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Saturday, February 25, 2006

DECs Should Embrace the Role of Local Policymaker and Innovator

DECs have been increasingly focused on camapaigns, candidates, and election cycles. This is OK, because it is their main purpose (currently) to get Democrats elected. But looking in in the long term, and increasingly in the short term as Democrats keep losing, DECs should realize that campaigns aren't the all to end all. What really propels campaings? What provoks long term realignment ( what should be the real goal of any DEC and the Democratic Party)? What can take a weak, losing minority party and turn it into a political powerhouse? One word: ideas.

The source of the Democratic Party's slow erosion at the national level since the late 1970s onward began in neighborhoods and communities across America. Republicans were able to get elected at the local level, which in turn provided a farm team for state, and then national office, as well as fodder for think tanks, the right's media machine, and its overall political party infrastructure nationwide.

The route for the Democrats back to power is through local office. But we cannot just expect to get the increasingly dissolusioned base out to vote, as well as persuade independents to cross over by going about politics as usual, or even by railing at Republican ineptitude. We need our own ideas. Democrats and progressives are not devoid of ideas, as many right-wing talking heads will have you believe. There is a multitude of ideas out there, our problem is putting them all together in cohesive platforms and agendas, and then weaving them together with effective public relations strategies.

As I said in previous posts on DEC model structures, DECs should form their own Policy Committies, and later when resources become available, hire a Policy Director to manage it. Local problems should be worked out by these committees and hired staff which should form a county platform. The platform, for each plank, should include background information on the issue, possible (or lack of) attempts in the past to solve the issue, and a series of proposals to solve the problem. There should be talking points for each plank to be distributed to precinct captains and communications staffers/volunteers. Many are critical of forming platforms, as "no one reads them." Indeed, if county or state platforms are introduced to the public in the form of one press release (if at all), then yes, no one will read them or care. However, if these platforms give some substantial and credible proposals (unlike many state platforms, which are mostly a bunch of fancy, useless wording), and is backed up a vigorous PR campaign which includes articulation of proposals by candidates, party officials, precinct captains, and on the ground volunteers, people will listen and respond with their votes.

DECs should not wait for the state or national party to hand down the overall message, because in all honesty, the DNC is in charge of national message, and the FDP is in charge of state message. There are many important local issues that just simply will never be addressed by the state party, because they don't need to.

At the end of hte day, its up to the DECs to become local policymakers and innovators and provide candidates and citizens with the tools needed to improve their communities.

I've started up a blog, Florida Public Policy, to give progressives at all levels proper background information and possible solutions to local and state issues. I encourage all progressives to check it out!

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