VT Dems’ New Chair Has to Hold Big Tent Together

I was so proud to be a member of the Vermont Democratic Party State Committee on Saturday when Faisal Gill, a Pakistani-born Muslim-American was elected Interim Chair. Over the next few months the VT Dems will need our new Chair to hold the big tent of the VDP together.

Out-going Chair Dottie Deans, while thanking the committee and staff for their hard work in her remarks, also issued an impassioned plea for the committee to stick together in spite of disagreements. She mentioned some tough conversations about issues like renewable energy siting that have split the committee in the past. The biggest challenge now will likely come in the form of keeping disillusioned “Berniecrats” active within the Vermont Dems.

Faisal Gill was elected Interim Chair of the Vermont Democrats, Saturday March 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Faisal Gill
Faisal Gill was elected Interim Chair of the Vermont Democrats, Saturday March 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Faisal Gill

Faisal Gill won the election for Chair in a race against Nick Clark, who was very active for Bernie during the 2016 primary and has been an avid organizer of progressive Democrats and the founder of the Upper Valley Young Liberals. During the campaign I was personally accused of “exclusivism and elitism” for supporting Gill over Clark by one Upper Valley Young Liberal. I spoke with several of Nick’s supporters after Saturday’s election, and urged them to stay involved. I heard “I think I’m done with the Democratic Party after this.” from one UVYL member. “We need a change and this is just more of the same top-down elitism.” From another UVYL supporter, clearly frustrated with the State Committee’s 31-7 vote for Gill. He said “It’s like no one in the Vermont Democrats gives us any credit for what we’ve done, except the occasional mention.”

It will be a challenge to keep these passionate, progressive Democrats in the fold for the 2018 election cycle. Frankly, their expectations of the VDP are unrealistic. Change comes slowly, and the State Committee has activists and organizers that have been with the party for decades who are skeptical of any new faction asserting authority. However, I agree that the VDP is an institution that could use new blood (including relatively new voices like Faisal Gill).

My advice to the UVYL is this: Keep working with the Vermont Democratic Party. Get on your Town and County Committees, seek the change you want from within. People will welcome you and listen to you, but you also should listen to them. Learn what works and doesn’t work in political organizing and demonstrate your value helping candidates you can support get elected to office.  This party sent at least one of your members to the DNC as a delegate. We may not have voted for your candidate for Chair, but you’re not being ignored. We want you and we need you. I want your voices at the table, but I’m not ready to hand over the gavel to you yet. Politics and party-building are about compromise.  If your strategy is all or nothing, you aren’t going to accomplish anything.

The election of Faisal Gill is great for the Vermont Dems. It’s a powerful message that we reject racial and religious discrimination. However, I think that Faisal’s commitment to organizing, fundraising and herding cats at State Committee meetings is impressive on its own and he’ll be great. He has big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to see what he can do to get us ready for what’s likely to be a crazy election cycle next year.

About Mike McCarthy

I'm a guitar-playing Democrat living in Saint Albans, VT with my wife Steph and my daughter Molly. I represented Saint Albans in the VT House in 2013-2014. I care about good government, and a safe, healthier world for all of us. I work for an awesome solar company and love helping Vermonters re-power our communities.

3 thoughts on “VT Dems’ New Chair Has to Hold Big Tent Together

  1. Congratulations, both to Mr. Gill and to Mike McCarthy, who now sits on St. Albans City Council.

    Let us hope that the good news continues. God knows we need it.

  2. The Democratic Party needs to take the “no big money” pledge. What it needs more than racial or religious credibility is financial credibility. The GOP is a long lost cause on that front, but the Democrats are talking a line about being for the common people while relying on donations from millionaires.

    Limit contributions to a week’s wages at minimum wage. That’s $290 at the federal level. It should be a party membership requirement for new candidates and incumbents. That way rich people can only out-donate everyone else by 10 to 1 instead of 100 to 1.

    A party that claims to be for the common people and also takes donations measured in the thousands is lying. It is lying to itself and to voters. You aren’t going to get the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party back without fixing that. You aren’t going to get the non-voting 42% without fixing that.

  3. Maybe if the UVYL would stop acting like they are wiser or more pure than everyone else their message would find more traction? Their display during the convention of supporting Bernie but then not FOLLOWING his recommendation was a bit self serving and ultimately confusing. “we trust YOU (Bernie) but not your experience or judgement” was the ultimate message, and look what we have because of it. Most of the JILL NOT HILL websites have gone underground without taking credit for the narrow victory Trump gained, recognizing also that Clinton and Debbie alienated a lot of folks in their dealings with Bernie….still there was only one bus and since everyone didn’t get on, we ended up with orangeman…

    Limiting people with great objectives who happen to have money from donating gobs is just as short sighted. We need staffing and research to compete. We need money to run the system. Until the system changes for the better on the national level we either play the game or we lose the game. Just because Phil isn’t destruct to state government doesn’t make him a better administrator than Sue would have been. We lost that one based on message delivery issues and now have JimLight for 2 years (or more).

    The rules are the rules. Play BY the rules and do as much as you can for victory within the rules. Limiting contributions and walking out in a snit from the convention results in the same thing….embarrassment at home. Politics is not a social game…unfortunately since Nixon, it is a dull knife fight… Be sure to say please and thank you when appropriate…

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