Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Democratic Committee 101

By Sarah Posegate

Super bummed about the AHCA passing? Crossing your fingers that Democrats might gain a majority in 2018 and boot #45 out of office? Read on dear friends...you can help!

It’s no secret that the Democratic party has been failing its members for years. Despite a majority of Americans who agree with the Democratic platform, Republicans keep winning. Though the Democratic candidate got more votes we have lost the White House twice in the last 16 years (Hillary Clinton & Al Gore). While many of us are upset that the DNC did not support Bernie the way they should have, their unsupportiveness for progressive candidates was also seen with Howard Dean back in 2004. This has got to change!

After the Women’s March, Michael Moore put out a list of 10 things to do to take down Trump. Number six was to take over the Democratic Party: “...locally, you need to start attending your county Democratic meetings. If possible, organize your friends and others and take over your local Dem organization.” Number Eight, “Run for Office,” calls on us all to run for “Precinct Delegate” which is an elected role in the Democratic Party.

So I dove right in and attended my Ward Democratic Committee meeting shortly after the inauguration. The Chair of the Committee had suddenly stepped down, leaving a reluctant Vice-Chair to pick up the pieces. The committee had been meeting every other month (in a loud, distracting bar) with just a handful of members and though all of them are committed, experienced activists they clearly were in need of some fresh faces, new energy, and help. I was one of several new folks to attend that night and there were lots of questions about process and purpose. The group was floundering from the leadership change and they were not ready to welcome new eager members with a platform or protocol.

I’ve lived in the same Ward for nearly 20 years and never remember being asked to participate nor seen a presence in my neighborhood through tabling or signs. Yet I appreciate my neighbors for doing the work and learning the process before it was “cool.” Now, lots of groups have formed in response to the emergency situation that is the Trump administration. Why reinvent the wheel when we can build on the knowledge, experience and a structure of the Democratic Committee that is already in place?

With the new members’ enthusiasm, my committee met again just a month later and seated new members, bringing our committee to nearly 20 strong (being “seated” means you are officially voted in and are then allowed to vote on motions, etc.). The next month we elected a new slate of officers and I am now the Secretary for the group. At that meeting we also finally clarified how to “get on the county committee” and become a “Precinct Delegate” that allows you to vote on endorsements for candidates and other business of the County Democratic Committee. Yes, there are two committees and it does get confusing.

Here’s what you need to know:
--Register Democratic if you aren’t already. You won’t be able to officially join your local committee until you have this affiliation.
--Figure out which Ward or Town you live in and when and where your Committee meets. This is no small task since their local online presence isn’t stellar.
--Attend a meeting of your Ward/Town Committee and introduce yourself and ask to be “seated.”
--Ask if there are any “open seats” on the County Committee that you could fill for your Town/Ward. Each Town/Ward is divided into several election districts (sometimes called a voting district) and each election district gets a few delegates to the County Committee, based on population. My Ward, 2, has four election districts and gets 15 delegates to the county.
--“Run” to be elected as a delegate to the County Committee for your Election District.

For years in my Ward, many of these delegate positions were not filled at all. My committee is very excited to finally have enough members to fill our 15 delegate spots to the County Committee. We will all run unopposed but I suppose if some day in the future our committee grows we could have actual elections for these positions.

To run, even unopposed, you must carry a petition for yourself to get on the ballot. So, I will be doing this in June while I also carry petitions door to door for the Democratic Alderman and County Legislator who represent me.

Image result for tompkins county democratic committeeI’m sure you are thinking “Wow, that sounds like a lot of boring meetings and not much impact on things.” In some regards, this feels like the truth. But, it has been an exciting, energizing endeavor. I’ve met some interesting neighbors who want to change the Democratic party from the ground up. These meetings are a chance to know my County Legislator and Aldermen and for them to share issues of my city and county. Very soon all these meetings will culminate in knocking on doors to get signatures and to promote Democratic candidates.

One of our first goals as a committee is to recruit some younger members. In a recent interview, Howard Dean said that today’s politics are not going to change significantly until the Millennials get actively involved. They are our future and we need their vision and they need our experience. So, we will be reaching out to the Cornell Democrats and other young folks in our Ward to get them involved.

We especially need the younger generation to help with using social media to advance the Democratic agenda, which is another goal for the Ward 2 Dems. Our new Committee Chair, Susie Monagan, is committed to using Social Media to connect with others in our Ward. We also want to push our County Committee to get on board with technology and social media to support our county and state candidates and to get things done more quickly. While the Republicans may have a platform that seems as if it came from the 1950’s they are firmly in the 21st Century when it comes to running campaigns. We need to use social media to make it incredibly easy for people to get involved and know what we are doing.

Another on our short list of priorities is to recruit more people of color. This is to make our committee reflect the demographics of our Ward, but also has the larger goal of helping the DNC to understand and represent every community in the district. We will be attending events at the Southside Community Center to connect with our neighbors of color. We need them and want to be sure that all communities have a voice on the Ward and County Committees.

Our committee will also be registering voters, working to get out the vote and hopefully participating in the Knock Every Door campaign in Ward 2.

Sometimes I wonder if doing this work in my little Ward is going to be enough. My hope is that there are others like me in every town and city in this country doing these same things in their own area and that together we will achieve significant change. It is easy to sit back and say “Ugh, the Democratic party needs to increase their diversity, get with 21st Century technology and embrace more progressive values...what is wrong with them?” If you want to see these things change, roll up your sleeves and join your local committee or at the very least volunteer to help.


~ Sarah Posegate lives in Ithaca, NY with her husband, Russell, and three children. She enjoys a well placed expletive, satirical news shows, and knitting.