8 Questions for Democrats and Labor Heading Into 2016

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson announced his in tent to run for a second term as MDP Chair. For a number of reasons (which I'll discuss in the coming days), I'm supporting Johnson.

Johnson chairs the Michigan unit of the However, like any entity, there is room for improvement within the MDP. There are also questions that both the party and its strongest partner - organized labor - must consider as we head into the 2016 election:

1. How will we, as a Party, brand ourselves? People don't like political parties. Many people blame them for a lot of the problems we as a country face - and Democrats get unfairly blamed for things that are largely the responsibility of Republicans. But we Democrats have so much to be proud of - the New Deal, the Great Society, civil rights, Obamacare, and economic prosperity, among other things.

2. What role should labor play in the MDP? Ah, yes, the eternal question. This is important for two reasons: One the one hand, union membership in Michigan is down - quite a bit last year, in fact. On the other hand, labor's influence on Democratic politics is still undeniable. It has been suggested that labor leadership has too much a say in the Democratic Party. (To be clear, union members who want to advance the best interests of the Democratic Party must always be welcome in our Party.)

3. Where's the money going to come from? As union membership decreases, so does dues revenue. I hope for a coming resurgence of organized labor; certainly, economic conditions are prime for it. But until that happens, the Party and candidates need to be expanding their revenue streams. It is a good practice for any entity to be able to count on multiple sources of revenue.

4. How will labor reach out to younger workers? They have the most to gain from being in unions. Yet few young people realize the need for unions - many think they're passe, when the opposite is true. There's evidence of that in the above link.

5. Do we put an RTW repeal on the 2016 ballot? The above might add urgency to that.

6. Whom will we recruit as candidates? Speaking at a meeting I attended in 2013, Lon said we needed to recruit more young, African-American, and Latino candidates. I'm not sure how close we came to meeting those goals, but we have more young lawmakers (Robert Wittenberg, Jeremy Moss, Jon Hoadley, Kristy Pagan, Vanessa Guerra, Stephanie Chang) and more non-white lawmakers (Guerra and Chang). Other improvements in candidate recruitment are also needed. For one, folks need to stop worrying about whether LGBT candidates can do well. Moss and Hoadley - both young, both openly gay - got more votes than Schauer in their respective districts. And in swing districts (or districts that are at least remotely winnable), we need a candidate lined up well before the filing deadline - not be scrambling in the days leading up to the deadline (as I saw happen last year).

7. How will the MDP work with county and district Democratic organizations? This has been an Achilles heel for the MDP. The MDP's style lately has largely been top-down; rank-and-file Democrats are often left confused, hanging, and with little or no say in big decisions. Some decisions do need to be made without much input, but we need to build trust between the MDP and local Party leaders, who know the neighborhoods and communities where they live.

8. Primary or caucus? Republicans have the votes to set whatever primary date works for them. Should Democrats go with the Republicans on having a primary? Or do we have a May caucus (like in 2012)? The former would give us more influence in the event of a contested nomination battle (which might be over if Hillary clears the field or sweeps the February contests). The latter would allow Michigan to send more delegates (the DNC adopted incentives, such as bonus delegates, to states that hold primaries and caucuses after March.) There are many factors for Michigan Democrats to consider when making this decision; some of those factors are discussed here. The MDP must decide soon; the Delegate Selection Plan is due at the DNC in early May.

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