"Someone asked the obvious question: “Why do Democrats elect fools like David Parker and Randy Voller chairman?” writes veteran Democratic consultant Gary Pearce in his blog Talking about Politics.
"It’s a “governance crisis,” said one thoughtful Democrat and former statewide candidate. “The chairman is selected by 600 people on the executive committee, most of whom know nothing about getting elected statewide.”
"There always has been tension between Democratic activists and Democratic elected officials. Party people blasted Governor Hunt for his “keys” organization, built around people who were leaders in their cities and communities, but not necessarily party activists.
"Back in 1992, one of his opponents thought that would be a real vulnerability when Hunt was making his comeback to the governor’s office. The opponent promised that he would restore the 100 county party chairs to their rightful place at the head of the table. He learned how effective the chairs were: he got 30 percent of the vote in the primary.
"Today, many party activists are idealistic and ideological. They are true believers. Like the Republican right-wingers, they are determined to root out any deviancy from the True Faith – which is far more liberal than North Carolina’s voting population. Many of them got involved in the party through the Howard Dean movement in 2004. Remember when Dean jump-started his campaign by pledging to represent “the Democratic wing of the Democratic party”?
"Jerry Meek, who emerged from that group, gets credit for nevertheless bridging the gap between activists and elected officials. Then came David Parker, who exploited the split to keep himself in the chairmanship.
"The national Democratic Party has made this mistake before. After the 1968 Chicago convention, activists threw the old bosses out of the temple. A lot of that was healthy. But they also ignored people who knew something about how to get elected, which is what political parties are supposed to do.
"Over time – through a Commission on Presidential Nominations that Hunt chaired and the Democratic Leadership Council that Bill Clinton led – the party rebalanced itself. And it started winning again.
"It’s easy for an idealistic activist to criticize a Governor or legislator – or President – for compromising and moderating and tacking and doing all the things politicians do to get the ship of state headed the right way.
"It’s hard work to win an election and govern. You have to marry idealism with political reality. You have to mix energy with experience. You sometimes have to take a half-step ahead instead of a great leap forward.
"If you don’t, you’ll stay where Democrats are today: getting repeatedly run over on the field of play, helpless to stop the Republican blitzkrieg.
"To paraphrase a noted Republican, Barry Goldwater: “Grow up, Democrats.”