I'm going to attempt to bring some needed context to the struggle currently happening within the County Committee. The conflicts between myself and Tom Herman and Bob Millar date back three years to the last presidential campaign. I was the local grassroots organizer for Dean For America which revolutionized the use of the internet for organizing. It produced amazing new tools and fund raising possibilities which have become a cornerstone of this year's presidential campaigns. All of the current campaigns are using the internet for their local organizing. This is essential during primaries.
Three years ago after it was evident John Kerry would be the nominee Tom and Bob ran the Kerry MeetUp group which began that spring. Our DFA group had begun meeting the previous July and was well established. After Dean withdrew he began making preparations to turn his campaign into a movement called Democracy For America. As such continuing our monthly meetups WAS how this new organization was, and still is, organized.
The Democratic National Committee saw how effective MeetUps were for local organizing and embraced them to the extent of having their own. These were sponsored and organized by THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY and fully authorized by the DNC. Instead of having several local meetups we merged the DFA meeting with the local Wes Clark group and the DNC meetup so there'd only be one. People can only go to so many meetings and this was effective. We used these to organize the local House and Senate (Hoeffel) efforts. This avoided the need for each of the three county Congressional campaigns to hold their own MeetUps. It also folded in the Hoeffel MeetUps (a fourth). It was working well and centered around the monthly agendas and materials being supplied from the Burlington, Vermont DFA headquarters. Howard Dean then became Chairman of the DNC.
What happened locally is that the County Committee saw this monthly meeting as a threat. It had no power or influence over us and that displeased the powers that be, especially Tom Herman. He belonged to my Yahoo Group which we had renamed Berks For Change and those emails still exist in my archives. I'll reproduce them here to prove my points.
The attempts to shut us down left many hard feelings. The local Party had no right to shut down a DNC authorized and sanctioned meeting nor that of any other grassroots organization. It was a blatant power play and we resisted. One of the most upsetting lines in the emails exchanged was this one from then County Chair Bill Evans:
"As you all know, my biggest effort was bringing people into the party that never participated before. It's been happening, but now I fear it may become more of a negative than a positive."
In other words he wished he hadn't begun the process of appointing a number of our grassroots volunteers to vacant Committee positions. This was the onset of the battle. Tom Herman posted that email along with these statements of his own:
" The groups we've developed from these meet ups are really maverick
groups, not sanctioned by the State or County elected bodies that are
the voters. Don't get me wrong, they're good people who want to do the right thing or get their candidate elected but, they lack direction from and are not
responsible and accountable to the Democratic Party. This is dangerous! It
provides the potential for confusion and disunity. It sends the message that the
Democratic Party does not have it's "act together." We have an obligation to
ourselves, our groups and our Party to make sure we're "working on the same
page" to present to the public that the Democratic Party is an organized
Political Party that is working on the Party's mission. The Republicans have
that and that's been the biggest criticism of the Democrats.
Now we find ourselves with several groups out there and wondering why the
elected Party leadership is not at the meetings. Bill Evans, myself and
others have no control over when these groups meet. Also, please remember,
Party leadership is a volunteer position. People work and can't always come to
a meeting they did not commit to in the first place.
From what I've observed since February, we're right where we need to be
with a few exceptions. The groups are established and have recognized the need
for coordination. We now just need to combine all our efforts and take our
momentum to the next level of one large group. I believe that Kerry's election
must be the most important. However, there's nothing that says we can't
piggyback the other campaigns onto this effort. Actually, that's good use of
Herman wanted to kill our MeetUps and force everyone into his Berks For Kerry group which was poorly organized, badly run and mismanaged. Warned, for example, that they couldn't meet at Barnes & Noble they did anyway and the store almost called the police. The next month they met there again. No provision was offered at the meeting I attended to include any of the other campaigns. Therefore we continued and morphed our group into Berks For Change DFA. Dean organizations across the country did this and DFA continues being a major force within Democratic politics nationally and in Pennsylvania.
In fact, after the failure of the Kerry campaign Herman and Millar did the same thing on the local level by forming the Berks Progressive Democrats. They wrote the by laws then left the group when they refused to abide by their by laws. They then formed the Greater Reading PAC. Also during the presidential campaign a new grassroots organization formed in northeast Berks called the Kutztown Area Democratic Club. To my knowledge no similar attempt was made to force those groups to shut down.
This was the genesis for the current debacle. Tom Herman also fought us as we attempted to open the County Committee for new people and to make them open their meetings to all Democrats as required by the national charter. At the time County Committee meetings were closed. Much hatred and resentment continues unabated from these efforts to close our DFA efforts. It is what has spawned the current state of affairs.
I wonder how the KADC members would feel if Tom Herman showed up representing the County Committee and told them they had to disband and couldn't meet anymore unless they allowed the Committee to control them? I think they'd react just as we did.