Inside the Democratic Party—state conventions


Establishment being Establishment

In meeting after meeting I attend, from county-level to state committees and in every state in the country, you’ll find those who dislike meetings like state conventions because of “the establishment.” But here is a fun fact: the establishment is pretty much whoever shows up. Repeatedly. Show up enough, and suddenly, you are establishment.

It is crazy that it works that way, but if you continually invest time and people see you at frequent state conventions or county meetings, eventually everyone starts to think of you as the establishment.

What exactly is the point of being “establishment” or going to these meetings frequently? Well, if you are working campaigns or if you hope to assist a candidate, being an established voice gives you credibility when you back a candidate and encourage others to give money to the candidate of your choice.

State conventions, as a matter of networking establish party business, sure, but in many states—especially red states—they help establish the credibility of candidates. This doesn’t mean that candidates need to spend a lot of time, or even any amount of time at these events; but having advocates for them in the room to talk to others, well, that does matter.

State conventions can be VERY different.

California notes in their state convention:

There’s lots of work to do, so join us at the 2018 California Democrats State Convention where we’ll ratify candidate endorsements, endorse candidates for statewide office and map out how we can continue to lead the national resistance, define the progressive agenda for America, and remain the Big Blue Beacon of Hope.

Several state organizations do handle candidate endorsements. Other states do not. Some states have short meetings. Others are long, multi-day affairs. Too many Democratic members make the mistake of thinking every state works exactly the way their state party operates. Nothing could be further from the truth: state parties are not McDonald’s, where the menu is always the same.

All state parties have guidance that will inform you about what will happen in your state convention meetings. Understanding what will happen at your state convention makes you better prepared to make decisions on how you participate.

Some investment is long-term

New campaigns are the lifeblood for growth in the Democratic Party. They provide people a reason to vote and get out on the doorstep. They are often the energy that brings new voters in, and helps build the organization.

For all of that to be successful, though, there has to be an organization that can get stronger, and that requires infrastructure that is built to succeed. The greatest mistake many make when I hear about state conventions or national party work is often the idea that “Well, don’t give to your state/county/national organization! We need to take them over!”

But the one thing that exists beyond Election Day and is already planning the next one IS the infrastructure. If your infrastructure needs change, whether you want new officers, new direction, or a new platform, the thing is, you are hoping that the people you believe can do a better job will have something to take over.

If you believe you need to rebuild the party, it is often the implication that you want new leadership. That is something you can do over time, or even quickly. But the decision to, let’s say, set the car on fire, only ends up with your future leadership taking over a burning car—and having a far more difficult time succeeding.

State conventions can help you identify areas in which you can improve, and things that you can accomplish. If you think real change needs to happen you can work effectively to get it done. But you’ll discover if your approach is to tell people to not get involved, not resource, and do no work, you will have a far more difficult time taking positions as the people who show up frequently will quickly outnumber you, as you’ve told all your allies to stay away.

State organizations and even county organizations take time to build, and it is far easier to do long-term damage than it is to rebuild for success. Setbacks take a much bigger hit than do accomplishments.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work to improve, be willing to be critical, call out bad decisions, and work to build better leadership. It just means that if you want success, make sure whatever you are trying to improve is at least in decent enough shape that you have forward momentum—without leaving your butt on fire.

Next week on Nuts & Bolts: Bad Canvass—don’t turn voters off at the door


USA News


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