected to county-wide office since 1974.
(Vance Amstutz was elected Commissioner and Joan Uebelhoer was elected Auditor. Each served just one term.)

In 2003, Graham Richard was reelected with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Sandy Kennedy was reelected to a 6th term as City Clerk. John Shoaff broke the Republican stronghold (try the word "stranglehold") on the City Council at-Large seats. Tom Hayhurst and Tim Pape won by margins of over 60 percent. Glynn Hines ran unopposed in the 6th District.

And yet, the Republicans retained control of the Council Majority. Tom Didier broke the Democratic
stranglehold on the 3rd District.

As good as that is, we will not take comfort in those numbers. We can, we must, and we will do better in future elections.

As disappointed as we all were on November the 2nd, on November 3rd something exciting began to happen. Here at headquarters we started getting calls from folks who wanted to get involved. They wanted to find a way to contribute to the Party, to turn the tide of this last election the other way.

That's called a day late and a dollar short. Nothing exciting in that.

Just this past Tuesday, there was a Democratic Party “meetup” held here in our headquarters. “Meetups” are Internet-based groups that meet to share thoughts and ideas. The majority of those involved in these groups are looking for ways to contribute, to help, to work for positive change. It is our responsibility to channel their efforts and bring them into the fold. Several of those folks are in this room today, looking to get involved in our Party. We welcome them with open arms.

There are 30 folks signed up on the Democratic Party Meetup. 11 are shown as active. The remaining 19 haven't visited the Meetup site in months.

And my message to all of you is that we must not lose hope. We must not lose energy or enthusiasm. The Democratic Party is the party of the people, and even though we were out-campaigned last year, we will once again rise to prominence. That road may be long and hard, but it will happen.

The Republicans both nationally and statewide are already making decisions that will work against them in future elections.

They are making some decisions that will work for them and some others that will work against them. Yet, can someone tell us if there is a coherent set of policy proposals from the national Democrats?

In order for Bush to pay for the creation of private Social Security accounts, he intends to borrow $2 trillion from foreign nations. He also has made clear he wants to change the way Social Security benefits are calculated in the future, which would mean a nearly 50-percent benefit cut for future retirees – whether they setup a private account or not. His own administration officials have admitted that private accounts would not add to the longevity of Social Security. In fact, according to many experts, private accounts would not only do nothing to increase the fiscal solvency of Social Security, they would actually speed the insolvency of Social Security.

Well, the issue is dead for the time being. There was never presented a true countervailing strategy from the Democrats. So young people are still left wondering what will be there for them when they retire. The can has just been kicked down the road a bit.

Republican Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas has even suggested reducing Social Security benefits for African-Americans based on a statistically shorter life span.

IP thinks Mr. Knuth has reversed his understanding on this point. The proponents of the President's plan asserted that the current Social Security system as defended by the Democratic establishment has resulted, due to the statistically shorter life spans of black males, in a system where black males pay in a great deal of money over a working life but get much less of a payout than others. In other words, it is a system that has taken a great deal out in payroll taxes from black males and has paid it to other people. The proponents asserted that there ought to be a system that allows the possibility that more of the work of a lifetime is not lost but is able to be paid to that worker and that worker's next generation.

More locally, Mitch Daniels’ plan to change the way schools are funded can have a negative impact on our local schools. With less funding, school boards will have two choices: cut teachers or raise taxes. Either way, we lose. Our classroom sizes will grow or our wallets will shrink.

IP is betting that Mr. Knuth will devote even more paragraphs to the Governor tomorrow morning.

Be warned though. We cannot sit by and wait for the Republicans to implode. We must work harder than we ever have to get our message out. We must improve if we are to be successful.

So the question becomes how do we improve? I have set five goals for the next year that I believe will move us in the right direction.

First and foremost, we must better define what the Allen County Democratic Party stands for, on national and local issues.

Admission that people don't have a clear idea of what the Democrats stand for.

We have to proudly state our position, and challenge the Republicans to disagree with it.

Then don't complain when Republicans disagree with it.

As Democrats, we too often allow Republicans to define our position for us. Let me give you an example: “pro-choice” is defined as “pro-abortion”. That is simply not true. I agree with the statement that President Clinton made when he addressed the Riverside Church in New York in August of last year: “I have never met anybody that was pro-abortion, and that’s not what pro-choice means, it just means we don’t want to criminalize mothers and their doctors.”

So, the Allen County Democratic position is officially declared by its Chairman to be "pro-choice?"

In his book Between Hope and History, Bill Clinton wrote, “Americans believe deeply in the need to keep government out of private, personal matters. That is one reason why I am pro-choice. I believe we should all work to reduce the number of abortions. That is why I have worked to reduce teen pregnancy, remove barriers to cross-racial adoption, and provide tax credits to families willing to adopt. Still, I believe the ultimate choice should remain a matter for a woman to decide in consultation with her conscience, her doctor, and her God.”

That is not the only reason Bill Clinton wants "government out of private, personal matters."

The result of such thinking? Under Bill Clinton, the abortion rate in this country dropped by 17 percent. However, under the direction of George W. Bush, the abortion rate is once again rising – just like it did under Ronald Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush.

How can such an important issue be so misrepresented? Why does the public simply accept the statement that if a candidate states that they are “pro-life” they will do the things that truly promote such an agenda? Because we let them.

It is clear we need a Party platform to define our positions on many issues. I have asked Rodney Scott to chair the Platform Committee. The task that they will be charged with is creating a platform that defines the Allen County Democratic Party, a platform that we can promote in the community, a platform that will aid our candidates, and bring in those voters who are looking for a clearer definition of what we stand for.

Mr. Knuth, we don't recall anyone talking about having seen such a platform. It's been a year. Can we have a copy?

Second, is a return to the basics. Battles are won in the trenches; elections are won in the precincts. The positions of Precinct Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs are literally the backbone of a successful political party. Their duties are to motivate the electorate on a neighborhood level, inviting existing Democrats to become more involved, as well as meeting new neighbors and encouraging them to join our cause.

The Republicans wouldn't mind hearing their own chairman say this.

We need to encourage our current Precinct Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs to be active members of the Party. They cannot sit on the side lines, they have to be willing to work, to promote our ideals, our candidates and our Party. And as a Party, we have to embrace their input, support and encourage their efforts, and thank them for the work that they do.

Sounds like a scolding followed by a promise.

We also need to do a better job filling these vital positions.

I have asked David Rogers to chair a Precinct Recruitment and Retention Committee. That committee will work to fill empty precincts, and develop methods for us to keep those folks better informed, better prepared, and well motivated.

How many of the empty slots have been filled?

Third, we have to continue our work to improve our finances. An organization such as ours has to have a solid financial base to fund our activities.

The Allen County Democratic Party has several ways you can contribute. The easiest method is to participate in the Democratic Action Fund, or DAF. For those of you who are not aware, the DAF is a monthly checking / savings account deduction. Current DAF contributions range from $10 per month to amounts in the hundreds.

However, we have not done enough to promote the DAF and encourage its growth.

No spin needed here. It's an admission it didn't bring in much money.

I have asked Geoff Paddock to chair the DAF Committee. Their goal will be to increase current DAF contributions as well as to solicit new contributions.

We'll be waiting to see if the DAF method raised more cash than it did the year before.

This sounds an awful lot like the old 2% Club initiated by Democratic Governor Paul V. McNutt.

Our fourth area of focus will be community involvement. Several of our Party faithful are involved in various civic organizations. However, as a Party, we need to “practice what we preach” and help those that need our help. With both the federal and state governments, under Republican control, cutting much needed financial support for programs that help those in need, we must help fill that gap.

To that end, I have asked Kate Love-Jacobson to chair our Community Involvement Team. That group will focus on promoting our Party message, while aiding those in need.

Written in the margin notes at this paragraph: "Imitate Steve Shine."

Finally, we have to do a better job of recruiting and preparing candidates. This does not mean that we will bypass the Primary Election process by holding a local convention. We will have a series of candidate “boot camps” to answer questions and discuss campaign strategies and fundraising issues for those interested in running for office. Phil GiaQuinta has accepted the task of chairing that committee.

How many boot camps did Phil GiaQuinta hold this past year? The public has not quite seen an outpouring of candidates for the Democrat nominations. (See Roach comment above.)

On Election night, I told you all that it was time for us to get back to work. If you agree and are interested in working on one of these committees, they will have short formative discussions immediately following this address. The time to effect change begins today. Do not delay your involvement.

To support these changes, the basic Party structure has to change as well. As you all know, Precinct Committee Chairs and Vice-Chairs form the Central Committee. The Chair, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer form the Executive Committee.

The Executive Committee also has members appointed by the Chair. Currently, these positions include Outreach Coordinators for the African American, Hispanic, and Gay-Lesbian communities. Others serve in areas of communications, strategy, GOTV and some serve simply as advisors to the Chair.

I will add to the Executive Committee appointed slots for individual organized labor unions. The unions have always been supportive of our cause, and we must show our support for them during these difficult times. By working closely together, we can assure we are doing all we can to promote the rights of workers to fair wages and safe working conditions.

What? You didn't have organized labor on the executive committee before?

I will also add positions of Precinct Committee People at-Large. Those representatives will be selected by their fellow Precinct Committee people at our April Meeting.

It is my belief that with these changes to our structure and formation of these new committees, our Party will be stronger, more representative and more appealing to the electorate.

Yes, cobbling together special interest groups instead of developing a broad working message is the path to victory.

These changes will take time, not months or minutes. And the timeline for it will be defined by us, not by the spin of the opposition. There are those who would try to discredit our achievements or say that our goal will never be completely accomplished in Allen County.

If you don't win more offices, the opposition won't be saying those things. Your internal opposition will say those things.

So, IP will give you that. The timeline is whatever you say it is. If, in November, the timeline needs to be moved out a couple of years, you can say that. However, when it comes to international affairs, many people believe that Democrats don't seem to mind if America's opposition defines timelines.

We will prove them wrong. We have shown that it can be done. And our determination to achieve new and greater levels of success continues to grow.

The state of our Democratic Party is on the rise. And there will be more victories yet to celebrate! Thank you all for joining me here today.

Delivered by Kevin R. Knuth, County Chair
© February 12, 2005
Fair Use: Indiana Parley, February 10, 2006

Mitch, I honestly feel as if this is one of the best posts I've read lately. Intuitive, funny, and obviously took you some time, but the finished product is well worth whatever work you put in.
HOWEVER, you really lobbed some softballs at some of these items! Tisk Tisk.
Just a couple of thoughts here that occured to me as I read Knut(h)'s monologue:

Exhibit A: Knuth states: "As Democrats, we too often allow Republicans to define our position for us."

I can't help but think this is because they do little or no coherent defining for themselves...somebody has to do it. I suppose this is a symptom of the dems spending the last two decades allowing ridiculously narrow-minded special interests to define their platform as a whole.

Exhibit B: Knuth says: "So the question becomes how do we improve? I have set five goals for the next year that I believe will move us in the right direction."

We can only assume as objective observers that they must have fallen drastically short of all five goals in the last year since the strategy now seems to be "Let's spend our remaining strategic platform-planning time digging up dirt on suspicious Republican campaign financing items."

Exhibit C: And on this item I am going to paraphrase a little just to save space: Knuth says the following items:

"I will add to the Executive Committee appointed slots for individual organized labor unions."


"I will also add positions of Precinct Committee People at-Large."


"...Community Involvement Team. That group will focus on promoting our Party message, while aiding those in need."


"I have asked David Rogers to chair a Precinct Recruitment and Retention Committee."

Ain't that just like a true-blue democrat to add MORE layers of bureaucracy and middle management to a party format that is already circling the bowl with last night's corn? Talk about acting out a stereotype!

Anyway, I guess a guy could almost pick apart this speech sentence by sentence, but I'll save the rest of my energy for tomorrow's action-packed game of "Fact or Crap...Special 'Dying Donkey' Edition."
Your analysis was excellent. I particularly was amused by your observation.

So, the Allen County Democratic position is officially declared by its Chairman to be "pro-choice?"

It's interesting what these people say by simple inference.
Andrew, I'm just curious, if the Republicans discovered "suspicious Democrat campaign financing items" would they remain silent?

Sorry, it just sounds like a silly thing to say.

Let's review, according to all local accounts:

"The Allen County Election Board found that one complaint was without merit. Another was dismissed when it was discovered that Republicans gave the excess money back. The third is still pending."

It smells like desperation to me when the local leader of a political party is spending large amounts of his time and resources to garner a 33.333333% chance of screwing over the opposition. Those aren't odds on which I would wager, were I a betting man.

I personally feel that the Dems time would have been much better spent DEVELOPING A BONA-FIDE CAMPAIGN PLATFORM instead of running on the "Republicans are cheaters" platform. But hey, it is totally possible that my assessment of the situation is indeed silly.
When will we see the same treatment of the GOP 2005 State of the Party address?

I asked if the Republicans would bring it up if they discovered the Democrats might have done something similar.

As for giving the money back. I guess that makes it okay. After all, ignorance (at least in political financial matters) is an excuse to the law.
A correction to Andrews post- the Election Board did find BIIG VIOLATED the law- they chose NOT to fine them since they had gotten the excess money back prior to the hearing.

Of my original 4 complaints- Three DO HAVE MERIT. The only one that was dismissed was due to the fact that the Republicans put an LLC on the report that is to be used for CORPORATIONS ONLY.

Most Republicans agree with Andrew though, it is okay if the law is broken, as long as they are the ones breaking it.

Take up your complaints with the Journal Gazette. I copied and pasted directly from their website (the portion in quotes) and by all means, please keep spending your time on this, the longer you keep it up, the less time you have to actually accomplish anything to help your party ACHIEVE THROUGH MERIT instead of achieving by default when the GOP stumbles. I guess opportunism is now a party platform.
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