Watching The Party Die

So, yea, The Missus and I trudged up to Springfield to attend the monthly meeting of the County Democratic Party.  Just for fun, I attempted to live-blog it, But, really, has anyone ever improved their hit count by covering a wake?  Actually, being part of a Latino family, with more than a few Irish married in, I’ve actually been at more lively wakes.  There was a moment, however, that passed all to quickly but at least provided a brief respite from the tedium, which I will tell y’all about in a minute.

Our County Chair wasn’t present.  I looked around, and saw almost no new faces since the 04 campaign.  I am over 50 yrs old, and I was about the youngest person present (notwithstanding  the Missus, who could barely conceal her glee  when someone asked her if she was my daughter), and I remarked that I felt it might be prudent to have EMS on hand for these meetings, or, absent that, at least a defibrillator.    After the (surprise!) prayer, we recited the pledge of allegiance, sat down, and learned that the Party had a few thousand dollars on hand, and no debt.  There was all the same announcements made about the annual Hand Farm event, which consumes enormous time and manpower, and generated roughly 1100 dollars during the 04 election cycle, or, about as much as the Missus and I raised in a single night for the County in 04, by bringing in some  musical talent from Nashville.  I think her and I put it together in about 6 hours.

The two candidates spoke.  I say spoke, since their mouths indeed opened and closed and words escaped, but I wouldn’t describe it as fiery oration.  Ok, I couldn’t truthfully describe it as oration.  The thing is, these guys are attractive candidates, but the only reason I know this is because I’m one of three people in this county with access to The inner-tubes, and I read their bios online. I’ll have more on both of them later, since I’ve decided to “interview” them in some sort of journalistic fashion.  Or, I might just make some shit up.  Check back.

So, I’m sitting there, literally pinching myself to keep from jumping up and screaming “where the hell are all the young people, and, um, could we at least have some token people of color present?” ( I mean, sure, there was me, a brown skinned, dark eyed person of questionable legal status, and two black men, but only one of them was a new face)  All of a sudden, a well-dressed (dare I say…clean, and articulate) African American man stood up and asked that very same question.  Man, Colbert would have been proud, watching the Party Secretary, the Vice Chair, and even one of the candidates out “black-friend” each other.   Apparently, our Party Secretary was “active” in the Civil Rights Movement, and even marched with Dr. King, thank you very much.  Surely it put the man at ease when one of the candidates offered up the fact that he counts several African Americans among his close, personal friends.  I swear to God.

It kills me to be cynical about all of this.  But The Missus and I put in countless hours working on behalf of the County Party in 04.  We recruited and organized volunteers, registered voters, held rallies and fund-raised, slopped food at events, canvassed neighborhoods and manned phones, so I feel we have earned the right to be heard, though we are never asked to participate In planning discussions by the Party elders.  The only way for us to try and bring the Party into the 21st century would have been to stage a coup d’etat. (which we almost did, but decided to get sloshed and play cards instead) The thing is, there is much we can do to improve turnout and participation, and to prepare some youngsters to take our places in time.  We can, without spending too much money, at least attempt to weigh in on the propaganda war.  In short, we need leadership.  A little vision wouldn’t hurt.

We have, finally, a candidate at the top of the ticket that can frame a position clearly, and who has generated excitement at a level I haven’t seen since Bobby Kennedy’s campaign, who has raised obscene amounts of money, and beat the formidable Clinton machine, and yet, his name wasn’t mentioned until almost 25 minutes of stumping had passed. It just makes me fear for the future of our Party, and our County.

More later.

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24 Comments

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24 responses to “Watching The Party Die

  1. Where were the young people? Well, it’s Springfield and August and a Tuesday night. I’d imagine they’re swimming or drinking or (most likely) working one of the two or three jobs they have to keep in order to pay for gas.

    The older I get the more it seems like politics of any stripe are a game for the older folks, seeing as the younger you are the more you have to do TODAY to keep your shit together.

    I’m not a Democrat (and more wasted words were never typed, honestly) but I have to say that any party who wants to energise young people has to do more to engage them than just saying “you should be political.”

    Or, for God’s sake, “rocking” the vote.

  2. Same thing happens here. And younger people are very discouraged with the older folks running things like a death march.
    So, we look for other alternatives to keep them involved.
    It works sometimes but it’s still discouraging.

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  4. Re: the young people – during the 2004 campaign I went to a couple of local meetings (prior to the selection of Kerry), and was completely turned off from ever going back due to the overbearing presence of certain older dudes who seemed to be in it for personal power or attention or something rather than for engaging people in the process. It was very “We’re old and have been doing this forever, so we’re going to talk our damn heads off and tell you what to do.” It’s fine to lead, but that “blah blah blah look at me and my connections” style of leadership is BS and I didn’t want to be any local small-fry yahoo’s follower. Not that I had a reaction to it. Ahem. 🙂

  5. Rachel has hit the nail on the head, I think. Younger people expect particiation and they epect people to actually listen actively to their ideas.

    I’m reinded of the story of the college history teacher that had each one in her new class tell a little bit about themselves and what they expected to learn. After each had finished,there was a huge hush and they all stared at her. When she asked why, what was going on, they asked her to explain why she felt qualitfied to teach them. They wanted to know they were getting good value for their time, was she still engaged after 25 years, still on top of her game. Typical party leaders don’t understand that, I expect.

  6. Wow… your post struck a nerve here.

    I quit attending the Hickman County Democratic events about 10 years ago. The “movers and shakers” (if you can call them that) are more interested in holding on to any power or prestige they might get from shaking the hand of a candidate somewhere along the way than to getting out the vote. I think the most prestigious party insider’s claim to fame was a stint as an intern in Congressman Robin Beard’s office in 1960.

    Also, being a single male over 50 (over 40 at the time), the predictable “rumors” about my sexual preference got stirred up… and these were the DEMOCRATS! I was definitely not welcomed.

    Anyway, I noticed there was going to be a Saturday morning meeting at the library a couple of miles from me last weekend, so I guzzled down my coffee and headed that way.

    It was the most negative meeting of any kind that I think I have ever attended. From the chairman referring to our presidential candidate as “Bahama” (I am not sure that wasn’t intentional), to the secretary expressing her agreement with a local sign which reads, “I want my rotary phone back so I don’t have to punch 1 for English.” They went on to make snide remarks about two of my friends… it is a small community and chances are somebody is going to know (or be kin to) the person you are talking about.

    I got put on a committee because I was “young blood” (at 53). Of course, attempts to contact the others from the committee since Saturday have been futile… I assume the rumor mill has ramped up again.

    I get so disgusted when I hear liberals on the national level say the South should be written off as a hopeless cause. I am beginning to come around to their way of thinking, though.

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  8. Don’t worry – it’s happening to Republicans, too.

    I had to cancel a protest because of disinterest.

    It’s sad.

  9. Kat, I had to laugh about your “rock the vote” observation. I totally agree. Where is it written that we have to have these meetings on Tues night? For God’s sake, the meetings are held at THE SENIOR CITIZEN’S CENTER! I imagine thats a huge draw for the younger set.

    Rachel and Jim, yes, not only is there no interest in hearing from the younger ones, there is no interest in hearing feedback from the people doing the scut work. When you knock on doors, people talk to you. I think the candidates should hear what they are saying.

    Both candidates offered no reason to vote for them last night, other than, well, we’re Democrats. It frustrates me to see the emphasis being put on fund raising, especially since we can do so much more than we are doing for little or no cost.

  10. The Missus

    On the bright side it was a decent turn out for our small county. The elected leadership of our county party has changed since 04, the co-chair seemed to be fairly lively, she even attempted to collect email addresses which would have never happened in 04.
    I’m also pleased to see the folks from TNDP active in our area this cycle. So I’m trying to stay positive, maybe someone will pray for me to stay hopeful or pledge their allegiance to every uterus.

  11. Thanks for the great post, Mack.

    I’d like to ask TennTom, Rachel and the other “young folks” who did try to get involved with their county party what they think a good alternative would be to mobilize young people. I sense there’s a tremendous interest in politics among the younger generation, and their energy and savvy is definitely something that we need. But groups like the Young Democrats or College Democrats don’t filter down to the county level.

    What would be a good framework for mobilizing young people in rural areas? Would Meet Up work? I always thought of that as a city thing. Would there be a way to connect and engage people via the internet?

  12. Len

    This is a problem I confront as an activist in a neighboring county (Sumner), but clearly to a lesser extent. We have some young people involved (starting at age 16 and working up from there) but not enough. I’m 43 and feel young at most meetings, although most members of the party hierarchy are around that age.
    We’ve been getting a better mix and larger crowds by doing the usual “young think” stuff:
    1) We have a Facebook page (I’ve even heard of Twitter and YouTube!!)
    2) We actually support Barack Obama (and even link to his website from ours!)
    3) We mix up our monthly events (in July we had a picnic at a local park on the lake -a younger crowd definitely was present)
    4) We attempt outreach to local high schools and the local community college.
    5) We attempt to recruit younger candidates.
    6) We are everywhere we can be in our county with our limited resources.
    7) We target new/younger voters with robo calls and direct mail.
    8) We have people who blog.
    9) We are inclusive (We have actual “liberals” in our midst. Some of you may have heard of these exotic, tolerant creatures. There is a small conclave alive and well in Sumner County!) and have changed party bylaws to put it on paper.

    Even with all this, we are just scratching the surface and could do much more.
    If anyone would like to help out in a county with a few energetic campaigns, visit our website or contact me. We call, we canvass, we mail, we fundraise. We try to stay alive in a red county.

    The “redness” contrasts with the blue lean in Robertson. Complacency is a part of the problem. However, I will say the new Chair in Robertson County is a young guy, with ideas and a desire to grow the party. He should be given time -it really does require it -years of it.

  13. And another take on our political youth … Whatever happened to party loyalty?!

    “A 19 year-old district delegate of the Democratic Party is going to be allowed to keep her position after she faced expulsion for appearing at a Republican event.”

  14. I have to say, at age 46 I feel like the old-timer when I show up at party HQ (but of course that’s Davidson County). All of the field organizers and Obama staff here now are young twerps in their twenties and thirties.

    🙂

  15. You’ve been aborting them for decades. The republicans are out-breeding you.

    🙂

  16. Len, I want to answer your comment with a new post, if you don’t mind. BTW, send me the url of the blog, so that I may link to you.

  17. EX, I’m Latino. Nobody out-breeds us.

  18. democommie

    It would be interesting to see the breakout on just who gets the abortions. I’m thinking that a lot of them are not voters.

  19. I honestly don’t know how you get younger folks involved in a place like Hickman County. Upon graduation, most young people move away… going to college or getting a better job than they can at home. Some of us do return after a while.

    There have been a few “younger” people involved in the county party along the way, but they don’t seem to have lasted long. I think it is because the old farts aren’t willing to give up their control. Plus, the young Democrats are mainly the children and grandchildren of the old farts.

    Oh… by the way… I got an Email this evening from a friend who lives in Centerville. The sign that once said, “I want my rotary phone back so I can’t dial 1 for English”, now says, “If it is ok to call Bush Hitler, it is ok to call Obama Muslim”.

    I am thinking of moving out of the South! 😦

  20. Jackie

    As someone who has been active in the county party for the past 4 years, 1st let me ask, where have you been? You state that you and the misses were the youngest people there, I am the vice-chair that you refered to, and I am 32. My husband was there he is 33 and there were two new gentlemen there that were 22 and 23. I guess from the back corner where you sat you couldn’t see or hear them. Yes in the past four years that you have not been present there has been alot of changes. Yes the event at the Charles Hand Farm requires manpower, although it raises more than the $1100 you suggested. There again, it takes more one meetings attendance to know what goes on in the party. If you had been in attendance for more than one meeting you would know that we have more than tripled in size, and each meeting is bringing in new faces of all ages and colors! Since you are so concerned about it, please feel free to attend our next meeting and bring more people with you. We want to expand in all directions. Remember as far as the older generation is concerned, they are the ones who in their younger years did the work, and would love to hand it over to the younger generation, but since the younger generation hasn’t stepped up, they keep trudging along. It is not the fault of these pioneers, that noone has stepped up to replace them yet, of course you would know that also, if you had attended more than one meeting.

  21. Jackie, thanks for visiting and chiming in. You say you have been active in the Party for four years. I can only assume you mean after the 04 campaign…since I didn’t see hide not hair of you during our volunteer meetings, canvassing events, fundraisng, visibility rallies, or voter registration drives. The fact is, with rare exception, we didn’t see anyone that was present at that meeting. The last Chair couldn’t be bothered to help, and indeed seemed to actively work against us.

    At least Cheryl and her Mother manned the office. In the interest of fairness, please inform those of us who might not have been paying attention, to what the County Party has accomplished since 04. Those faces at the meetings are not, by and large, new. I remember most of them from 04.

    It isn’t just our county, if that helps. Read these comments. Rural communities have largely been ignored by the State Party…and the Republicans have quietly been getting themselves elected to Alderman seats, School Boards, etc. Some of us, willing to invest time and effort, have been shut-out in favor of those wishing to maintain the status quo.

  22. Jackie,

    Thank you for the reality check.

    First, I want to retract my comment about the party faithful in my county being “old farts”. That was a terrible thing to say.

    There is such a frustration on the part of many of us because we identify with the National Democrats, but we feel shunned by the local organizations. I don’t think the latter yet realize the Democratic Party can be (and is at higher levels) under a big umbrella… welcoming many perspectives and backgrounds.

    I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but I see local Democrats still living in the days of the “Southern Democrats”… they had might as well call themselves Republicans. They can’t bring themselves to honestly support many of our candidates, and their tacid backing can often do more harm than good because people see right through it.

    Anyway, thanks again for bringing another perspective to the conversation. I would say Robertson County is fortunate to have you!

  23. The Missus

    Jackie I’m glad you stopped by Mack’s place. I look forward to working with you.

  24. democommie

    Mack:

    I took photographs of several campaign events and volunteered to do the same throughout the “off season” (it was a special election to fill a vacated seat for about 10 months). I gave my card to about 30 or so folks who said they would get back to me, including the city’s party manager. Not one call. Fuck ’em. I’ll vote for the guy who has is the dem, regardless–whatever it takes to break the current cycle of insanity–but I don’t think I’ll be busting my ass for the local party folks, ever.

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