So You Want To Take Over The Democratic Party? Okay! Come With Me.

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

Last week the Dog wrote a post about laying out the difficulties of starting a new political party to the Left of the Democratic Party. If you want to read it you can find it here. The challenges are extensive to say the least. Since the Dog thinks that is a bad idea he urged those who might be thinking of this path to stay and work within the Democratic Party. While not everyone agreed (we are all Liberals after all) there were a couple who pointed out while the Dog was showing a problem, he did not really offer the means to a solution. This is a fair observation and so the follow is some practical advice for those who want to take over the Democratic Party and move it more to the Left.

Originally posted at

Getting Started

So you have decided to take over the Democratic Party? Great! Let’s start with a reality check. You are not going to take over the national Party in one fell swoop. Unless you have about 1 million fellow travelers who all are on the exactly the same page this is going to take some time and a lot of work. However, any attempt to influence the national policy of a nation of 305 million is going require both of those things, so don’t let that get you down, just focus on where you can be effective and grow you efforts.

Now, let’s be really clear, what you are about to embark on is to become a politician. You may not be facing the voters in general, but you are getting involved in an organization that operates on democratic principals. This means majority rules voting and in many cases hard core parliamentary tactics. You are going to have to be able to persuade and be ready to compromise from time to time to move your point of view forward. This is going to be true no matter what party you get involved with, new or old, so again, don’t let that deter you, just recognize it.

In order to have the fastest level of effect, you want to start actually outside the Party. You are going to try to get elected to the County or State level Executive Committee, to do this you will need supporters, especially if you are not well known in the Party now. What you need is a group of folks who have the same desire you do to change things and you need to be organized. On the internet it is easy to find folks who think like you do, but how do you find them in your neck of the woods? The Dog has a couple of ideas that might help you.

First off, don’t reinvent the wheel. Look for any group which labels itself as a Liberal or Progressive Caucus in your County Party. There may or may not be one, but if there is they are the folks you want to hook up with. If there is not one, well that is probably the first thing you need to do, found one. Still it does no good to found a Caucus of One, so you have to find like minded folks. Luckily there is a place where you can start!

Use the Social Media sites like Face Book and the DFA site to find the folks in your area. They are simple to use and they are a great place to get a feel for how many folks think the way you do in your area.

Drinking Liberally was founded to get like minded Liberals together in the days when it seemed like the entire country had gone all the way to the Right. Many large and not so large cities have more than one branch of this group. Go there, buy a drink and start chatting up the Liberals and Progressives about the changes you want to make. See if you can find folks who are ready to do some real work to change the Democratic Party. You are likely to find those who are already involved, but there are always some who are ready to be activated and become activists. Start getting them to coalesce around the idea of taking over the County Party. Yeah, that’s right, you are going have to start at the County level to get to the State level.

Getting Into The Structure

Now that you have your group of supporters, you have to get into the Party structure. In general this is not that hard. In Colorado if you are a registered Democrat you can go to any of the meetings of your County Executive Committee. You can’t vote there, after all you not on the Committee, yet, but you can see what is going on and if you want to address them you can arrange to do so, if you ask in advance.  You and as many of the folks from your Caucus who are going run for the Committee should start going and addressing the Committee as often as you can. These are the folks you want to influence, so you have to start being heard and hear what they have to say in return.

You should also join a committee or two as well. Party organizations are always short of help, all political organizations are. You will do two things by joining a finance or publicity committee. First off you will be meeting more of the people you will need to vote for you when you run for Party office. Second, and probably more importantly you will be showing you are there to make the Party better through your thinking and hard work (never forget the hard work part!). Be sure to get as many of your Caucus to do the same, the point is to be able to make the case you are the new energy and direction of the Party.

Getting Elected

Let’s face it, the folks who influence the Party are the ones elected as Party Officials. In Colorado, the Chair and Vice Chair automatically are part of the State Executive Committee. There is a chance you could get to one of these positions in your first go ’round, but don’t count on it. If you are going to run for those positions be sure you know what the main jobs of these positions are and that you have the time and ability to do it.

Just a quick story by way of example about this; Adam’s county recently elected a new Chair. The main job of the Chair is to raise money for our candidates and for the Party. However, the person we elected works for the US Post Office. This means the Hatch Act applies to him. He can not raise money for political Party’s or candidates. When we elected him we did not know this, the Dog is not quite clear if he knew. In any case it is a major problem for the Party. Don’t be a problem for the Party you are trying to change, eh?

In Colorado, we reorganize every two years, on odd numbered years. You will have to find out when your Party does this, but it is not a bad thing if the next chance to get elected is not until early 2011. This gives you plenty of time to get known and into the structure.  Even if you don’t think you are ready to run for Chair or Vice Chair, you can still try to get onto the State Executive Committee. The State Party allows one delegate to the EC from each county for every 10,000 votes cast for the either the Democratic Gubernatorial candidate or Presidential candidate, which ever is higher. In Adams County that is another 18. This is probably your best bet for getting to the State level.

All of your Caucus must attend the reorganization meeting! This is where all the voting is done. If you have laid the ground work and bring 20 or 25 of your Caucus to one of these meetings you have a really good chance of getting elected.

Getting to the State on your own is not really going to do that much, after all there are 64 counties in the State, so there are at least 128 automatic delegates to the State Party. You will need to get as many as of your group elected as possible if you want to be able to influence policy. The Dog did say this was going to take time. Once you have achieved this level your job is the same as it was at the County level. Make your voice heard and start putting together a Caucus who agrees with your ideas, but this time from other County Democratic Parties.


So, lets sum this up. It is going to take a heck of a lot of work and some pretty good amount of time for you to make a difference. It should, as you are trying to influence the fate of the nation, you should not do that without proving yourself in some fashion or another.

The basic premise in getting this done is, Organize, Organize, Organize. Start with what you want to achieve. Get some like minded folks together. Agree on your tactics, then all you have to do is the hard part, do what you agreed to do! Work you but off for your goal and stay focused.

Be sure to know the players and the rules! You don’t want to have your big move be cut off by a parliamentary tactic. Take a little time to find out who is the big man or woman in the party and where they stand. They might be an opponent, but they might be an ally, find out for sure before you act.

Get involved in the Party. Be at all the events; be at as many of the Committee meetings as you can. Be clear and advocate for what you think is right, but remember others will be doing the same. This is politics so shouting is not going to help a lot, you have to be ready to persuade. You will also have to be ready to give ground and compromise from time to time in order to get to your overall goal.

Once you get to the State level, start over and do the same.

This is general outline of several years’ worth of work. You will have challenges which it does not address, but the key here is to set out your goals and get people to agree to them. The Dog is going to end as he began; this is the job of becoming a politician. You might never run for public office, but you are going to be running for Party office. You will have the same challenges of convincing people of you ideas and ability to follow through on them that public officials have. The good news is more Dems are likely to be sympathetic to point of view than the public. Don’t let that convince you this is going to be a cake walk. Others who have strong ideas are doing exactly the same thing as you are. You are not going to let them walk all over you, why should you think they will let you walk all over them?

So, get out there and get to work! The US desperately needs a better Democratic Party and the only way it is going to happen is by your (and the Dog’s) hard work. There is a lot of it to do and it won’t get any smaller by waiting, so get busy!

The floor (and the Party) is yours.  


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  1. change, then change happens.  

  2. works at least in mine. It’s where I came to know Howard Dean. I went to meet ups and found lots of people in my community who where looking to do something about the Bush regime and it’s effects locally. I met lots of educators as this was the time of No Child’s Ass Left Behind. The concept of taking back my country via the Democratic party was discussed. As Dr. Dean said precinct by precinct.  

    My husband joined the county party and ran for Precinct Captain, for our district. It was a thrill to see his name on the ballot even if he ran unopposed. On a local level the party welcomes new blood at least ours did. It’s a lot less frustrating then national politics because you do get to know both the candidates future and present and you actually get to talk to the people who live where you do. There is also interaction with other county parties, in your area. We were then able to work for state representatives who we literally knew. Our candidate won even though his opponent was much more connected and had a lot more money. It’s easier to get elected on a state level, without huge inputs of funny money, with string attached.  

    I found the only part I didn’t like was when the big shots from the national party stuck their money and noses in. The DCCC squashed the campaign of Bill Bradbury who was running for Senator against Gordon Smith. They not only withheld funding but sent adviser’s who told him to not oppose the war and insisted he take more conservative approaches to most issues. It did not work. We were stuck with Gordon Smith until an unabashed progressive Jeff Merekly ran.

    You learn a lot from being the ‘boots on the street’. I found that actually most people I talked to were a lot more open minded about politics then the netroots give them credit for. Then again I live in a liberal district. My county does however abut a really conservative one, and at state events I was always amazed that from rural to city districts that we are told are red or conservative the people who actually live and care about community are way more reasonable then the pundits and pols would have us believe.        

    If progressives ran all over the country at local and state levels the party would have a much different face. The Blue dog excuse would be seen for what it is, a cover for their corruption. ‘The devil you know’ rationale for voting plays a lot bigger part in peoples voting then measurements that divide us into left and right, and in between. You also learn that people both right and left share a basic healthy distrust of pols in general, lol.    


    • TMC on September 2, 2009 at 20:36

    a local Democratic Progressive club. They work very hard to support local candidates with fund raisers in their homes, canvassing and working the pols on election days. I’ve attended several fund raisers and plan on having one this Fall before the local elections. This is really important in our district NY-13 which is dominated by Conservative/ Republicans. We recent;y took back the House seat after 25 yrs, all be it with a “blue dog”. We are pushing him left.

    • rossl on September 3, 2009 at 04:56

    What about people who live in a state like Vermont where there’s a decently successful, progressive third party (That would be the Vermont Progressive Party in Vermont)?  What course of action would you suggest to them?

  3. You are a Democratic party operative who apparently supports the party and wants to promote it. Good for you.

    But what you’re selling here is snake oil. The party is not “ours”. No one is going to be taking it over. The entire political system in this country, and around the world, is designed to prevent everything you’re selling here.

    I posted on this recently. Perhaps you missed it:


    I went to a book signing with Kos when his first book, Crashing the Gate came out. His big message that afternoon to the 40 or so people in attendance was that we have to be the Democratic party that we want. His big pitch was for everyone in the new netroots revolution to get superactive in their local Democratic parties, become precinct captains, run for local office etc. Others pushing this strategy were Jerome Armstrong, Chris Bowers and a whole slew of bloggers who had gained notoriety online.

    The underlying assumption in this strategy is that us Netroots Democrats were somehow, inherently better than the thousands of already existing volunteers, precinct captains and local politicians. And that if we all flooded the party at the grassroots level, donning our orange hats, it would become a party that is a reflection of our Netrootsy betterness. As though our current grassroots Democrats were the problem.

    As one who has actually been involved in local Democratic politics for many years, I saw the fallacy of this logic. While it is always better to have more boots on the ground, it is delusional to assume that netroots activists are somehow immune to the same systemic corruptions that plague our party. Again, it’s always good to get involved, but the idea that by us being the Democratic party that we want we can bring about a better party is a fantasy.


    The next big delusion being sold by the our netroots leaders was that we can create the party we want by electing better Democrats. This strategy is often referred to as “more and better Dems.” Getting more Dems was the mantra of the Bush years where Republicans controlled Congress and the White House. This was an easy sell – anything to remove power from the most transparently criminal GOP in history.

    But after the 2006 midterm elections, and Democrats seized back Congress, the netroots was struck by a hard and cold reality: The Democrats we had worked so hard to put in office were, on such critical issues as economic justice, constitutional rights, investigating the White House and our illegal war in Iraq, not much better than the Republicans we had just defeated. So after one failure after another, and as the policies of the Bush administration continued unimpeded, a new mantra began to emerge: better Dems.

    This idea was that the big bloggers would become bundlers of sorts, through their online networks, to raise money for politicians who had the progressive stamp of approval. So in 2006, Actblue for example, an organization founded by Kos and other netroots players, picked 19 candidates to rally around. Most of them lost. But of the ones who won, there’s a pretty good probability that the progressive netroots helped take these races over the finish line. But how has it worked out since? Are these candidates the voices for progressive change that we had hoped? Far from it. On a whole host of issues, from the war in Iraq, to the bankers bailout, to FISA, to the Mortgage cramdown to aid homeowners, these senators have been disappointing at best, and downright traitorous to the cause at worst.

    Kos was questioned a while back about these disappointments. His response was more of the same:

       Systemic change is a long-term process with lots of setbacks. I have a whole chapter on how you have to take baby steps. Etcetera, etcetera.

    No, Kos’s product, progressive snake oil, which coincidentally does put Kos in a position of power, but changes nothing, is the same thing “the Dog” is selling.

    • dkmich on September 3, 2009 at 13:29

    The way I remember it, people challenged your sanity for continuing to support a party that kept poking you in the eye.   They were fed up, done, and wanted to quit enabling the bastards.  

    The solutions called for weren’t on how to form a third party.  I’m pretty sure there is lots of background on that.    The solutions you should have put forth were why how and when was enabling the abusers going to change anything.   In other words, what alternatives to a third party did you have to offer, other than continuing to poke oneself in the eye.  Maybe I’m wrong, but it is what I thought I read.  

    My solution is first to simply drop the Democrats on their asses – hard.  No money, no GOTV, no votes.  Let them lose and lose big.  If they still don’t get the message (or care), then I say third party and hurry.    

    And don’t talk to me about Obama being better than McCain.  I don’t care who is screwing me over, I care that I am getting screwed over.  At that, they are both equally good.

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