People need a lot right now:
- The Democratic Party needs to be more cohesive, better organized, and responsive to the needs and desires of its members.
- Elected officials need to know the views of their constituents - and why they hold these views.
- Citizens need to realize that merely voting every couple of years is not enough to be an active citizen.
- President Obama will need our help in making progressive policy, because...
- The people of this country - indeed, of the world - need food, clothing, shelter, a top-notch education, superb health care, a clean environment, the opportunity to work for a decent wage, and so much more.
Ensuring that the Democratic Party is strong and effective is critical because government policies affect so many aspects of our lives - what our children are taught, whether they can afford to go on to college, whether we have good-paying jobs and clean air, and so forth. And as we have seen, with few exceptions, Democrats are far better suited to lead our nation than most Republicans.
And yet, most of us will agree that the Democratic Party is nowhere near where it should be. Don’t get me wrong; progress has been made in many areas of our Party. Governor Dean’s 50-State Strategy comes to mind, as do programs like Democrats Work and the Blue Tiger Democrats.
But we can all see that there is plenty of improvement to be made. If I had a dollar for every time a Democrat in Congress voted to cave in to the boneheaded demands of the unpopular Bush, I'd be able to pay off the national debt. (Okay, maybe not, but I would be better off financially!) A year later, I’m still not happy that I as a Michigan resident didn’t get a say in determining who my Party would nominate for President of the United States. (Don't get me started on that.)
Yet it is precisely because I am such a darn proud Democrat that I want to make this Party stronger and more effective. For all the faults of some Democratic leaders, most of the Democratic activists I know are hard workers who expect the best from government and our Party. We want our rights protected. We want good jobs that pay well. We want everyone to be able to live the American Dream.
We want a better life for all, so that each person can live out his or her full potential as a human being, making our world a better place for it.
So how can the Democratic Party most effectively achieve these ends? I don't think I can answer that completely. But I do have some ideas. Among many other things, I believe it’s critical for the party of Jackson, FDR, and Obama to:
- Stand for truly progressive ideals and policies not just during campaign season, but always.
- Contest every race on the ballot.
- Reach out to all potential Democratic voters, including those who don’t vote.
- Understand the views of all of its members, including those who do not have much to give.
- Promote community service and civic engagement amongst both Party activists and others.
- Encourage collaboration and networking amongst progressive people and groups from all walks of life.
- Above all, show - not just by its words, but by its actions - that it truly is the Party of the People and that it deserves to govern this great country which many of my friends and relatives have so bravely served in uniform.
If you're not involved in your local and state Party, get in the game. Find out when your county or district Party meets, and see if you can attend a state Party convention, where you can interact with prominent Democrats and share your views with them in a face-to-face way. (Usually you don't have to be a Delegate to attend a convention.)
Perhaps you already are involved with the Party at some level, or maybe you're part of a progressive or Democratic club, such as the College Democrats or DFA. If so, let me give you that gentle nudge to run for a leadership post in one of those groups. The months following a general election are the time when many Democratic groups elect new leadership to carry the Party's mantle for the next couple of years. Last year I ran for President of the Michigan Federation of College Democrats. While I did not win that particular election, I did end up on the National Council of the College Democrats of America, and now I serve as Deputy National Communications Director of CDA!
If you don't make your voice heard, you cannot expect our Party to stand up for progressive values. So, stand up. Make it known that you are a proud Democrat, but you will not rest until the entire Democratic Party stands up for truly progressive, Democratic ideals.
I will delve more deeply into this topic more in the next few days. In the meantime, what ideas do all of you have for making our Party stronger? What would you like to see out of the Democratic Party?