Sunday, April 01, 2007
Former Governor David Walters Reminds Oklahoma County Democrats of Their Unique Opportunities
(The following is the text as prepared for delivery of former Governor David Walters' keynote speech to the Oklahoma County Convention in Oklahoma City yesterday. Thanks Gov. Walters for sharing these words. The closing points come from a document he prepared regarding party politics as he was contemplating a run for state party chair in 2005. With new elections on the near horizon please carefully consider his points and add your own concerns as comments to this entry.)
Oklahoma County Democratic Convention Keynote – March 31, 2007
Thank you Kitti (Asberry) and to your leadership group for the invitation today, for your continuing hard work and for your success in the recent elections. Despite the legislative losses or lack of gains….our many successes as a party and our opportunities for the future far outweigh any negative analysis of who we are and how effective are we as a party in electing our members, in governing and in improving the quality of the life of Oklahomans.
We have many opportunities. The meltdown of the Republican party is driven in no small way by its devotion to a leader whose limitations are historic. The Republican’s inability to let go of its mindless use of social engineering legislation to win elections by dividing us…and funding such elections with a slavish devotion to special interest … creates enormous opportunities for democrats.
The best part about being a democrat is that we think debating the issues, exploring all sides, is a good thing and not immoral or unpatriotic. While this is most apparent on how each party views the War In Iraq…it is also true among our local party organizations such as our Oklahoma County and State Party. The blogs, the e-mails, the meetings, the passions demonstrate the intense interest of the activists in our party who ultimately form the ongoing backbone of the democratic organization in Oklahoma.
State chairs, statewide office holders and legislators come and go but the activists provide the continuity from which candidates and office holders draw their strength. We also act as the conscious of our organization so that even though candidates and office holders may stray from our issues, for what they may view as a practical response to the reality of politics, you provide the message and the means to maintain our mission of improving the quality of life for all Oklahomans.
My own view is that this debate should not be about moving to the left or the right but should be about how best to take a forceful stand for what we believe. As democrats we have a responsibility to make clear what we stand for …We do not discriminate…they do, we support public education…they do not, we want health care for everyone ….they want the drug and insurance companies to get wealthier, we support working men and women…they support corporations and rich executives.
Our issues are the right ones, we need not compromise those, we do need to find ways to define and deliver our message so that voters can hear it above the blatant republican efforts to segregate, to remove rights, to ignore those in need and to favor the priviledged.
So how do we do this? My advice is that we continue to be the adults in the room about the issues and what is truly important to the state. It is very tempting to be distracted by meaningless debates...when your state, even in the face of another energy driven economic boom, has the daunting and complicated problem of being at the bottom of so many lists….health care, poverty, teachers salaries, education funding, college graduates to name a few.
The recent debate over who gets to write the budget is an example of such a distraction. One legislator sent me an e-mail this week to ask if this had happened before…my reply was something like “Oh my God…Stratton Taylor had himself photographed throwing my carefully and smartly developed and beautifully bound budget in the trash…and Bob Cullison announced that he had never read a Governors budget and was not going to start now”. But we found ways to make progress on education funding, education bond issues, rural development, technology and economic development.
Our appeal to our leaders should be to stay focused on our needs, on the real priorities…if you build it they will come, if you lead, really lead, really tell the truth, the hard truth, they will follow, …but you have to lead, and activists in our party have to support those that do.
Yes we want economic activity, but we want more than congested highways filled with folks trying to get to their minimum wage jobs….we want are corporate headquarters, regional or national health care centers, diversified manufacturing, research parks full of nobel laureates….terrific universities, great cultural centers. Lets do more of the Oklahoma Health Center Research Parks. I know and was involved in this history and it did not happen by accident. Today one of the most impressive medical biotech parks has exploded out of the ground west of Lincoln Blvd. Lets build the Edge endowment, by selling unproductive state assets and lets start similar initiatives in other research fields in Tulsa, Lawton, Muskogee and elsewhere. But we cannot be distracted.
You can limit the number of distractions from our real goals. Lets begin by making an outcast of the next legislator that comes up with some crazy social wedge issue designed to inflame enough people to get him or her elected. And I mean targeting the most aggregeous example and making sure that there is a consequence for their hypocrisy. We only have to do one a cycle.
We are not going to get better health care research centers by concentrating on abortion or what else can we do to scare the hell out of gay people….there really is something to great education, research, and an environment that is conducive to people from around the nation and the world feeling comfortable here.
Lets be a party that takes a smart and adult look at the future….
Lets become a Reform party….better more open government…many ideas on how elections are run and how public officials serve. I have a list …. I won’t take your time with it today …. But if you want the list let me know. The Republicans are handing one reform issue after another….lets not shrink from these opportunities.
What is the parties role in this…particularly the state party. You all are being called upon to support various candidates for party positions, and many of you are running. Bear with me for a little management tutorial that I wrote in 2005…but is very relevant today….
Our Mission is to improve and refine a political organization that will communicate the agenda of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and that will support democratic candidates to elected and appointed positions in government so that the quality of life for Oklahomans will be improved.
Our Strategy should be to Institutionalize a facility, staff, procedures, process, fundraising, recruitment, training, research and communications so that the Oklahoma Democratic Party can provide a consistent base of support for democratic candidates and comprehensive and consistent communications to voters about the agenda of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.
Our Objective is to improve the management, staff, funding, support, technology of the Oklahoma Democratic Party and focus its efforts on its mission. Conduct a search for an experienced and professional Executive Director. Organize and tightly manage a strong staff of professionals at the ODP. Establish regular communications and coordination with other democratic PACS and elected officials. Develop strong relationships with the national DNC. Increase the base funding level of the ODP to $1,000,000 per year.
My recommended Priorities are:
1. Leap Frog the Republican’s on technology with the use of the internet for organizing, voter contact, fund raising and candidate recruitment. Form a technology committee led by an ODP staff person, a member of the Central Committee and a number of computer experts to develop a plan, budget and schedule for significant improvements in grassroots electronic canvassing and fundraising.
2. Create or revitalize committees of supporters where democrats are perceived as weak? Business Executives, Hunters, Religious Leaders, Physicians. Utilize these groups for fundraising and agenda advice.
3. Create or revitalize committees for ethnic communities such as the Asian, Hispanic, and African American communities. Establish a special outreach to the Hispanic community.
4. Attempt (again) to consolidate the offices and some portion of the operations of the House and Senate political committees along with the ODP (legal, accounting, report filing, reception, telephones, computers, printing and copying, perhaps data bases). Create a central services division that provides for consistent administration of these entities and provides continuity for data files, processes and procedures.
5. Develop, sponsor and fund frequent training for young political professionals and candidates. Provide a human resource inventory for campaigns that need volunteers and paid staff. Select and send the most promising staff to national training seminars.
6. Emphasize candidate recruitment with special local initiatives, in cooperation with the Senate and House PACs, to identify great prospects and then to encourage them to run.
7. Revitalize the fundraising committee structure to include a Finance Committee, a Rooster Club committee, a Business Council committee, a Carl Albert Dinner committee. Establish District events to raise funds for the ODP. Each committee will have goals, staff support, and volunteer leadership.
8. Dramatically expand the direct mail programs for the ODP for fundraising and list expansion, eventually replacing Dollars for Democrats.
9. Commercialize the voter file so that it can be constantly improved and maintained.
10. Expand general polling and dramatically increase opposition research paid for and archived by the ODP.
11. Explore best practices in other well organized state parties and implement the most effective ideas at the ODP.
12. Expand the near term planning and prognostication ability of the party to make early plans for upcoming election cycles, thinking through the likely candidates and the most important issues for the next elections.
13. Develop image ads for the democrats that remind people what we really stand for. Bill boards, radio and TV to communicate our message, build our spirit and our ranks.
14. Develop a sweltering press release machine to attack bad Republican ideas and actions.
15. Significantly increase support for YD efforts in schools and colleges as a longterm investment in the strength of the ODP.
16. Expand the model county project by providing grant funding associated with specific milestone improvements in the local parties lists, registration programs, volunteer and fundraising efforts.
So there you have it….my views…for what they are worth….about our Party and our issues. My daughters are fond of saying …”don’t you know who he thinks he used to be?”
Choose your candidates carefully for party, state and legislative offices and then work you heart out and find others who will do the same.
For my fellow Christians, during this holy Lenten season leading to Easter, may you give up enough vices to afford to give more to good democratic candidates…for my Islamic friends and those of other faiths…I pray, Enshallah, that your prosperity is shared to also support progressive candidates and causes.
Have a great convention.