I realize that to the ‘woke’ generation, the concept of respecting and honoring those who have come before is an outdated sentiment that somehow encourages unconditional compliance to the “old ways.”
It doesn’t. But that never stops young and aggressive half-baked climbers intent on clawing their way to the top from ignoring the old maxim of leadership – “You don’t know what you don’t know” – which always leads to unintended consequences.
That’s part of why the Volusia Democratic Party continues to implode in spectacular fashion.
As I have said before, the sordid details of this internecine warfare exemplify all the reasons I exchanged partisan politics for the autonomy and freedom of thought of a no party affiliate – especially now that the fringe elements of both parties have bashed their way into the wheelhouse.
During my professional life, I had the pleasure of serving as the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Association representative to the Volusia Substance Abuse Policy Advisory Board, developing recommendations to the County Council on the allocation of federal grant funds to local non-profits and service organizations.
It was during my appointment to the board that I first came to know the venerated former Volusia County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack.
I found Ms. Cusack to be incredibly well-informed on the issues – someone with a unique combination of institutional knowledge, life experience, and political practicality – who always brought an interesting perspective and quiet confidence to the table.
When she spoke, Ms. Cusack commanded any rooms attention.
Regardless of party association, Ms. Cusack is universally respected in Volusia County and beyond.
From her courage in participating in lunch counter demonstrations during the Civil Rights era – to her elected service in the Florida House of Representatives and Volusia County Council – she is a proven uniter who has worked hard to improve the quality of life for all residents.
On Sunday, a disturbing article by Mark Harper in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Former Democrat chair challenges election loss,” detailed an objection by the former leadership of the Volusia Democratic Party to the mysterious rise to prominence of 29-year-old political newcomer, Richard Thripp, following a controversial intraparty election last month.
According to the report, former Chair Jewel Dickson was joined by long-time Democratic leaders Joyce Cusack and Joan Lane in submitting a compelling appeal to state party officials of what some are calling Thripp’s “bloodless coup” of the VDP.
Normally, I would simply dismiss this intramural bruhaha for what it is – a power grab by an aggressive young regime, hungry for status and change, resulting in local party politics reflecting the abject dysfunction currently destroying both of our major political parties and hampering substantial progress at all levels of government.
However, given my personal admiration for Ms. Cusack, this ongoing havoc caught my attention.
In their challenge, the three former leaders suggest Thripp “…wrongfully dismissed the ballots of 13 committee members in declaring Valerie Duhl winner of the state committeewoman race. Counting those votes would leave Duhl tied with Susanne Raines, who has filed a separate objection.”
(Find my thoughts on the Duhl/Raines feud here: https://tinyurl.com/y4vyac46 )
In addition, the appeal argues that 62 precinct committee members were improperly allowed to vote, claiming that the candidate oath forms they were required to file had been “notarized illegally.”
As deftly stated in Mr. Harper’s article, Thripp’s machinations set up the local Democrat’s own #StopTheSteal moment. . .
Now, Dickson, Cusack and Lane are asking the Florida Democratic Party’s “Judicial Council” to either retabulate the vote excluding the disputed ballots or hold a second election.
In keeping with Barker’s Number 1 Rule of Politics – which says all politicians, once they have ascended to a position of power, will ultimately become everything they hated when entering the ring – it appears Richard Thripp is emerging as an empire building tin-pot dictator with a “my way or the highway” management style who is shrugging off growing suspicion that the VDP election was unfairly manipulated.
In the News-Journal report, Mr. Thripp is quoted, “I am going to refrain from commenting on the (appeal). I will say that it has been disappointing — the behavior of the prior Democratic party leadership.”
In my view, given the circumstances, Mr. Thripp’s lecture on behavior is rich.
The matter is now in the hands of top Florida Democratic Party attorney Mark Herron – in my view, someone who knows the ropes when it comes to building an empire – and gaming an election.
Look, I don’t have a dog in this fight, but I do hold firm to the concept of respecting the rights and contributions of those who paved the way for a new generation – with leaders ascending the ranks based upon one’s character and experience – rather than their ability to organize a cheap coup d’état.
That destroys organizational continuity, because no one – friend of foe – ever trusts the usurpers who seize power through questionable means.
In my view, perhaps its time for VDP Chair Richard Thripp to do the right thing and call for a new internal election which will put aside the challenges, get the internal squabbles of the local Democratic party apparatus off the front page of the newspaper, and show the respect and standing due Ms. Cusack and the others upon whose shoulders he stands.
In my view, on the day we celebrate the birthday and extraordinary work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a day of national service and community volunteerism – all citizens should thank courageous servant/leaders like Joyce Cusack for her contributions to the betterment of our state and community.
And reflect on how far we have come – and how far we still must go – as we honor our nation’s foundational principle that all human beings are created equal and endowed by his or her Creator with the fundamental and inalienable right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
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