There’s No Substitute for Electoral Organizing

I wrote earlier today that the powers that be won’t listen to popular will unless the people actually come out to vote. As long as younger progressives sit on the sidelines, the country will be dominated by the will of plutocrats and the reliable conservative voters who align with them.

Meteor Blades at Daily Kos wrote a fantastic corollary to that today as well, urging the necessity of getting involved in electoral organizing at the precinct level:

To repeat, there is no silver bullet. Precinct organizing by itself won’t win elections. But in too many places we are without it, or the organizing is ineptly done or given no encouragement or assistance from the local or state party. The resulting election outcomes are awful. Consequently, so are the policy outcomes. …

It takes time people could be doing something else. Time they could be spending with family or reading a book or tending a garden. Time, energy, and the ability to take rejection with a smile and defeats with renewed determination. Not everybody has the psychological makeup to make door-to-door political visits. But even the shyest person can contribute to precinct organizing by doing other needed tasks.

If your area already has an active Democratic organization at the precinct level, join it. If it has one but the leaders are lazy or incompetent, figure how to boot them out and replace them. If there is no organization at all, get one going. The payoff may be in the next election or a decade from now. But it’s a crucial aspect of a progressive future.

I would add that local Democratic clubs and central committees are crucial in this regard, and are often the closest available vehicle for this type of organizing. Many or most not only don’t conduct year-round electoral organizing, but barely even phonebank or canvass for elections. Not coincidentally, most are in desperate need of younger and more diverse membership.

I myself got involved when I moved to Ventura County first by founding the county’s Young Democrats club, then moved on to become Vice Chair and then Chair of the county’s Democratic Central Committee–helping along with my allies in making a large number of reforms along the way to dramatically increase volunteerism, new voter registration and progressive influence on endorsements, resolutions and elections. Those efforts had a significant impact on helping to win local races, and ultimately to help elect Democrats to Congress and the statehouse in a difficult purple district. (I’ve since moved to Santa Barbara County where I now serve the central committee as we approach an exciting season of contested primaries.)

That work isn’t sexy. It doesn’t have the instant gratification of a tweet or a blog post. But it really matters. There’s no substitute for the hard, grinding work of finding and supporting great progressives for local office who will serve as better candidates in the supply chain for the statehouse and in turn for Congress. There’s no substitute for convincing voters, one at a time, that their vote really does count and that they, too, can have a real impact in making our country a more progressive place.

But all of us who are angry about the direction of our country all got involved, each of us county by county all across America, we could easily deny Republicans the White House and the Senate at least, and then soon the House as well pending the 2020 census.

It’s doable. We just have to do the work.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.