The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. – Barack Obama
So after this extremely painful campaign and election the reaction has been interesting to say the least. Most of what I’ve read and watched online have been people blaming each other about what went wrong and who did what wrong. Although at the end of the day, Secretary Clinton is going to win the popular vote by a significant amount yet Donald Trump will be President-Elect. So what are we going to do about it?
My suggestion? Get back to work!
The big question is what should you do to help us win next time? What we need is for more Democrats to get elected and unless they have some major proven corruption that means all Democrats even so called Blue Dogs. We need them all.
Let’s start with the primary versus general election problem. You want Democrats to be reflective of your more liberal views? Then you work like hell to win the primary but if they lose you need to work just as hard in the general. This is the main way that Democrats seem to go astray but it can’t be said enough. It doesn’t matter who wins the primary (subject to provable disqualificating issues) you have to work for and vote for the Democrat.
Politicians listen to those that show up to vote and those that can deliver votes. So you want more power and say within the party you not only have to vote EVERY SINGLE TIME but you also need to be able to deliver votes as well.
So what are some ways that you can make an impact?
Online Petitions: Unless they are White House petitions (https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/) (which I wouldn’t count on the Trump administration continuing) they are a waste of time. No one reads them and all it does is put your name and email address on a mailing list to ask for donations or to sign other petitions.
Social Media Posting: This is slightly more productive but more to build awareness that a candidate exists and not really to change minds. As we saw from this past election most people’s social media feeds are just echo chambers into what they already believe to be true. So changing minds via social media is not really worth the emotional energy that it takes to participate.
Phone Banking: This is a step in the right direction. Phone banking is where you call voters either in support of a candidate or a cause. Most progressive organizations do it for their issues and would love the help but in this climate we really need to win power and the only way to do that is to win elections, a lot of them. So you should phone bank for a local candidate or local Democratic Party. If you live in a very blue area and your help phone banking really wouldn’t be productive I recommend phone banking for one of the national Democratic organizations.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) (http://dccc.org/) helps Democratic Congression candidates with many ascpects of campaigning from fundraising to canvassing voters.
The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) (http://www.dscc.org/) helps Democratic Senate candidates with campaigns from fundraising to canvassing of voters very similar to the DCCC.
I know helping these 2 organizations goes against a lot of progressives sensibilities but it is the best way to help outside your blue enclave.
Organizing: This takes a lot more work but it is very much worth it, whether you live in a blue, red or purple area of the country.
Blue sections – it will help you build power in the local party and get your issues more traction if they are not currently being represented.
Purple sections – This is the most obvious one, you can swing the election in your candidate’s favor
Red sections – This is more about moving your local consensus, as we’ve seen a lot of our issues are favored by a large majority of Americans. Your job in these areas are showing people that Democrats aren’t elites that live in an ivory tower and slowly grow the party. Also, it may require you to support Democrats who are far more conservative than you are until you change enough minds.
How do you do it?
This is the hardest part and requires a real commitment to change because it will take time.
1. Find your local party. It could be your town/city but most likely it will be your township or county
2. Find out and know the rules for having power within your local party
3. See if you have a precinct committee-person/captain in your precinct (most likely there won’t be)
4. See what it takes to be a precinct committee-person
a. Sometimes you can be appointed but even if not it’s good to know because you’ll want to get elected either way
5. Now it’s time to start organizing, get access to the voter information in your state
a. Some states register Democrats/Republicans
b. Some states you pull a particular ballot during the primary
c. Some states don’t have either but it’s rare you’ll just have to do more work to see who in your precinct are Democrats and Republicans (you’ll have to ask them)
6. Find out who votes consistently in your Democratic primaries
7. Arrange for a meeting – better if it’s in party format and invite all the consistent primary voters in your precinct
8. Before the meeting – map out your precinct break them out into “blocks” of equal size in voters
9. Assign blocks during the party to each person including yourself – I would call everyone Block Captains but you can come up with a better name if you want, it really doesn’t matter but they should have a title to help empower them
10. Now it’s time to outline your plan for organizing your precinct
a. Goal is to get all Democrats to vote in every election (Presidential, Mid-Term & Local)
b. Another goal is to increase the number of registered voters preferably Democrats
c. Also know what issues your precinct cares about
d. The Block Captains need to go out into the precinct and talk to the voters in their area, make sure they know everything they can about them, what their issues are, how they like to vote, if they have any issues getting to voting locations
11. Grow your organization – hopefully you can identify more Democrats you can count on and add them to your Block Captain list to lower the amount of work for each but also to have back ups
12. Bring yourself & your captains to every Party meeting to show strength
13. Deliver the votes – this is the most important step, don’t move forward until you master this in your precinct for a couple of election cycles
14. “Promote” one of your Block Captains to run your precinct and organize another precinct and another until you have a real organization first in your local party, then start going up the chain to your county & state parties
I obviously simplified this a little for a blog post but reach out to Organizing for Action (OFA) (https://www.barackobama.com/) & Democracy for America (DFA) (https://www.democracyforamerica.com/) for more information about organizing and training.
This is hard work and long work, it won’t happen quickly but is how we build a party that is responsive to our issues and is able to win elections consistently.
There was a good saying from DailyKos (http://www.dailykos.com/) before they went a little crazy over there and that was More & Better Democrats. The more comes first, you have to deliver votes every election to have power and you get better during the primaries. Once the general election comes along you need to be committed to the nominee regardless of who you supported to be taken seriously and to make the impact you are looking to make in our country.
So get to work!