The Joe Shump Legacy | September 1, 2007

The decision by 3 county offices to close on Tuesday in memoriam to the passing of former Montgomery Co. Democratic Party chairman may be well intended, but, it is ultimately a very bad decision .Very very seldom am I in agreement with republicans on any issue but Greg Gant, Chairman of the Montgomery Co Republican Party, hit the nail on the head when he said “I think it’s a lack of remembering that you serve the public first“. The inconvenience caused by a partial shutdown of County government will most assuredly backfire as legions of people trying to conduct business will be unable to do so due to the passing of someone they likely neither knew nor care about.

As a leftist political outsider I never knew Joe Shump personally, but I did know he ruled the local Democratic Party with an iron hand, old school party boss style. Decision making by crony-ism, favorite-ism The Party’s history writers will probably say this was a necessary thing during the time when he came to power. I disagree.

The insularity of the Democrats during the period of his dominance guaranteed that, unless you were willing to play by Shump’s rules, you could simply forget being an active or influential player in the Party. It was Joe’s way or the highway. Decision making was definitely not something to be entrusted to the general membership…

Dayton had an activist left during the 70’s and 80’s: The New American Movement, Modern Times Bookstore, the anti-Vietnam war movement, the Miami Valley Power Project, the Dayton branch of the Black Panthers, The Revolutionary Union, Republic of New Africa, The American Friends Service Committee, Dayton Women’s Liberation, just to name a few…Joe Shump’s Democratic Party worked with none of them. None of them. Crony-ism and a vaguely conservative political  bent  ruled the roost.

Ok, so Democrats got elected. Hand picked in a top down party structure, you were vetted by the few and elected by the masses who followed the party’s dictum’s. That did not, however, build the party’s internal organization, which is why the method’s of  old line Bosses like Shump eventually began to lose elections in Montgomery County. No vision, no future.

The revolt that eventually took place and ousted Shump and his cohorts was two steps forward, one step back. Democrats got elected, in a more open nominating process, but a focus on developing the ideological underpinning so vital to the future of a real party has not happened.

The organization Dennis Lieberman “rescued” and which Mark Owens is now leading, is stronger than it has been in years. However, if the party is to truly shake off the more negative aspects of Joe Shump’s legacy it must address the more fundamental question of not just how do Democrats get elected, but why, and, importantly, how are those elected officials held accountable to the people who elected them. You cannot do that without a party base that has a coherent, unified political philosophy . That is the real task that now faces Party leaders. Closing County offices Tuesday is not going to help in that process.



  1. […] The Joe Shump Legacy […]

    Pingback by Shumpgate- part 2. at Esrati — September 2, 2007 @ 6:26 pm

  2. Your post on Shump was really interesting in an indirect way . I am curious about this active left you mention that was around in the 1970s.

    I recall Logan Martinez making an offhand remark about the Modern Times Bookstore at a meeting once, and always wondered what that was (or where it was). From what you say it was part of a larger picture.

    I can assure you all this comes as a big suprise to me. Moving here from Northern California at the end of the 1980s, what struck me about Dayton was the lack of a visible, organized left and the dominance of apathy mixed with conservatism in the local political culture.

    The Democrats seemed weak. So, Shump might have been a boss, but I wonder if he really was that effective. I also had lived in Louisville, which did have a fairly strong Democratic party, but one that extended out in the suburban areas of Jefferson County, where they could win quite a few precincts and district elections.

    The Democrats here in Montgomery County seem to weak in suburban areas, and even in the city, as it was pretty suprising to see Turner win the mayoralty. One would think that would be a safe seat for the Dems.

    So, maybe Shump wasn’t really that sucessfull, in terms of holding or building party support, compared to Democrats in other urban areas.

    Comment by Jeff — September 3, 2007 @ 8:06 pm

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