What’s so funny about wearing a MAGA hat to endorsement day?

…and other questions Eileen Kelly doesn’t know how to answer.

Photo from the NY Daily News.

What were you attempting to accomplish with that bonkers news conference on Feb. 19? If the goal was to further divide local Democrats while demonstrating the decorum of an 8th grader who won a hotly contested race for class president, then congratulations. You could also have simply yelled “suck it, losers,” while making a crotch chop and accomplished the same thing.

Are we supposed to take you seriously when you say there’s no need for reform? You claim to have no power to address the fact that a white committeeman from Greenfield assaulted a 13-year-old black boy on a playground in front of his sister, and continued to do so even when police arrived and told him to stop. And you see nothing wrong with an organizational structure that renders you, the party leader, powerless in such a situation?

Why is there no grievance process in the by-laws? You have a whole area of the suburbs where women and people of color are harassed and threatened out of the party by a serial bad actor. You know about this man because women have come to you with tweets and text messages and voicemails demonstrating his campaigns of intimidation. I know because I was one of them. There was no official way to lodge a complaint and receive protection. We were told nothing could be done because the by-laws don’t address his egregious behavior. Many of us paid for speaking up. Committee membership should not come at the expense of your professional or personal reputation, and it most certainly should not cost your sense of physical safety.   

If the by-laws are your gospel, why do you not enforce them? Oh wait, is the answer to this one that you can’t enforce them because they’re so shitty there’s no process to report a violation and no recourse to address one?

Why doesn’t the committee support candidates and elected officials? Why didn’t the Ross committee support all local candidates who won the Primary? Why did a local House candidate, endorsed and voted for in the Primary, tell me he couldn’t get you to return his phone calls in 2018? Why is a committee chair allowed to tell the whole county he has $50,000 for anyone willing to primary a candidate he doesn’t like, and then call that candidate a criminal on social media? Why is the committee actively working to oust an incumbent House member when we are so close to flipping that House? Speaking of Summer Lee…

Are you bothered by racism? When you first hired an executive director (without posting the job or accepting applications) he was a man with a demonstrably racist history on social media that advertised his commitment to oppression IRL. Did you truly not know about this? Are you unsure how to do a quick Google search? Or did you simply not care? It took quite a while for you to get rid of him.

Can you share with us your working definition of racism? In a society it is incumbent on white people to unlearn racism and seek out the responsibilities inherent in our privilege. So when a large portion of your committee members ran a black woman out of a state senate race, how could you allow it to go unaddressed? Even if you didn’t understand it, you heard her description of what she experienced.  

Why do you offer no educational programming for your members? There is a whole industry built upon educating businesses and organizations on issues of diversity and inclusion. You even have members within your committee who could carry out such programming if you only listened to them and were transparent about your needs.

Why are you not serving the best interests of Democrats in Allegheny County? We live in an increasingly diverse and ever-changing world where automation and rising inequality are bringing out our worst impulses. You stoke these fires, and you do it with a righteousness that would make Donald Trump proud. 

What is the purpose of the ACDC under your leadership? You have no way to raise money other than gouging candidates for a chance at endorsement, and then again for the privilege of being on a slate card that your municipal committees may or may not have enough active members to hand out at the polls. Your members are mostly inactive, with their involvement confined to attending back-slapping breakfasts and dinners with the same muckity-mucks. You have no volunteer apparatus to offer candidates who need door knockers and phone callers and donors and postcard writers. You can’t articulate a platform to unify the County. You refuse to engage with the countless new families moving to the greater Pittsburgh area for its thriving tech economy and growing energy industry. You don’t even know how to capitalize on the influx of volunteers who seek to make a difference in the Trump era; you treat us with scorn and suspicion. 

So what exactly is it that you’re doing? That one’s a serious question, because we need competent, incorruptible governance to keep our democracy alive and you have proven yourself not up to the task.

Jen Partica, resigned committee member from Moon Township

Open Letter to my fellow Democratic Committee Members: Jan. 28, 2019

“Open Letter to my fellow Democratic Committee Members in Pennsylvania’s 37th State Senatorial District” was posted to my campaign Facebook page on Jan. 28, 2019 along with this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Fellow Committee Members,

I know many of us are hurting after yesterday’s nominating convention, even those who supported the winning candidate. While some of us want party leaders to redress our grievances, and others want to temper discord in the pursuit of party loyalty, we must collectively reckon with the worst of what we did yesterday; we scared a candidate out of running because of her race and gender.

Nothing can excuse what we did to Ms. Benson. No amount of good work on our resumes, allegiance to progressive campaigns, or prior votes for non-white politicians justifies the pain we’ve caused and the damage we’ve done.

If you think a “good question” to ask a candidate is how will she win as a black woman, and/or if you think Ms. Benson dropping out of the race was an acceptable result of people asking that question, then I respectfully thank you for your past service and ask you to resign your committee membership. Make room for someone else. There are people wishing to join our committee who understand that fighting racism and sexism isn’t a goal for future “safer” elections—it is the point of the present.

No matter how justified and well-intentioned we may consider ourselves to be, if our actions make a person feel unwelcomed and unsupported then that is not okay. And when confronted with this reality, it is not acceptable to erase Ms. Benson’s experience by attempting to justify our actions.

We cannot be a party that allows this. We must be a party that seeks to know and understand our own personal and institutional flaws. We must all work to eradicate racism and not because we need non-white people to vote for us, or because it makes people of color uncomfortable, or even because it makes many white people uncomfortable; we must do better because it is the only way to achieve our goals of equality and opportunity for all.

There is not one among us who is solely responsible, but neither are any of us innocent. That’s why it’s our responsibility to hold ourselves accountable, and to hold each other accountable.

Are you aware of your own biases? Your own privileges? We all have them. When they are presented to you, as they were yesterday, do you sit with the discomfort and seek to understand it? Or do you immediately become defensive?

If you were a person who asked Ms. Benson how she thought she could win in her own district as a black woman
if you are someone who thought of this question but never said it out loud
if you are someone who hears it now and considers it valid
ask yourself why you believe this question is valid? What would you learn by asking it? The answer was clear in her candidacy. She would not have run if she didn’t think she could earn votes.

Even if we had the powers to divine that Ms. Benson’s race and gender would make it difficult for her to win, then I think the solution is clear; campaign harder, volunteer more, and dig deeper in conversations with our neighbors throughout the district. But as it is now, we’ll never know. We never gave ourselves that chance because we showed a highly qualified, proven leader that we aren’t ready to support her.

-Jen Partica

“Our lived experiences shape us, how we interact with the world, and how we live in the world. And our experiences are valid. Because we do not experience the world with only part of ourselves, we cannot leave our racial identity at the door. And so, if a person of color says that something is about race, it is—because regardless of the details, regardless of whether or not you can connect the dots from the outside, their racial identity is a part of them and it is interacting with the situation…We are all products of a racialized society, and it affects everything we bring to our interactions.” – Ijeoma Oluo, So You Want to Talk About Race