( – 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 Squarestate.net“
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.
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.