|Title||The Democratic Party Still Doesn’t Get Grassroots Politics (1-29-18)|
|Author||Sarah Jones, Staff Writer for the New Republic|
Will the Democratic Party seize the opportunity to go local?
Historic numbers of young women and men running for public office, both legislative and executive. Smart, idealistic and principled, they run to make a difference in their communities, often with minimal national resources. Without such support, or any guidance at all, one cannot help but wonder if their enthusiasm will survive their first electoral loss. The importance of money in politics cannot be denied, but shouldn’t we expect more from our future leaders than how much money they can raise?
Despite the mounting fervor of local politics, national Democrats like those at the DCCC seem less than enthusiastic about new campaign methods. New candidates seeking support from the DCCC face a gauntlet of off-putting screening tactics, including questions about their fund-raising contacts. Such recruitment tests, while arguably a rational response the DCCC’s fund-raising failings, call into question the ability of national Democrats or any party organization to build and sustain a strong network of young leaders.
If the Democratic Party is too feckless to harness progressive political energy at the local level, on what institutions should we rely to develop the leadership of the future? The answer is unclear, but one path could be to invest in non-partisan leadership institutes that share the values of those young leaders. Developing young leaders with progressive values, particularly those with marginalized backgrounds, requires networking, mentoring, systems and tools, not just money. This is one investment that we cannot afford to neglect.
One of the prerequisites of civic renewal is effective leadership. While some may be born effective leaders, most are not. They are picked from the crowd, nurtured and mentored. We don’t just throw them to the wolves, we share our experiences, give them the tools and point them in the right direction. Then we get out of the way. They will do us proud.