This week I attended the Florida Democratic Party leadership conference in Orlando. It offered an inside look at where we stand as Democrats. (More)
First our thanks to last week’s writers:
On Tuesday, we discussed The Arrogance of Democracy in Morning Feature, the Squirrel saw how pollsters Just Ask Someone Else in Furthermore!, readers collaborated on Tuesday’s Tale: I’z Fishing in Midday Matinee, Norbrook explained why Greenwald and Digby Miss The Point About Kucinich in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan shared Biodiversity, Wasp Wings and…Cancer? in Our Earth.
On Wednesday, we saw how the Arizona Legislature Goes There on Contraception in Morning Feature, addisnana described The Never Ending Struggle in Midday Matinee, Smartypants asked What Would Conservatism Be Without the Hate? in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan reported on how Climate Change Drives Evolution in Our Earth.
On Thursday, Winning Progressive profiled The Advancement Project: On The Front Lines of the Voter ID Battle in Morning Feature, we discussed Trayvon Martin’s tragic death in Stand Whose Ground? in Furthermore!, triciawyse brought us Fursdai Critters in Midday Matinee, and winterbanyan explained how climate experts are Calculating Sea Level Rise in Our Earth.
On Friday, Winning Progressive encouraged us to support efforts to Extend Workplace Protection to In-Home Caregivers in Morning Feature, triciawyse shared Friedai Critters in Midday Matinee, Smartypants unpacked an emerging media meme with The Subtle Racism of Ascribing Success to Luck in Evening Focus, and winterbanyan revealed a New Frog Species Noted At Last in Our Earth.
On the weekend, Winning Progressive probed Killing, Racism, and Stand Your Ground Laws in Saturday’s Morning Feature, we had a guest mail room clerk with Ask Ms. Addisnana in Sunday’s Morning Feature, and Winning Progressive brought us Weekend Reading in Furthermore!
Note: This week’s Morning Feature schedule is changed. I will host Morning Feature on Tuesday and Wednesday, Winning Progressive will host it on Thursday and Friday, and I’ll be back for Non-Cynical Saturday. Our regular Morning Feature schedule returns next week.
Also: Please share your stories of offline political activism in Things We Did This Week.
This weekend’s Florida Democratic Party leadership conference was an odd experience for me. I’ll write about the details of the conference and my sense of the state of our Democratic Party on Wednesday. But today I’ll focus on my personal experience of the conference.
I have been a registered Democrat and politically active for much of my adult life, but I was not active in my local Democratic Party. I knew that most cities and counties had Democratic Party groups. I knew these local organizations were linked to the national Democratic Party. But in my mind, the phrase “Democratic Party leaders” evoked blurry images of city, county, state and federal elected officials, major donors, and other Big Time Power Brokers meeting Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings. They chose our menu of candidates, and we voters then chose from that menu, in primaries and general elections.
I doubt I was alone in that Powerful Them vision of How Party Politics Really Worked. That vision may be true, to some degree, in some places. But like most Powerful Them stories, it’s much less true than we imagine.
When I began writing Morning Feature in January 2009, one of my regular topics was the importance of state and local politics. I knew that progressive federal policies can be and often are blocked at the state and local levels. When that happens, the resulting perception is the worst of both worlds for progressives: an expensive federal project that does little to help people in our communities, feeding the conservative narrative that government can’t do anything well.
And whenever I discussed that topic, LI Mike and other regular readers replied with stories of their activism in their local party organizations. I was both encouraged by their stories and a bit embarrassed that I was not active in my local party. So in late 2009 I reached out to them, and in early 2010 I became a Precinct Committeewoman in my local Democratic Executive Committee. I wasn’t entirely sure what either meant, but I knew one thing: my local DEC was nothing like my vision of Big Time Power Brokers meeting Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings. They seemed to be … ordinary people, Democrats who wanted to work to elect other Democrats. People like me.
Of course there were the DEC officers, who sat at the table at the front of the meetings. Each month, several of them gave reports on the priorities and plans of the Florida Democratic Party. Perhaps that was where the Big Time Power Brokers met Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings. But the strings they pulled – or those I heard about – seemed to be letting us local party workers know what we needed to do in our precincts and our counties.
I had done virtual phone-banking in 2006 and 2008, and in 2010 I discovered the joy of door-to-door canvassing. That is not sarcasm. I first canvassed a neighborhood near mine. In fact, it was the neighborhood where my youngest son’s former carpool driver lived. Almost every person I met was delighted that someone actually came to their door to ask for their votes. I was so encouraged by their responses that I canvassed my entire precinct. Although 2010 was not a good year for Democrats – nationwide or in Florida – I still felt energized.
And in my county, 54% of registered Democrats voted in 2010.
We elected new county DEC officers in early 2011. Feeling myself a newbie, I never considered running. But I did accept the Chair’s invitation to serve on our county campaign committee. As it was a committee of one, that made me the county campaign chair and a member of our county steering committee. But the other steering committee members were, again, not Big Time Power Brokers meeting Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings. They were our DEC officers and others who wanted to help organize our county committees. People like me.
In late 2011, when our county DEC Chair had to resign due for medical reasons, I was asked if I’d like to run for DEC Vice Chair if that position opened in the interim elections. I was flattered to be asked, but not entirely sure what was involved. The outgoing Chair assured me that I would pick it up quickly, and that he appreciated my energy and activism. The position of Vice Chair did open, I did run, and – to my surprise – I was elected.
A former county DEC Chair, now a Vice Chair of the state party, said I should attend the state party leadership conference. It would be an opportunity to meet other counties’ DEC officers, as well as state party officers and staff. And I would learn what I needed to do to help organize our state Democratic caucuses later this spring.
Thus, this weekend, I found myself in Orlando with the Big Time Power Brokers who meet Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings. Although I sat quietly in the meetings, the handful of people I did know introduced me to almost everyone else in receptions and corridors. By the end of the first day’s meetings, it seemed they all knew me by name. (Alas, I remembered too few of theirs.) They asked me what I thought about my county. They asked how I’d become involved in Democratic politics. They asked about BPI. Many seemed to like our focus on archetypal median voter Fred and agreed that Fred Whispering should be a daily part of progressive Democratic activism.
And while a handful of elected officials were there, the rest were ordinary Democrats who worked in their counties to help elect other Democrats. What I had imagined as Big Time Power Brokers meeting Behind Closed Doors to Pull Strings were … in reality … people like me.
And people like you, if you are or would like to be involved in your local Democratic Party.
Because Democrats think “We the People” means all of us. Including you.