Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Today's Democratic Split Can Be Seen in Toledo's A-team/B-team Dems

I suggested this mini-drama scenario several weeks ago on the GlassCityJungle blog but was rebuffed for the implication. I raise it once again after reading today's P.M. Carpenter's op ed, "The Democratic Party's Deepest Internal Battle: It's Not One of Gender and Race." Carpenter contends that "Her gender and her opponent's race now keep her afloat, but again, let there be no doubt that at the core of the party's modern-day split is the deeper historical and ideological division between long-term, visionary progressivism and short-term, opportunistic neoconservatism."

Clinton's strength is with the old, established and entrenched political bosses of the Democratic Party, people who hold positions in the party through political favors and their work in electing party Dems to office. The governors of Ohio and Pennsylvania know these people and owe their governorship to these trench Dems. Clinton benefited here in Ohio and will in PA through the campaign organization of office holders like Rendell and Strickland.

Four years ago here in Toledo there was a power coup. Entrenched Democrats wrestled control of the local party from a group of progressive Democrats. The A-teamers, as these progressives were called, were young and idealistic, and had control of both the city council and mayor's office. Ellen Gracheck, Wade Kapszukiewicz, Mike Ashford, Karyn McConnell-Hancock and Frank Szollosi were the fresh Democratic faces on council, all under 30. The B-team Dems, old time party bosses like John Irish, Sandy Isenberg, Dominic Montalto, Jack Wilson, Dennis Duffey, Ray Kest and Carty Finkbeiner, were out-voted by the younger, more progressive Dems. The B-team got hold of the local party in 2005.

Interestingly, Democratic mayor Jack Ford, another A-team Dem and Toledo's first black mayor, was ousted by this group of B-team Dems; Carty Finkbeiner, the notorious, feisty previous mayor, won the Democratic primary and re-election. Party bossism out-muscled progressive thinking.

As Hillary Clinton gets her support from party bosses, entrenched loyalists tied to the past, Obama is winning new Democrats and old ones tired of political bossism. Toledo's A-team, B-team fiasco is now playing out in Pennsylvania.

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