The past two years have been a difficult time for the SCDP. Despite all the new energy we heard about in the 2008 Presidential election, the SCDP remained relatively quiet and kept a low profile until the ”ballotgate” fiasco just weeks before election day.
It would be easy enough to talk about all the problems at SCDP, but at this point, piling on may not be constructive. Perhaps now it’s best to look forward, not forgetting what has happened, but focusing on what the SCDP should seek to accomplish in the run up to election day 2010.
First and foremost, the SCDP has a responsibility to get Democrats elected. They can do this by raising funds, helping support candidates through GOTV and other grassroots operations, and maintaining a recognizable brand throughout the county.
Last year, Shelby County elected a Democrat in every contested race for State government. This is an accomplishment considering some of the losses that Democrats faced last year.
In 2010, we have a distinct opportunity and challenge. First, we have to defend Senate districts 29 and 33, mount a challenge to 31, and at the very least, maintain the House seats we currently have. Secondly, we have County elections. Even though newly elected Commissioner Matt Kuhn has said he will not seek election in 2010, there are still 7 other Democratic seats to defend on the Commission, as well as the issue of County Mayor. Finally, we have the Governor’s race. While the Democratic side isn’t nearly as active with primary candidates as the Republican, Shelby County, as the largest and most solidly Democratic county in Tennessee, has a duty to lead the charge in West Tennessee, to get our candidate in front of people, and work with County Party organizations in West Tennessee to help get Democratic voters out in their areas.
All of these goals are completely doable under the stewardship of a healthy party leadership. The reality is, we haven’t seen much healthy leadership in some time. So once the re-organization is complete, it may be a good idea for the newly installed leadership to do some soul searching. Not about what the party should “feel like” or anything metaphysical, but about how the various factions of the party can come to trust one another and better work together for a common goal; keeping Shelby County a deep, rich, royal blue and making it bluer.
This means setting aside some of the long-held assumptions about each other. This means taking emotion out of the mix and working together rationally and logically. Most of all, this means looking at the past, with an eye toward the future, to ensure that the party doesn’t get mired in some of the factional fights, but can also get stuff done.
In addition to some of the factional issues, the party needs to do more and get better at reaching out to local Democrats. While I am in contact with several Execom members from time to time, many people don’t know how to contact the leadership of the party. The truth of the matter is, people will more likely bitch about something rather than going out of their way to do something about it. The party has to get better at involving and engaging people outside of the Execom. This means more transparency, and taking steps to actively engage interested individuals. Engaging people is the fastest way to raise money and an army of volunteers, but it takes time, a continued effort and discipline. The members of the next SCDP Execom should make a commitment to engage people outside of leadership, for the strength of the party
Looking forward, the SCDP has much more potential than it is demonstrating. Realizing that potential, despite all the challenges, is the trick. It’s not particularly difficult, but for the party to grow it means working intentionally in that direction. I hope all the new Execom members take the challenge of building the party up and out as an opportunity, rather than a burden. That’s the only way we can see the SCDP take it’s rightful place at the table.