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Friday, March 10, 2006

The Florida Mainstream Democrats and Party Building

The Tallahassee Democrat recently did a peice on the Florida Mainstream Democrats' efforts to revitalize the Democratic Party in rural North Florida.

As you'll notice, I've posted the Florida Mainstream Democrats' website in the Reccomended Links section.

To be honest, I don't exactly agree fully with the Florida Mainstream Democrats purpose. As the article says, "The four-year-old organization is scouring small counties in an effort to tug the state party to the right and reclaim some issues from the Republicans."

I agree to a very small extent that the state party is out of touch (in terms of voters anyways; in terms of actual structure and party buildling - that's a different story.) However, this kind of statement (though not directly from the FMD) leads readers to believe that those in the FDP and its existing county parties are a bunch of whacko Che-Guevara loving leftists. And as we all know, this is absolutely not true. The folks who are involved in the Democratic Party are hard working and passionate people with genuine, deep concerns for their communities and country.

The reason why I've posted FMD in the Reccomended Links section is because I agree with them 110% that county parties need to be rebuilt and existing ones reformed so they are effective again. This is how we will reverse the downward spiral of the Democratic Party in Florida - not by becoming Republican lite. We should reclaim issues that are considered "Republican" - as the article implies is on the purposes of FMD, however this doesn't mean we need to be like them and "jerk the party to the right." Progressives have genuine and thoughtful ideas that aren't radical and far out, which can completely disarm Republicans on their so-called issues. And the facts are behind us. Are Republicans fiscally conservative (an exploding national defecit and growing trade defecit)? Not really. Are they better able to protect America? No (Dubai Port Deal, the 9/11 Commission Report, the Katrina response, et cetera, et cetera.) The challenge for the Democratic Party and the progressive movement is not how far to the right we need to move, but which policies combined with an overall hopeful and optimistic message do we need to put forward? I'm already starting this conversation over at Florida Public Policy.

So, rapping all of this up. FMD has noble intentions - and we are joined at the hip when it comes to rebuilding county parties, which have been neglected and not helped by the state party. However, we disagree when it comes to policy. FMD believes that we need to embrace more conservative policies in order to win back conservative Democratic voters. I say we need a better organization coupled with a strong progressive message that speaks to conservative Democrats and that successfully and intelligently rebuts Republican criticisms and lies and gives an image of the Democratic party that is hopeful about our future and is ready to solve our problems.

And to be fair, FMD has been very kind to me and has a link to this website through their website because of our common cause in rebuilding this party. And Justin, should you read this, think of this as constructive criticism, not a tirade (I'm not that kind of guy anyways.)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Every DEC Needs A Headquarters

Throughout Florida, most DECs currently do not have their own headquarters. They are forced to meet as a general body, hold committee meetings, and conduct critical campaign operations from varying locations throughout their respective county. This is no way to build a party for the long term and also get Democrats elected.

For any DEC to be successful it needs to invest in some real estate to serve as a headquarters. As mentioned breifly already, a headquarters has a number of purposes, yet its main purpose is to centralize all DEC operations.

To be fair, most DECs don't have headquarters because they don't want them, its because they don't have either the organizational capability to go through the motions to get an HQ, or they just don't have the money. I would say that at best it would cost roughly $1,000-$1,500 a month to maintain a top-tier headquarters (this includes broadband internet access) DECs can gain the initial monetary resources need through better fundraising techniques, such as a recurring donor program. If the DEC can get 50 people contributing $20 a month, then it will have the minimum $1,000 a month coming in to rent and maintain a decent HQ. However, I'm also a strong believer in state party intervention here if needed. The state should be providing assistance at all levels in terms of DEC development. It is especially needed here. The FDP could come in, through its DEC Coordinator, and give the local DEC a block grant to rent and maintain a headquarters for say, 2-4 months. During that period, the DEC would be required to set up a recurring donor program and put a certain number of people on it depending on the size of the county and the existing strength of the DEC.

With a headquarters, Democratic Party loyalists won't have to scurry all over their counties to varying locations just to attend a meeting, nor will crucial operations need to be conducted at Bob's house one week and then at Jim's house the next. A headquarters, once again, centralizes operations, and allows the DEC to focus on more important matters (raising money, recruiting candidates and precinct captains, etc...) rather than worry about where the next meeting will be held and whether anyone will show up due to the confusion.