Saturday, August 27, 2011

It’s getting harder to come up with a convincing answer to friends who ask me: “Why do you bother working within the Democratic Party?

It’s getting harder to come up with a convincing answer to friends who ask me: “Why do you bother working within the Democratic Party? It’s hopeless.”

My answer: in the near future, working to build space for progressive politics within the Democratic Party is the only option. I still believe this, but recent events have really tested my commitment.

Last summer many progressives Democrats learned that the Philadelphia Democratic Party had refused to seat duly elected committeeperson Tracey Gordon. This incident gave birth to the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus. Please see our website. and Facebook page.

Party Chair Bob Brady refused to respond to the repeated attempts of Tracey Gordon and of the Philadelphia Democratic Progressive Caucus to resolve the issue.

After all these attempts to contact Brady, Tracey Gordon’s lawyer Irv Acklesberg wrote to PA Party Chair Jim Burn requesting a grievance hearing with the PA Democratic Party State Committee. See the letter from Irv Acklesberg to Jim Burn posted at
In response, Burn makes the preposterous claim that Tracey Gordon has not exhausted Philadelphia Democratic Party grievance procedures.

In his reply to Jim Burn's letter posted at, once again Irv Acklesberg documents the repeated attempts to contact the Philadelphia Democratic Party re this matter. Irv’s letter notes that Dep. Executive Director Fadia Halma asked him to give Brady one more opportunity to address the grievance. Halma acknowledged receipt of Irv’s April 26 letter to Bob Brady. Brady ignored Irv’s letter, as he did with previous communications. Since almost four months have elapsed, Brady has had ample time to respond and as Irv states in the attached letter, the local exhaustion requirement has been met.

Also, there is no process applicable to a challenge of a duly elected committeeperson, because such a challenge would be unconstitutional, as decided by the PA Supreme Court and the State Rules (which require county committees to have a contest procedure, except where the committeeperson was elected, presumably because the party can't allow such challenges).

Irv further states in the attached letter that he will seek redress in court if this cannot be resolved internally. I would think that Burn would want to avoid the negative publicity which would ensue.

I understand that Burn has a close relationship with Brady and that Brady was instrumental in Burn’s becoming Party Chair. However, this personal relationship should not stand in the way of the party’s honoring the results of a democratically conducted, decisively won election.

When I do voter registration work, I encounter more and more young people of all backgrounds who want to register as Independents. It’s getting harder and harder to convince them (especially those who identify as progressives) that there is space for progressive politics in the Democratic Party.

The Philadelphia Progressive Caucus hopes in 2014 to encourage significant numbers of progressives to run for county and for state committee. If we can’t guarantee that if they win election that they will be seated, how will we ever convince them that Democratic Party is worth their time and energy?

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