The New Year provides a good opportunity to reflect on lessons from last year and what we can do to build our party for the critical 2009 elections and beyond. Here are some thoughts.
1. Engage the new grassroots. As never before, the 2008 presidential campaigns brought new “grassroots” activists into the process. Some may not have even thought of themselves as Democrats. We need to make sure that our party welcomes these folks, recognizes new leadership, and adapts our traditional processes to implement new organizing approaches that work.
2. Work together with Obama activists. As a Democrat, I think that we should fully incorporate the Obama organization into the Democratic Party, e.g., by sharing volunteer lists as well as voter lists. But this process may take a little time. Obama activist groups who were organized separately from the Democratic Party may want to continue engaging in, e.g., issue oriented activities outside of the regular Democratic Committee structure. But all share the goal, having helped elect Barack Obama, of helping his administration address the increasingly serious problems this country (and the world) faces. We need to make sure that have transparency and open communications as we build one party.
3. Update the DPVA website and facilitate party activist networking. Everyone reading this post knows that you need to keep reinventing your website. The party should incorporate the type of interactive resources available on http://my.barackobama.com. Many of us (even those over 20, or over 70 for that matter) use Facebook to inform people about causes, plan events, or just get to know each other better. Either through Facebook or independently, the party should set up a social network-type site to facilitate communications among State Central and other Democratic committee members and party activists.
4. Improve and Institutionalize Outreach. Barak Obama built the most diverse volunteer and electoral base in American history. But we need to focus efforts on having our party organization reflect that diversity. Several years ago, under the leadership of Del. Jennifer McClellan, we set up a local to state outreach structure which should be reinvigorated.
5. Involve Young People. This seems to be something that we are doing right – again, a lot of credit goes to Obama, but as a former Virginia Young Democrats president, I was amazed by the professional organization the YDs built in 2008. We need to keep it going.
6. Improve Accessibility. Our party has come a long way on improving accessibility for people with disabilities, but we need to keep moving forward. We discussed establishment of a disability caucus a few years back, but it was not organized. Can we do more?
7. Register Voters. Voter Registration was another outstanding success of 2008, but take a look at states which allow early registration and same day voting and you see we can do better. The December 2008 State Central Committee meeting adopted a group of voting resolutions including support for early voting, college student voting, and former offender voting which will further and properly expand the electorate. (See post below)
8. Go Green. In connection with the 2008 convention, DPVA environmental coordinator E.J. Scott of Manassas did an excellent job in promoting environmental awareness of delegates. We should have a volunteer DPVA environmental coordinator to advance sound environmental practices.
9. Wiki-Dems. Here’s a totally cool idea from Steve Bunn – set up a Virginia Democrat Wikipedia page with historical and current information about Virginia Democrats. Given Wiki’s open access, students could adopt and update topics for academic credit.
10. Make Democrats Work. I’ll confess that the Obama campaign has taught me the value of Democratic party-sponsored community activities. Such activities help people, improve the community, attract young people, provide a channel for activism, and improve the Democratic Party image in the community.
11. Keep Improving the Lists. In connection with the DNC and Obama for America, DPVA has greatly improved its voter lists. We need to keep at it.
12. Raise money. Obama’s web-based, small donor-oriented effort was a marvel. We need a mix of approaches, but we will see a lot of national Republican money in the Commonwealth in 2009 and we need to be able to build our organization and get our message out.
Happy New Year, everybody.
VA DNC Member
I was proud to represent Virginia on the Democratic National Committee for 12 years. I am in DC now, but still active in voter protection and Democratic Party rules. More about me, click here.
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