Paul Eckerstrom didn't campaign to be elected Democratic Party Chairman in any meaningful sense. He didn't even plan to run. He certainly didn't think it though. He tossed his hat in the ring because he had a passion for the ideas and strategy he wanted the Party to pursue, and which he wasn't seeing from the current leadership. He allowed his name to be put in nomination at the state meeting and made a nominating speech from the heart that resonated strongly with the delegates. Here is that speech:
The power of his passion for the ideas he expressed in that speech won over the committee members overwhelmingly. Suddenly, without planning or preparation, he found himself Chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. Everyone was stunned; especially Paul.
After two weeks trying to steer the Party, during which his health declined, he ran himself to exhaustion, lost 12 pounds, disrupted his family life, imperiled his livelihood, and ran into the thresher of an institutional culture that was unremittingly hostile to leadership from outside the borders of Maricopa, Paul faced reality and resigned the chairmanship because he realized that he would be unable to meet his goals and hold together his personal and professional life.
I don't blame Paul for this unfortunate and somewhat embarrassing episode. I blame the institutional culture of the Arizona Democratic Party and its failure to invest in technology and make thoughtful cultural changes that would allow a person who does not live in Maricopa County to effectively lead our party.
What does Paul's
resignation say about the how the dominance of Maricopa County in our
politics? Simply that it effectively excludes anyone from the out-counties from
political party leadership, or state-wide office for that matter, unless their personal
life is very flexible and they are independently wealthy or willing and
able to uproot their lives and move to Phoenix. How much vision, passion and talent are we leaving untapped due to the myopic focus on Phoenix?
leadership be a bit more flexible by now with communication technology
as it is? Does a corporate CEO have to be on the factory floor everyday? Does the President have to constantly be in the White House to lead the nation?
I have to say that the one thing I admired about Governor Sarah Palin
is how she managed to buck the expectations that she would uproot her
family and move full-time to Anchorage in a state dominated by its largest
metropol, in a manner not unlike Arizona.
We are effectively
excluding a lot of talented people who could bring leadership and
vision to both parties with the de facto requirement of residence in
Maricopa. Our next party leader must invest in the technology and work to establish a new institutional culture that allows our party leaders to be effective from
anywhere in the state. That hasn't been a priority up 'til now, and this episode with
Paul highlights why we need to make it one.
It seems very likely
that a chastened Don Bivens will likely get another term as Chair. He
should make building a location-agnostic leadership infrastructure his
primary goal as an acknowledgment of the mandate for change expressed
by the very fed-up committeemen and women who impulsively tossed him out
in favor of Paul. He should also make sure that the vision and ideas that swept Paul into the Chairmanship are pursued and brought to fruition.