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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Role of Clubs

When I first got involved in real politics (I was in student government before I got involved in the Democratic party, and even though in student government there is certainly politics, its not exactly the real deal) I was introduced to the local Democratic Party through the local club, in this case the South Marion Democratic Club.

Contrary to what many say are dying institutions in the local Democratic scene, I believe clubs will be critically important to the party's future.

However, critics of clubs do have their points. They say that clubs are on their way out for a reason. Here's why:
  • Clubs have become too social.
  • Clubs, in some cases, have become too exclusionary (they build an establishment which doesn't want to deal with new people over time.)
  • Clubs have lost their focus.
  • Clubs don't know where they fit in the overall picture.
  • Clubs are seen as ineffective in the overall political scene.
To be honest, I have seen all of these elements in local clubs, though not all at once. Also, many in clubs see these problems, yet are unsure about what to do about them.

I believe that we can move clubs back toward political and institutional relevance by defining or redefining their role in the DEC. Because too many clubs have been left up to themselves to figure out what they should do, you get the kind of disorganized and inefficient clubs that you do see (to be fair, not ALL clubs are like this, there are still many of effective clubs throughout the nation.)

Clubs should focus on the following aims (this is their role):

Precinct Organizing
: The county DEC should divide up their county into regions (based on precinct lines) with clubs at the center of each region. It should be the individual club's responsibility to recruit precinct captains for each precinct in the area. The very process of organizing a single precinct (which will be discussed in an upcoming post) will generate new membership for the club as well as a new pool of volunteers and donors not only for the club, but for the DEC and campaigns.

Introducing Citizens To The Party: Let's face it. The vast majority of citizens in your area are probably not that politically active : you're the weird one. So when new members are added to clubs through precinct organizing and overall outreach, it should be the club's goal to introduce citizens to what the Democratic Party is and stands for, as well as local candidates.

Keeping Citizens Educated and Smart: One of the main reasons I believe our democracy has been so damaged recently is because most citizens don't have a clue what's going on (especially at the local and state level) - and this includes Democrats! Democratic clubs should be extremely active in holding community meetings and seminars on the important issues of the day, and bringing in speakers and public officials which can shed light on these issues. They should also be invovled in researching issues.

In short, clubs should be the outreach vehicles for the county DEC. The ideas mentioned above don't sacrifice the social factor which has kept clubs vibrant institutions inside the DEC. Having parties (including free food and punch - staples of a standard club meeting) can be incorporated into organizing precincts as well as in community meetings and seminars.

If clubs begin to realize their role as outreach vehicles, they will become the most important institutions outside the actual DEC. Most importantly, the Democratic Party and the state of democracy here in the United States will be much better off.