I've read plenty of postmortems about the election. I've also been seeing some gloating from folks who believe that Hillary Clinton was not the top choice of Democrats, and had Sanders been the nominee, he would have won. Quick note on that: Hillary Clinton was the choice of more than 4 million more Democrats than Bernie Sanders. Hell, she was the choice of more than 2 million more voters than Donald Trump. So...the top choice of Democrats was, in fact, the nominee. And whether Bernie Sanders could have done better - who knows. Perhaps he could have picked up a couple rust-belt states, but there is no guarantee he could have won states like Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire, or Virginia.
But that's all noise. I'm an eternal optimist, and believe in looking forward at what can be done to change outcomes. Nationally, that means we must go back to having a 50-state strategy. And our next Democratic Party Chair should be someone who can forcefully push back against the GOP, and carry a message that candidates across the country can join in on. While there are instances where relying on candidates is kind of a thing (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, for instance), the passage of ballot measures that basically make up our Party Platform should be a lesson - run on pay equity, minimum wage increases, sick and safe leave minimums, worker rights, etc.
Locally, we should be doing the same thing. I recently signed on to a letter calling for a serious conversation and in support of a contested State Party Chair race in Washington. I did this because we continue to see failures in legislative races in Washington, and a lack of strategy between elections to build the Party and build a bench. If our current leadership is not up to the task of changing what is clearly not working, then it's time for new leadership.
To me, that looks like having paid area organizers year round. Working with LD organizations and people who are interested in being more active in the Party, this is an easy way to keep our base active and engaged in a productive way at all times. This also means more ability to play in local elections - city councils and school boards - that create the bench for legislative races.
It also means working with ally organizations and legislative caucus groups on a statewide message that our candidates run on. At the same time, being more active and engaged in messaging at all times. We see the GOP Chair in the news all the time, but rarely the Democratic Party Chair. And yes - the GOP Chair makes little sense, but exposure is a good thing, and a way to help build our candidates.
Further, taking a stance on the issue that causes a fight every four years - the caucus. I'm on record as a supporter of the caucus system, but I also understand the frustration of Democrats who aren't comfortable going to participate in an arcane process. I'm also on record willing to compromise to keep caucuses for delegate selection, and do so with allocation based on primary results.
Even more locally, there are LD and County Party re-organizations coming up. As Chair of the King County Young Democrats, I like to think I understand a thing or two about operations of a Party organization. (It also helps I've been on the Board of the 43rd District Democrats, and was Endorsements Committee chair of the County Democratic Party for two years). With the new infusion of activists - either due to Sanders, or in response to Trump - we are already seeing a lot of contested races. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
But I do have a word of caution - be wary of over-committing yourself. And also be wary of the "throw out the bums" mentality that some might have. Because at the local level, not everyone we think is a bum is a bum.
Success or failure of a local Party organization has a little bit to do with the Chair, but mostly has to do with the team. Each organization has a different structure, but generally includes someone to focus on fundraising, someone to focus on membership and PCO recruitment, someone to focus on communications, and someone to focus on tech. Plus - representatives to superior Party organizations (ie: each LD has two reps to the State Party and two reps to the County Party. The County Party has two reps to the State Party.)
I've been asked to run for King County Democratic Central Committee Chair and/or State Committee Member - Male. I'm not going to do either at the County level. There is no doubt that I don't get along well with the current leadership - I find them to be incompetent at times (how people don't understand their own endorsement processes and rules is beyond me), and slow to respond to racist remarks from executive board members. Plus, of course, the former First Vice Chair advocating for an island to ship folks experiencing homelessness off to, and what I believe was a weak response (plus the County Party arguing with me over Twitter that it was somehow my fault for pointing out this person's position that they ended up in the cross-hairs).
But I think there have been meaningful steps to get better. While I still question the judgment of Chair Rich Erwin in who he picks as some of his closer advisers, I also recognize how he has grown in the position, and has continued to work to improve a broken system. His second year was miles ahead of his first, and with the right team, I believe he can be even more successful if he is re-elected - but that also comes with a duty to start putting more new folks into committee positions that matter. This is not an endorsement, but an acknowledgment - it's easy to ignore your critics, and it is easy to criticize. Rich has worked to recognize and grow from criticisms lobbed in his direction.
My biggest differences with Rich (and probably anyone running for Chair) is my desire to basically break everything down. No more than four meetings per year, defer most other day-to-day operations to committees (with a budget approved by the full executive board), and focus on rebuilding trust with partner organizations and become a trusted place to contribute in order to influence local elections. Bickering over Roberts' Rules of Order, resolutions that go nowhere, or process doesn't help elect Democrats, after all.
I'm looking forward to re-org for the County Party. And I encourage folks to learn more about the options, and talk with their friends who are PCOs and who have a vote to do just that. If you have an idea or something you want to know more about that might get you more involved - reach out to the candidates running.
This is important because we will have legislative races next year that need your help. A sustained opposition to the incoming administration requires work at all levels, and to keep a safe place in Washington, we need to take back the Legislature and win more down-ballot races in 2017.
And if you are just getting involved - don't take on so much you might burn out. We need you in 2017, 2018, 2019, and beyond. There's a lot of work to do in the coming years, and a healthy mix of the folks who have been successfully doing that work, along with new folks (and the old folks have to be welcoming to the new folks), is going to be vital to fixing systemic issues with our Party.