Democratic National Committee Chairman Paul G. Kirk Jr. called for an end to party factionalism yesterday amid indications that the Executive Committee may discuss major changes in the party's structure at a meeting today.
Members of the Executive Committee expressed concern that it and the DNC may have gotten too big and that the role of interest-group caucuses in the party organization may be part of the problem.
The caucuses are such a sensitive issue, however, that Kirk reportedly spent part of the day sounding out Executive Committee members about whether the subject could be brought up at their meeting.
There are seven officially recognized caucuses in the DNC, representing women, blacks, Hispanics, Asian-Pacific Americans, homosexuals, "Liberal-Progressives" and "business-professionals." The Women's, Black and Hispanic caucuses are each guaranteed one representative on the Executive Committee.
There has been growing concern that this arrangement is unfair to other groups, but past experience justifies Kirk's caution.
In his first action after being elected chairman last February, he stirred up a storm by rejecting the Black Caucus' demand that its endorsed candidate, Mayor Richard G. Hatcher of Gary, Ind., be automatically seated as a vice chairman.
Kirk ruled that the matter should come to a vote of the full DNC, which elected Illinois state controller Roland Burris instead.
In a luncheon speech at the National Press Club yesterday, Kirk urged Democrats to exercise self-discipline and "run with the national party and not against it."
He contended that there is an emerging Democratic party policy consensus on the need for economic growth and opportunity, price stability, a strong national defense and fairness to minorities, the elderly and the disadvantaged.
Kirk aimed his remarks at Democratic officeholders, particularly in the South and West, who complain that the national party is a burden in their elections.
Against Kirk's wishes, a group of them, led by Virginia Gov. Charles S. Robb and Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, formed the Democratic Leadership Council, which is independent of the DNC. It is holding its first public events today, rallies and meetings in Tallahassee, Tampa and Gainesville, Fla., under the leadership of Robb, Babbitt, Sen. Lawton Chiles (Fla.) and Gov. Bob Graham of Florida.
Kirk was conciliatory, however.
"I want no Democratic official from the South to have to run away from the national party to get elected," he said. "Their objectives are no different from ours. We want to strike common themes and work in the same direction. Many serve on both the DLC and the policy committee that we announced yesterday."
On Wednesday, Kirk announced the formation of an 87-member Democratic Policy Committee composed of party officeholders at all levels and from all regions. Chaired by former Gov. Scott M. Matheson of Utah, it will hold a series of regional hearings with local Democrats to get their suggestions on issues and policy matters.
A year from now, it is to submit a formal report to the DNC outlining issues and themes that will form the party's philosophical base for the 1986 and 1988 elections.