Friday, March 31, 2006

For the Good of the (YDG) Order

Tonight, the Young Democrats of Georgia will start its annual convention to elect officers, consider changes in our constitution, hear exciting speakers, and get some training. The run-up to the convention has been interesting behind the scenes.

As I noted in a previous post, many of us had concerns about the uncontested candidate for YDG President. What happened after that post was a groundswell of support to get Billy to run for a 3rd term as YDG President. He really didn't want to do it because he felt it was time to let someone else take the reigns and still had some faith that Tahir would be OK. That faith quickly disappeared, and the groundswell became a virtual tsumani that Billy could not ignore. Truly, the future of the organization was at stake. As of this writing, it appears Tahir has stepped aside, but we won't truly know until we find out if he shows up to convention or not.

There will be plenty of rumors and innuendo thrown around as to why Tahir's candidacy imploded and was eventually put out of its misery. The bill of particulars that I put together and sent to Billy about why Tahir needed to be stopped are as follows:

  1. Tahir has no record of accomplishment. Certainly he has held elective and appointive office within YDG, but to what effect? When he was VP of Programs, the only thing he did was come up with the campaign cook-off, which would never have come off had the rest of the executive board not bailed him out at the last minute with a flurry of activity. After that, if he came up with any programs at all, I am not aware of it. As President of Emory YDs, he was able to deliver crucial votes to Billy’s re-election for which he was given the ED position (against the advice of others, who felt he'd do nothing with the position). And unlike Adam Stevens, who left a vibrant and fruitful chapter behind him, Emory seems to have faltered after Tahir left. It’s almost ridiculous that we need to even discuss his tenure as YDG Executive Director. He was perfectly positioned to be your successor, and it was your hope that he’d use his time as ED to intern for the Presidency. He had the chance to make contacts throughout the state and with all the active leadership. This year he was to be what Daniel was in your first term. Yet, he has done nothing. I know YOU have been busy, because unlike Tahir, you communicate with me and other leaders around the state in the YDs. Things he was supposed to do as ED he has not done. No communication, no planning, nothing. Then Tahir has the gall to say that his lack of activity or responsibility is your fault. For those of us who have given our blood, sweat and tears to YDG the last several years, this notion is laughable, not to mention pathetic.
  2. YDG Allies will abandon us if Tahir is President. As high an opinion as I know Tahir holds of himself, it will undoubtedly come as a shock to him that general opinion of him is not that high. In fact, the word “useless” has been uttered more than once…at the Murphy Reception no less! I verified this with the person who made the comment at Murphy, and it falls in line with what our friends in the Legislature, the labor movement, the women’s movement and others have said about Tahir since he announced. I have personally been present when you have been told in no uncertain terms that Tahir should not be President of YDG because he won’t do anything other than ruin the reputation that we’ve built up. He is well known among our allies who I mentioned above as worthless and someone you CANNOT count on. With Tahir as President, the support of organizations, officer holders, and others that we have built partnerships with will dry up. Everything we have spent 4 years building will be torn down under one year with him at the helm. I am convinced this will happen from conversations I have had and personally witnessed with people I know to be YDG supporters.
  3. He has bad-mouthed YDG. I’m not sure if it’s the Bobby Khan kool-aid or what, but his words debasing YDG are well known. I’m sure copies of the incriminating words he wrote can be made available to the general public if necessary. I have seen them, and they disgusted me, especially coming from someone who supposedly wants to run the organization as it’s leader. I think the most relevant things he said about YDG was talking about how it was a joke, and he was only running for President to do us a favor. How being President was a “step down” for him. It’s obvious that he has no respect for YDG, so why he would want to run it is beyond me. For me, the answer lies in Tahir's loyalty to Bobby Khan and whomever is in power at DPG at the moment. YDG is the youth arm of the party, but we are an independent voice, and it’s important we remain so. I’m certain he doesn't share this conviction and would quickly subordinate YDG into whatever Bobby Khan told him to do with it. After all, he'd be doing us a “favor” by accept the Presidency.
  4. His political skills and instincts are wholly absent where YDG is concerned. Not only has he not accomplished anything in the various offices he has held with YDG, but he has completely made an ass of himself by what he HAS done. First, he never communicates with anyone other than a very select few people and even those are rare. He has only posted a lame blog as his campaign for President, not bothering to build the grass roots support that would make him an effective leader. He has not been in touch with chapters, with officers, or anyone else who is active in the organization at present. He had the perfect opportunity to do this as ED, and I know for a fact that you repeatedly urged him to take advantage of that post and make these connections. Yet, he did not. His attitude has been to say, “Well, I’m unopposed, so why campaign?” It is our fault that no one was ready and able to rise up and challenge him. We had hopes for others, but one died and the other just disappeared. We thought that since he was a do-nothing sort of guy, that if we surrounded Tahir with competent, capable officers, that his general lack of leadership could be averted and the harm that a weak president would bring to YDG would be ameliorated. Yet, his actions have belied this notion. First, there was the mess with Andre’s attack on Colleen Ware. I know for a fact that he had been urging Andre to “go negative” on Colleen out of a personal animosity he had toward her. Andre may have a reputation as a bit of a loose cannon, but one thing he is not is a liar. But Tahir lied to my face, looking directly in my eyes when he denied that he ever told Andre to go negative. Had I not known the truth, I would have likely believed his denials, which is scary. It means he is not to be trusted, not only to do any actual work, but trusted PERIOD. That is not a trait we need in a YDG President.
  5. He will hurt us at the National level. The National Committee team is very important in maintaining Georgia’s influence at the national level. We have an excellent team now, and Kirk, you, Brooke, and (lately) myself have worked hard to build productive relationships. Having a YDG President known to be someone who cannot be trusted, who will not do any work, and whose main concern at national meetings will be satisfying his libido will NOT help us. It will destroy our credibility at the very time we need to muster all of our influence to secure campaign funds from YDA for the 2006 races. These meetings are serious business, and while they can be a lot of fun, you know that we have to be focused on what’s going on. I have no confidence that Tahir will do that.

I’m as disappointed as anyone that Tahir is not ready or worthy of being YDG President. Last year, I had hopes that he’d step up to the plate and really make a go of being an effective ED in preparation for being President. That’s why when it became obvious that he was lying about his instigation of the Colleen Ware attack, I started voicing my concerns beyond just you, Page, Tim, and Daniel. Turns out that we all had the same thoughts, worries, and fears about Tahir's pending Presidency. That’s when we have to convince you to agree to run for a 3rd term. I know you felt it was time to hand over the reigns, and normally, we’d all agree. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and I hope that you are willing to heed to groundswell asking you to serve yet again. We will have to better prepare our bench of leadership for the future, but with the other officers that will be elected this weekend, I am feeling better about our ability to do that. I will not hesitate to say in public what I write to you here. It’s what I must do to protect this organization that I love so dearly and for which I have worked so hard and will continue to work hard for.

So don't listen to the naysayers and people trying to make this into something it's not. It's about competence. As we've seen with the current Bush regime, having an incompetent boob in charge can be deadly.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Talk about Backfiring

This year's Young Democrats of Georgia (YDG) races had been pretty quiet until yesterday morning. The only contested race at the moment was the race for VP of Programs. Usually, if there is drama, it will be in the President's race. Then Andre Walker took some bad advice and posted this blog: Some people I know have had a difficult time opening this link, although I'm not sure why.

Basically, Andre goes after his opponent Colleen Ware in a big way. The implication being that's she just a big, dumb sorority girl from UGA trying to play in the big leagues where she doesn't belong. Anyone who is a Democrat should understand the problem with this line of argument. This is not about a battle of ideas but a base personal attack that plays on misogynistic stereotypes.

What's worse is that the attacks are not true. Colleen may be a sorority girl at UGA, but the times I've interacted with her, she has come across as bright, intelligent, eager, and hard working. Asking folks I know at UGA about her, that impression is the one she gives to her YD chapter. Trust me, if you are a loser, people in your chapter will definitely spread the word. Colleen has had nothing but good reports about her from the UGA group, which is one of YDG's most powerful and active chapters.

So why was this attack made? Andre is not a mean person. Anyone who has read his writings can tell he's generally an intelligent and thoughtful person. He does have a reputation for being a bit of a loose cannon, which this episode highlights. And until now, he had a campaign for VP of Programs that was based on an activist, high impact programming agenda.

Part of the problem, if you speak to Andre, is bad advice that he has received from Tahir, the unopposed candidate for YDG President. Tahir despises Colleen and has made it known that he does NOT want her to win VP of Programs. It's unclear what the issue between them is precisely, but accusations of being "unprofessional" and "bringing personal shit into the work setting" abound. Without details, there's no way to really judge that sort of thing. However, as the unopposed President, Tahir should be ready and willing to work with whomever wins election to the other YDG offices. Preferences are fine, and he's expressed them. Urging Andre to "go negative" on Colleen as the only method to defeat her is not fine.

My understanding is that Tahir has urged Andre for weeks to go after Colleen in a negative fashion. Andre resisted and sought the counsel of others because this kind of personal attack is not in his character usually. However, the internal politics of YDG seemed to indicate that Colleen would likely win. Earlier this week, something happened to make Andre think that taking Tahir's advice was his only hope for success.

He was wrong - big time. This post has backfired in a huge way. Despite having a female president two years ago, YDG has seen a lack of female leadership rising in the ranks. One of our goals has been to nurture female leadership which has helped Colleen's candidacy. To attack an aspiring female leader in YDG with ugly personal smears based on misogynistic stereotypes of women in sororities is beyond the pale. It smacks of trying to intimidate females thinking of persuing YDG leadership positions from doing so...lest they get attacked in a similar fashion. We do have strong females throughout YDG, but many have chosen to devote their time and energies to local chapters. And for those of us who are men who feel very strongly that we need to promote female leadership, this kind of attack is infuriating.

The rage against Andre's attack is boiling just beneath the surface. I have no idea what the fallout will be, other than Andre's probable loss. That it's well known that Tahir planted the idea of making such an attack will have unknown consequences. I'm utterly disappointed that he pushed Andre to make this attack based on some apparent personal issues between him and Colleen. It shows a clear lack of judgment that I and many others finding disturbing. Is YDG to adopt a policy of the politics of personal destruction under Tahir's leadership? I certainly hope not, because that's the best way to hobble one of the strongest state YD organizations in the country for years to come. There are legitimate ways to defeat your opponents politically, but this is not one of them.