Panorama of my town

Panorama of my town

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Who Can Rescue Georgia's State Democratic Party? rev

We desperately need a Champion prepared to fight for justice and a true Democratic platform in Georgia and we need that person NOW.  We need someone to take back our State Democratic Party from the incompetent hands of a Leader who has lost all credibility with the National Party and has insured this state will not turn blue (or even a darker shade of purple) in 2012.    Are you out there?

On October 3, Mike Berlon,Georgia Democratic Party Chair, released a press release after the first presidential debate between President Obama and Candidate Romney.  At best it was poorly written and a barely literate retort sent to thousands of Democrats across the State.  To be clear, while it may have been approved by Berlon, it was written by the State Party's 'Communication Director' which is more troubling still.

The Lumpkin County Democratic Party Chair, Mr Eugene Elander, who also happens to be a college professor of 53 years, published author and who has dedicated decades of his time and  leadership to the Democratic party in three states, in an email penned quickly in a futile attempt to stave off well deserved criticism about our Party's ineptitude, offered suggested edit. His email was met with the most inappropriate and ungrateful response I have ever read from both the author of the release and Mike Berlon personally.  No 'thank you for bringing these errors to our attention.' No 'Oops, clearly we were just giddy at the outcome of the event and still tipsy from drinking all night at Manuel's when we wrote this.'   Instead he was insulted and dismissed.

The press release can be found HERE(no surprise if it has been corrected).

I felt strongly about what I have been seeing and hearing over the last year and this seemed to be the last straw for me and I thought I'd let the good Mr. Berlon know how I felt - so I sent him an email of my own. 

sent October 5;
   Mike - I did not run again this year for my Fulton County Post Seat because of this type of ridiculous infighting at the State Party level and I hold you accountable for the loss of good people, important resources and vital local and national support. Your failure in leadership is profound and this is only the most recent example.  You have a reputation of hiring and keeping incompetent staff near you and driving off qualified and passionate party workers who express any dissenting opinions.  

This response by you and Eric to Mr. Elander is totally inappropriate. He was trying to save you from complete embarrassment - to no avail and no appreciation.  What Eric sent out to thousands of people was incompetent (especially for a Communications Director) and if you approved it, then so are you.   Now the whole email exchange is public!

Your public disputes with your own party staff, and National party and Obama election leadership are debilitating to all Democratic party activity in the State and common opinion is that progress in this vital Presidential election is happening IN SPITE of the State party rather than with the Party's support and cooperation. 

Vital Local and State elected officials overtly express to me their disdain for the current state of affairs with the State Party and with you in particular.    You are widely seen as ineffective and combative rather than collaborative, as a result your effectiveness in your current role is extremely limited. 

Agree or not with the outline of issues I have presented above, you cannot dispute the significant lack of confidence in your leadership and the loss of quality and committed staff and volunteers, like myself, due to your actions.  Please consider removing yourself from leadership of our State Democratic Party as soon as possible, for the good of the Party.

Anna Foote

 "There is no such thing as being non-political. Just by making a decision to stay out of politics you are making the decision to allow others to shape politics and exert power over you. And if you are alienated from the current political system, then just by staying out of it you do nothing to change it, you simply entrench it."  Joan Kirner at Women Into Power Conference, Adelaide, October 1994 

This is the response from Mr Berlon;

Thanks very much for your email.  Its clear that we disagree about many things but I respect your position.  
The email exchange with Mr. Elander was private. If it has become public it had nothing to do with me. 
We have had many email exchanges with Mr. Elander over the past several months.
I wish you well in your future endeavors.  Thanks for your service.

Mike Berlon
PS-I have copied Eric Gray on this as well since you referred to him in your email.

So here starts my search for a new Leader that I can trust, believe in and follow.  Here starts my campaign to find someone prepared to transform the State Party.  Here I am begging someone to come Forward for Georgia.  Here I plead with deposed, hard working and dedicated Democratic Party volunteers and humiliated staff to come forward and quit worrying about what the State Republicans will do with news that our party is disintegrating under Berlon's failure of leadership - psst...they already know!  We can't wait 2 more years - we need to do this now.

Here is my promise - if you step Forward, I'll step with you.  If you are ready to take back our State then I am ready to  fight with you. And by the way....I know of an army that will join us.  


MikiD said...

Anna, sorry to hear of the state of the Democratic Party in Georgia!

Georgia needs good, dedicated, intelligent, well-educated leadership in a lot of areas or it will fall further and further behind. The Dark Ages are not a pretty place to be.

Anonymous said...


Your email to him was amazing, and spot on. I cheered when I read it.

It boiled down all the numerous discussions that have been swirling around for the last 8 months.

But I'm not sure I agree it's just a leadership problem. To be sure, he's a problem. But after much thought I've concluded that the current model is broken and unsustainable.

In my humble opinion, I suggest not just a change in leader, but a change of the organization in it's entirety. Lock stock and two smoking barrels as it were.

Hear me out.

For 168 years the DPG was the party of the Governor. Lets face it, it was.

Nominal head patting went on to folks in the large county parties and big donors in Atlanta, but really there wasn't much that happened without the Governor's approval. From DNC membership to convention delegates. Soft money wasn't illegal yet and the state party picked who they wanted to be in leadership.

Then came 2002 and we lost that leader of the party, Gov. Barnes was out and we were on a nasty downward slide to no elected constitutional officers by 2010 and permanent minority party status.

Since 2002 we've had 3 chairs, and while some have much better people skills-I doubt anyone could have reversed this awful trend.

Do I think Mike is a bully and running off the hard working volunteers and donors, absolutely he has.

But instead of looking for a miracle worker-we need to look for a workable model. Anyone who could fix this would demand a professional staff and millions of dollars to maintain.

I suggest either the Indiana or the California models. I've been reading the California bylaws, and I think this may be useful-their party is not centralized, but built on regional bases of support. It's a hybrid of a state leadership and congressional district activities. It's also huge.

Elected officials are blended in with activists and party people. Each region focuses on the needs of that regional politically.

You know as well as I do, no leader however great will ever be able to truly balance the the politics of Fulton Co, Douglas and Lumpkin Co. They are just different animals. Our state is too big and too dysfunctional along with too poor a state party to try that again.

Berlon's term is up in 2015. I doubt he'll leave before that. If folks attempt to remove him, he'll take what's left of the party down with him. Frankly at the current rate, we will be broke in a year-so it matters little who's in charge. We just need to stop the harm.

Instead, why don't we seek folks to run for leadership who will agree to explore a different structure, and that will take time. Probably 2 1/2 years worth.

I'd happily sign up for that effort. I have friends in other states who will introduce me to folks I could talk to about what's working and what isn't.

Otherwise, it will just be same problems, different leader.

Respectfully submitted,
DPG State Committee member of 11 years.

Unknown said...

Anonymous -a very thoughtful response and I totally agree, its time for a restructure. -ATLgal

Sweet Peanut said...


You give me hope that there are yet good Democrats in Georgia willing to stand up for what is right.

The ugly events of 2012 have been demoralizing to everyone who still cares about the Democratic Party in Georgia. Such a dwindling list makes your outcry all the more significant.

I cannot imagine the disappointment Eugen Elander must feel given his years of service to the party. Many who have invested a fraction of the time are despondent over the current state of things.

Party members who supported this peevish man for Chair have a lot to answer for. They stand equally accountable for his anti-social behavior and lack of fundraising ability. Since his election in 2011, he has attacked more Democrats than Republicans and has shown himself to be devoid of political skill. There is no reason to believe he is capable of improvement.

Even the few who still support him must recognize there is a problem that only his resignation will correct.

Maybe Anonymous is right. Maybe the organization is broken and the cracks were only revealed by an incompetent Chair.

Whatever the case, starting with change at the top is necessary, with only one caution. If party members get it wrong again, there will be nothing and no one left to salvage.

Thank you for your post and the opportunity to comment on it.

Anonymous said...

As one who actively supported the election of Mr Berlon, I have been horrified by his performance and the direction he has taken the party. I have spent considerable time reflecting on mynjudgement in this matter.

It's worth examining that many of those who supported his election have been shunned and forced out of the party (staff members, volunteers, and elected party leaders).

Thank you, Anna, for writing this post. It took a lot of courage! Know that there are countless Democrats who are quietly applauding you, but fearful to speak out due to Chair Berlon's history of recriminations and threats.

Unknown said...

I have seen the way Mr. Berlon responds to anyone who has an opinion of their own. Most disappointing to see anyone in a leadership role fail to support creative and energetic discourse from, and between, people with passion and intelligence, as has been demonstrated within this organization. Threats of lawsuits, staff lockouts, bullying emails and such forms of retaliation are the hallmark of a weak leader.
To be honest I am less concerned about any action Mr. Berlon might attempt to take against me personally and far more concerned about current actions that continue the disintegration of relations between our State Party and the National Party and Obama Campaign leadership and the utter failure within our own State to support our own people.
THOSE actions worry me far more and are detrimental to the Progressive movement in Georgia. Waiting 2 years until the next elections is just unacceptable.
The 'foot soldiers' in the Democratic Party of Georgia have got to set their fear aside. What else is there to lose? We have already lost an effective Party. We have already lost the respect of the elected Democratic leadership of our State. We have already lost the money and support for an effective Obama Campaign in Georgia. The voting Democrats in Georgia have NO confidence in our ability to turn Georgia Blue so will gladly stay home from the polls on Nov 6.

This is what is important to me:
This Party failed to field a Democratic candidate in EVERY single Republican held seat in this state and is stymied as to how to build a pool of potential Democratic candidates for the next round.
A handful of amazing Democratic women succeeded, with NO State Party support, to oust Doug McKillop, a turncoat and one of the most horrific examples of disrespect to women and the Democratic Party in this country.
Right now we have several State level campaigns and one State wide campaign being waged with NO State Party support of ANY kind - these campaigns are struggling valiantly, but are utterly alone.
What is important to me is the only plan I see right now to change these terrible facts is a ‘wait 2 years’ plan, and THAT is what I am afraid of.