On Democratic activism and New Year's Resolutions

I made twelve new year's resolutions for 2008. Now, almost eight weeks into the year and 254 days from the Big Day, I wanted to reflect on those resolutions and what I'm doing to change our Party and our communities for the better. As you read about what I've done/am doing, I want you to think about what you have done and can do.

The Tough Road to Leadership

Last week College Democrats chapters throughout the state held elections for the Executive Board of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats (MFCD). I decided to run for President of MFCD for both personal and greater reasons.

The MFCD President serves as an Officer-At-Large of the Michigan Democratic Party and thus sits on the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee. Since 'State Central' (as it's known in Michigan Democratic circles) met last April on the campus of Central Michigan University, I have been fascinated by the inner workings of the Party structure, its rules and bylaws, and how its operation can help/hinder the party, its electoral success, and its ability to stand up for true progressive principles. The MFCD President is also a Vice Chair of the MDP Youth Caucus.

In recent years, MFCD has lacked the leadership needed to become effective. I won't go into the gory details, but let's just say I knew that if I was going to become President, I'd have my hands full. But if MFCD was to become effective, good leaders needed to step up and grab the bull by the horns. I did not want to sit on the sidelines and let MFCD continue to suffer.

My opponent was MFCD's Treasurer, so I assumed I would have an uphill climb. Still, I contacted each chapter and asked them to support me. I shared with them my vision for MFCD and reminded them that

The stakes are just too high for the status quo to continue in MFCD this election year. We must put an end to the days of dischord and ineffectiveness in MFCD.
Despite my efforts, I didn't win. Still, the new President, Chris Stergalas, said he'd be willing to appoint me to an ex officio position, and at yesterday's MFCD convention he spoke about how he too sees the need for MFCD to change in order to become effective.

Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." Yet I don't think I failed at all. Sure I didn't win, but (1) I didn't expect to win; (2) I learned a few things during my campaign; (3) as I said, Chris said he'd make sure I and the others who lost MFCD races had an opportunity to serve as ex officio officers; (4) I am confident that the issues I raised during my campaign will be addressed. Thus, I am not as disappointed about not winning as I figured I would be, and I don't regret running (though I'm sure I would've regretted not running).

On the Prowl

I suppose the disappointment surrounding my loss was cushioned by something else that happened to me on Thursday night.

I stopped by the Isabella County Democratic Party (ICDP) office to drop off a couple of books for the ICDP's mini-library (one that includes books by Al Franken, Maureen Dowd, Jim Hightower, and others which are donated by ICDP members themselves).

I had a nice long chat with ICDP Treasurer John Barker about how our lives are going, the McCain/Iseman story (see his post on the ICDP Dispatch), and opportunities to get involved this year. That's when he informed me that the person heading up the Blue Tiger Democrats in Isabella County was stepping aside.

Long story short, I am the new coordinator of the Isabella County Blue Tiger Democrats (ICBTD)!

What are the Blue Tiger Democrats?
Blue Tiger Democrats believe that civic engagement must be a major priority of local Democratic and Progressive organizations across the country.

We advocate channeling the massive volunteerism seen during the 2004 and 2006 elections towards projects in our local communities just as Democrats did historically from the mid 1800s through World War II.
Among other things, Blue Tigers in Michigan and New York have educated folks on how to save energy and take advantage of veterans' benefits.

To lead an organization that can have such an impact on both the local Democratic Party and Greater Mount Pleasant is such an honor. I can't wait to help build ICBTD into a powerful force in the Mount Pleasant community!

A couple more things

I have also decided to apply for a paid internship/fellowship in DC, having been nominated by a good friend of mine who took advantage of that opportunity last year. The bad news? If I am chosen, I will spend ten weeks a thousand miles away from my home. The good news? I will get paid to earn valuable experience and spend time gin the nation's capital, familiarizing myself with the city where I'll be working after I'm elected to Congress in 2018. :-)

I have also applied to be an uncommitted district or at-large delegate (I applied for both) to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. More on that later this week!

About those resolutions...

Back to the resolutions I've made (see link at beginning of post).

I've lost a few pounds and have commenced my summer job hunt (in case I don't get that internship). I'm studying hard for midterms so I can make that Dean's List. And of course I am beginning to kick my activism into high gear for the election, as I hope you are too. (Here's to more and better Democrats!) And I am excited to fulfill my resolution to lead something - ICBTD!

In all honesty, I've slacked off when it comes to organization and frugality. And the Student Government Elections Committee was filled before I heard about it. And why do I keep putting off contacting my elected officials?!

But as I consider that each moment is precious - and as you can gather from this post - I am taking Gandhi's advice to become that change I wish to see. On December 31, 2008, I don't want to look back on this year as a wasted opportunity. I want a sense of accomplishment to fill my heart both then and whenever it is (several decades down the road, hopefully) that I lay on my deathbed.

On that happy occasion next January 20, when our new Democratic President takes that oath of office, I want to look myself in the mirror and say that I was a part of it.

And on that solemn occasion down the road, when my family and friends reflect on my (hopefully long!) life and lay me to rest, I want someone to prepare a simple two-word epitaph for my tombstone:

No Regrets


Watch what you say! (Content advisory!)

From a friend's note on Facebook, probably originally from an email.

Have you ever spoken and wished that you could immediately take the words back... or that you could crawl into a hole?

Here are the Testimonials of a few people who did...


I walked into a hair salon with my husband and three kids in tow and asked loudly, "How much do you charge for a shampoo and a blow job?"

I turned around and walked back out and never went back. My husband didn't say a word... he knew better.


I was at the golf store comparing different kinds of golf balls. I was unhappy with the women's type I had been using. After browsing for several minutes, I was approached by one of the good-looking gentlemen who works at the store. He asked if he could help me.

Without thinking, I looked at him and said, "I think I like playing with men's balls."


My sister and I were at the mall and passed by a store that sold a variety of candy and nuts. As we were looking at the display case, the boy behind the counter asked if we needed any help.

I replied, "No, I'm just looking at your nuts."

My sister started to laugh hysterically. The boy grinned, and I turned beet-red and walked away. To this day, my sister has never let me forget.


While in line at the bank one afternoon, my toddler decided to release some pent-up energy and ran amok. I was finally able to grab hold of her after receiving looks of disgust and annoyance from other patrons. I told her that if she did not start behaving "right now" she would be punished.

To my horror, she looked me in the eye and said in a voice just as threatening, "If you don't let me go right now, I will tell Grandma that I saw you kissing Daddy's pee-pee last night!"

The silence was deafening after this enlightening exchange. Even the tellers stopped what they were doing. I mustered up the last of my dignity and walked out of the bank with my daughter in tow. The last thing I heard when the door closed behind me, were screams of laughter.


My three-year-old son had a lot of problems with potty training and I was on him constantly. One day we stopped at Taco Bell for a quick lunch in between errands. It was very busy, with a full dining room. While enjoying my taco, I smelled something funny, so of course I checked my seven-month-old daughter, she was clean. The realized that Danny had not asked to go potty in a while. I asked him if he needed to go, and he said "No".

I kept thinking, "Oh Lord, that child has had an accident, and I don't have any clothes with me."

Then I said, "Danny, are you SURE you didn't have an accident?"

"No," he replied.

I just KNEW that he must have had an accident, because the smell was getting worse. Soooooo, I asked one more time, "Danny, did you have an accident?"

This time he jumped up, yanked down his pants, bent over, spread his cheeks and yelled "SEE MOM, IT'S JUST FARTS!"

While 30 people nearly choked to death on their tacos laughing, he calmly pulled up his pants and sat down. An old couple made me feel better, thanking me for the best laugh they'd ever had!


This had most of the state of Michigan laughing for 2 days and a very embarrassed female news anchor who will, in the future, likely think before she speaks.

We had a female news anchor that, the day after it was supposed to have snowed and didn't, turned to the weatherman and asked:

"So Bob, where's that 8 inches you promised me last night?"

Not only did HE have to leave the set, but half the crew did too they were laughing so hard!


How Republicans prove their (lack of) patriotism

Here's a snark piece from Daily Kos:

1. Being accused of sexual misconduct (so long as you are a Republican) and criticizing others of sexual misconduct (so long as you are a Republican and the "others" are Democrats).

2. Avoiding military service.

3. Campaigning for your father when he is running for President. Like Mitt Romney said, his sons are fighting the War in Iraq and fighting terrorists by helping Willard try to become President. What could be more patriotic than that?

4. Blindly supporting a war that has made America weaker and more vulnerable, killed thousands of Americans, destroyed hundreds of thousands of American lives and killed tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

5. Attacking the miltary service of Americans if those Americans have the gall to run for political office as a Democrat.

6. Helping rich people get richer.

7. Talking about Jesus but failing to follow his examples.

8. Divorcing your wife and marrying your girlfriend shortly thereafter. Did you hear that Mr. McCain and Mr. Gingrich?

9. Hating brown, black, olive and other "different" people--except for those "different" individuals who actually embrace everything Republican including the self-hatred of "different" people. Did you hear that Michelle Malkin? (Qualifier: the aforementioned exception does not apply to gay people. Gays are simply too different to be included with the other "different" people above. I mean, even the "different" people do not deserve to be lumped in with the gays.)

10. Always trusting government officials in everything they do (so long as those officials are Republicans) and never trusting government officials in anything they do (so long as those officials are Democrats).


Students walk 7.3 miles to protest early-voting decision

Now this is what I call a protest:

Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.

Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas' historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed.


1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today. According to the piece I saw on the news (there's no video up, so I can't link to it), the students plan to all vote today. There are only 2 machines available at the courthouse for early voting, so they hope to tie them up all day and into the night
Okay, so it's not quite like the Vietnam protests of 40 years ago, but I'm not so sure my 20-year-old body has the stamina for that!


How we will make MFCD effective

My plan for the Michigan Federation of College Democrats involves three key areas: Improving communication amongst College Democrats; voter registration, education, and turnout in the November election; and student activism beyond the November election.

-Substantially increase MFCD's online presence through a website, YouTube, etc. This will help boost visibility - which is important in an election year. The North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee Federations of College Democrats have good, resourceful websites, and so can MFCD.
-Establish an MFCD listserv and Gmail account. This basic step will help ensure that the lines of communication between MFCD leadership and rank-and-file College Democrats across Michigan are open.
-Connect College Democrats to campaign volunteer opportunities, events, internships, and other opportunities. Democratic candidates, politicians, and organizations across the state are in need of help from students, especially in this election year. These opportunities offer excellent chances to build political experience and foster progressive leadership. MFCD needs to make it easier
-Invite one person from each chapter to serve as a nonvoting member of the Executive Board. We at CMU have felt ignored by MFCD. We have found it difficult to provide input or to get in touch with them. To ensure that all chapters have a seat at the table, I will invite each chapter to choose someone to represent them on the MFCD Executive Board. They will not be able to vote unless we change the Constitution; however, they can still provide valuable input that can steer MFCD in a positive direction.
-Maintain contact with College Democrats from across the nation. As President I will actively seek out good ideas from across the state and nation so we can determine whether or not to try them in Michigan. We can also share our ideas with other College Democrats across the US.

-Ensure that each chapter has strong voter-registration and Get-Out-The-Vote efforts. This election year, chapters should focus on registering as many students to vote as possible students and get them to vote. We must also teach students how to go about registering and voting, especially given the Rogers Law and its restrictions on students' right to vote. As MFCD President I will make every effort to ensure each chapter is in a strong position to do both.
-Inform students on where the parties and candidates stand on key issues. Being an informed citizen means you know where candidates stand on important issues before you vote. With the false propaganda the Republicans are sure to throw at Democrats this fall, Democrats - including College Democrats - must be ready to counter these lies. Chapters should be armed with the information needed to educate students on where each party and candidate stands on issues important to students.
-Help educate students on the importance of down-the-ballot races and proposals. Most students who pick up a ballot intending only to vote for President. They are baffled by the wide range of offices and proposals on the ballot. Yet these are also important. At CMU in 2006 I created a flyer called "So What Is A Probate Judge Anyway?" which sought to explain each office on the ballot, as well as each statewide ballot proposal, so students have a better understanding of what they see on their ballot.

-Connect students to service projects put on by the Blue Tiger Democrats and other Democratic/progressive organizations. People want action, not just talk. That's why it's important for Democrats to show that we are serious about improving campuses and communities. MFCD ought to connect College Democrats with projects that the Blue Tiger Democrats and local Democrats are putting on in their communities.
-Promote the use of free media (i.e. letters to the editor, radio and TV call-ins) both on and off campus. Many newspapers are getting few letters to the editor. Many TV and radio programs allow viewers/listeners to call or email them with their thoughts on the issues of the day. Students - especially Democrats - ought to know how to get their views heard.
-Enable students to easily and effectively share their views with elected officials. If elected officials are going to heed our wishes, they need to hear from us. College is an excellent opportunity to show students how to effectively communicate with their lawmakers.

Feel free to offer any ideas for for what else you would like to see MFCD do under my leadership.


Bits of Tid: February 13, 2008

Valentine's Eve Edition

  • Well, how do you like the new design? I tried to fiddle with the HTML a little bit to get the CBS delegate widget to fit entirely within the sidebar, but that wouldn't work. But while it won't all fit, you can still see the meat and potatoes of it.
  • Seven years ago tonight my maternal grandmother passed away at age 84. One week ago today my paternal grandmother turned 84 years young. I wrote about both of them one year ago. Grandma's health hasn't changed that much; I must admit I'm pleasantly surprised she made it this long after Grandpa's death in 2004.
  • Got anything planned for this Saturday? How about attending Activate08 in Lansing? Free food and admission, and Jennifer Granholm will be there. Registration deadline is tomorrow! And when you're done registering for that, sign up for the 2008 Michigan Policy Summit, which will be held May 10!
  • Welcome back writers!
  • Curious as to how many votes each candidate has received in each of the primaries and caucuses to date? Find out here.
  • Tomorrow I will post my MFCD agenda/platform/plan/vision/whatever-you-wanna-call-it.
  • I have submitted my first pick for Lake Superior State University's 2009 Banished Word List:
    Super Tuesday - Is that the best term they could come up with to describe the day with many Presidential primaries and caucuses?

A problem most campaigns wouldn't mind having

Home page of BarackObama.com, 12:30 AM, February 13, 2008:

Later on (probably after work Wednesday afternoon) I'll update the pledged delegate totals on the right-hand side of the screen.


Weekend races and delegate counts

It looks like Barack's gonna end up 4 for 4 in this weekend's contests (Maine results here).

So the momentum is on Obama's side... but the delegate race is still very close.

The current count, shown on the right, includes pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. When you factor the unpledged delegates, Barack Obama leads 1134-1131. Considering that Edwards has not released the 26 delegates he got before he dropped out - that is, they're still committed to vote for him - the candidates can claim a total of 2,291 delegates.

That gives Obama 49.5% of the delegate vote, Hillary 49.4%, and Edwards 1.1%. And in order to win the nomination, a candidate must have 50% +1.

Incidentally, Hillary has replaced her campaign manager.

Now, as for the Republicans: Runaway for McCain, right? Eh, maybe not. Because while McCain still leads the delegate count by a wide margin, Huckabee went 2 for 3 in Saturday's primaries. I have a feeling that with Romney out, conservative voters who think McCain's too liberal will unite behind Huckabee.

Still, the smart money is on McCain, and as long as many independent voters feel that he will be the presumptive nominee for the Republicans, they will opt to vote in the more competitive Democratic primary, benefiting Obama.

Unless Romney flip-flops and gets back in the race soon - which I'm not sure I'd be all that surprised to see.

Oh, and by the way: Yesterday was the day Michigan Democrats were originally scheduled to hold their caucus. Ironic, isn't it? The majority of the MDP leadership wanted to hold it on January 15 because they figured it would give us more influence. Alas, Michigan would've been the most populous state to have held a contest this weekend if they'd stuck with February 9, meaning we would've had a great deal of influence and attention - and the certainty of knowing our delegates would be seated in Denver.


How nICE of you to stop by!

This is in front of CMU's Kesseler Hall. And yes, those are railroad tracks.

CMU has been closed for all or part of five days due to weather or (in one case) a power outage. We only had four closings in my first two years here. It's gotten so bad they're actually thinking of adding a day of classes in April. Which I wouldn't mind; we've had enough days off as it is.


I am running for President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats

I am pleased to inform you that I am running for President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats.

Among other things, a group like MFCD ought to serve as a medium for collaboration amongst chapters and as a forum for ideas from College Democrats across the state.

MFCD must also support College Democrats chapters across the state in their efforts to engage students on their campuses, as well as provide information on internships, events, and other opportunities for interested students.

Unfortunately, MFCD has simply not been effective in recent years. I have heard people say that communication amongst MFCD officers, much less between the MFCD board and chapters, has been mediocre at best. Because of this, MFCD is in a rut; it is not helping chapters or connecting College Democrats with opportunities to get involved.

We cannot accept this status quo, especially with a critical election coming this November.

MFCD desperately needs leadership dedicated to not only solving its problems, but making sure College Democrats across the state are armed with the tools to do the hard work that needs to be done if our classmates, roommates, and friends are to support Democratic candidates and policies.

Which is why I am running for President of MFCD. We cannot simply wait for the right leadership to come along and do what needs to be done to make MFCD effective. We need to act now if we want MFCD to become a functioning organization that will help to shape the future of our communities, state, and country.

I am ready to take MFCD in a new direction. I am ready for MFCD to have an impact on our Party and our campuses. Join me, and let’s make MFCD effective.