SOMETIME back, this column discussed the possibility of former Governor Carl T.C. Gutierrez challenging his former running mate Madeleine Z. Bordallo for the congressional delegate post.
At first, it seemed this clash might come earlier as the respective supporters of the two have been urging them to run for the chairmanship of the party this November.
Yesterday, however, former Democratic Party Chairman Tony Charfauros announced that Bordallo would no longer be running for party chair.
A few years ago, a confrontation between these two giants of the Democratic Party would have been unthinkable. Didn’t Carl and Madeleine have their compact “etched in stone” resulting in their back-to-back ’94 and ’98 wins?
But Democratic Party unity, always fragile even in the best of times, has really been stretched this time. The false impression of Democratic Party unity during the last gubernatorial election, when Gutierrez had no opponent in the primary, was just that – an illusion.
In fact, the current problems of the party can directly be traced to the intrigues and conflicts which originated from that hotly contested campaign.
Chief among these intrigues is the accusation that Madeleine betrayed the Democratic cause by campaigning for Calvo last year. This is a gross exaggeration, of course, but there may also be a grain of truth to it. Certainly, Madeleine did not campaign extra hard for Gutierrez, save for the obligatory print ads of Democratic unity.
And then there is the case of freshman Senator Dennis Rodriguez. The neophyte lawmaker, so young in his political career, has now become the poster boy for Democratic disunity.
For some time now, rumors have been circulating that Rodriguez wants to defect to the GOP. The Republicans, of course, have been encouraging this, with the chief Republican himself, Gov. Eddie Baza Calvo, praising Rodriguez to high heaven.
And who can blame Dennis? Many can still remember the encounter he had with Guam Education Board member Barry Mead during the FQ Sanchez hearings when Mead practically lectured and told Rodriguez off.
The wonder of it all is that no Democrat stood up to defend Rodriguez even though they are the ruling party in the Legislature. Not one Democrat stood up to tell Mead that he was out of order. One oldtime Democrat was known to have just shaken his head and say softly, “Something like this would not have happened during the old days.”
When the vote came, Rodriguez begged off, saying he had a plane to catch. But I think he was just too embarrassed and angry that his Democratic colleagues betrayed him and left him to the wolves.
This is unfortunate because Rodriguez is a young senator with so much promise. For a first-term senator, Dennis has accomplished more than even some older legislators. Certainly he is one of the most impressive of the newcomers in the Legislature. And this is the kind of new blood that the Democratic Party desperately needs to rejuvenate itself. It does not help that Rodriguez is rumored to be on a Democratic “hit list” of candidates who will be dropped.
Had the showdown between Carl and Madeleine pushed through, the Democrats would have become further fragmented, resulting in a monumental schism. Especially coming in the wake of what some say was a defeat for the Democrats during the recently concluded bond and budget deliberations, a bitterly fought Democratic election this November could permanently splinter the Democratic Party and affect the senatorial elections next year.
The only way for the Democrats to avoid this fate is to preserve their unity and choose a credible leader who will be perceived as fair and not partial to any of the Carl or Madeleine forces.
Younger Democrats should also be encouraged to take more leadership positions in the party. A new generation of Democrats is vitally needed to rebuild the party, reconnect it to the grassroots, and abandon the petty inter-party politics of the past.