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Opinion | Will a final display of arrogance be Worley and Reed’s undoing?

Josh Moon

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Nancy and Joe messed up. 

A few days before a breakaway group of Alabama Democrats held their “official meeting” of the State Democratic Executive Committee on Saturday in Montgomery, Nancy Worley and Joe Reed dismissed the whole affair. 

They called it an illegitimate meeting. Said it didn’t mean anything. Chuckled at the silliness of the people trying to pull this coup. 

Basically, they said, “pfft,” and shooed away an imaginary fly with their hands. 

And that was probably a mistake. 

Now, to be clear here, I am not an attorney. I have talked to lots of attorneys. And I know how to read. But still, not an attorney, so consider that when you weigh what I’m about to say. 

That decision to dismiss Saturday’s meeting so casually might end up being Worley’s and Reed’s undoing. 

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The reason for that is because their power lies with the positions they currently hold in the Alabama Democratic Party. And they willingly relinquished those powers without a fight. 

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Before we get too deep into this, let’s briefly recap where we are. 

At Saturday’s meeting, a breakaway group of Dems, led by Rep. Chris England, voted to approve new bylaws — the same bylaws that the Democratic National Committee approved a couple of weeks ago. Those bylaws create a new diversity caucus and put in place other rules about approving at-large members. 

Those new rules and the new caucus would seriously weaken Reed’s power within the party, since, as ADP vice-chair for minority affairs, he has the power to appoint numerous at-large members under the old bylaws. 

These new bylaws would likely cut his appointed members by at least half, and would force the SDEC members to approve any at-large members nominated. 

Since Worley won re-election in 2018 thanks largely to those at-large members appointed by Reed, that’s bad news for her. And for him. 

That power Worley holds as chairwoman is significant — perhaps the single most significant piece to her maintaining power throughout this year-long fight. The DNC rules never envisioned a scenario in which a state party chair would fight against the national party and a large chunk of the state party. So, there are no rules to move Worley out of the way. 

That’s why the last year has taken so long and been such a spectacle. They had to come up with a means to remove Worley and lessen Reed’s power on the fly. 

And quite a few attorneys doubted that they could. 

Then Worley and Reed opened the door on Saturday. By never walking through it. 

Oh, I get why they didn’t go to the member-called meeting organized by Sen. Doug Jones: They were setting up their later legal argument that the meeting was so illegitimate that they, and a majority of SDEC members, didn’t even bother attending. 

And that might be a good strategy, except for one thing: The DNC is a private entity that can set its own rules and bylaws, elects its own leadership and controls how those elections work. 

That’s why Nancy Worley isn’t subject to the authority of the Alabama Secretary of State’s office over the fact that she doesn’t reside in the district that she represents in the SDEC. John Merrill has no authority, because the ADP and the DNC aren’t subject to state election laws. 

Likewise, courts are particularly leary of matters involving political parties, and they tend to take a hands-off approach to internal fights and any matter that don’t involve criminal allegations.  

I can’t imagine any court in America taking a look at Saturday’s ADP meeting, where several DNC officials were present and all of the national leadership seemed satisfied that all rules were followed, and disallowing the results. It’s just not what they do. 

That was, according to the DNC and ADP bylaws, a properly called meeting that was approved by the signatures of more than half of the SDEC membership. 

The one thing that could have stopped it all, that could have blocked the new bylaws and sent the disgruntled SDEC members home disappointed was Worley showing up to the meeting and serving as chair. Because that was her right. 

The moment she walked through the door at any SDEC meeting, she is the chair. She decides what gets to the floor for a vote. She determines how the meetings will be conducted, or if there will be any votes at all. 

Worley could have shut it all down. 

Instead, she and Reed laughed at them and sat at home, perhaps one final display of the I-know-better-than-you arrogance that has rubbed so many people the wrong way the last few years. 

Wouldn’t it be ironic if that hubris was ultimately their undoing.

 

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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