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Thursday, November 24, 2016


The new hotness

by Tom Sullivan

Nothing like a good drubbing to motivate people. I suppose that's something to be thankful for this morning. The upside is it seems to be getting people off the couch for the first time ever. Activist friends around the country report that Democratic Party meetings are brimming with new faces. The answering machine at the local Democratic Party office this week stopped picking up messages after maxing out the memory. Callers are almost all women.

"Hello, my name is ____. My phone number is ____. I'd like to volunteer. I want to help organize." They don't even know what for. They just need to do something.

Political organizing is mostly long hours and grunt work. That's not obvious to people jumping in for the first time. People new to politics arrive with unrealistic expectations. (No, we don't have any paying positions available; we're all volunteers.) We're still cleaning up from the election after work and on weekends: shredding walk lists, recycling yard signs, preparing for a special election to fill a vacancy created when one of our candidates got elected to another office. Our governor's race is not yet settled. Noobs alarmed by the ascendancy of white nationalists may figure we're old and busted because we're not there to answer the phones 24/7/365 and waiting with a menu of exciting and meaningful things for them to do RIGHT NOW. So it goes. My job is open in April.

This is a good problem to have. A seriously good problem. But there will be a learning curve. For example, there is a call for a Women's March on Washington. People here are wondering who is organizing buses, but perhaps prematurely. "[A]fter the stunning upset of a candidate widely viewed as a fascist sexual predator over what might have been America’s first female president, a lot of women had the same idea," writes Christina Cauterucci:

Originally dubbed the Million Woman March, it’s now the Women’s March on Washington, it’s scheduled for the day after Trump’s inauguration, and, as of this writing, 116,856 people from all over the country have said on Facebook that they are “going.” What they’re “going” to—and when, and where—nobody knows. Not even the people in charge.
The event is "still in its early planning stages." Planning and logistics for such an event are complex. The National Park Service has "seven permit applications from five organizations for the same sites at the same time" already in the queue. Cauterucci continues with a cautionary tale about looking before leaping:
Without any clear direction from major players in the field, a group of motivated women with no grasp of communications strategy or how busy the Lincoln Memorial might be on inauguration weekend stumbled into the vacuum. These white women basically wished a march on Washington out of the air—and thanks in large part to the sweat and know-how of the women of color who’ve helped them right the ship, some version of that wish looks likely to come true. Perez told me it’s easy to get overwhelmed when an event attracts more than 116,000 RSVPs before a solid plan is in place. “Then your initial next reaction is ‘let’s get organized,’ ” she said. “We’re doing the work. We’re doing the best that we can.”
A lot of this new surge in activism is still emergent.

I called a friend in Raleigh yesterday afternoon to see what she knew about new groups forming for women to address Trumpism, etc. She had to call me back, she said. She was in a six-hour meeting right then doing just that. They were forming the NC chapter of Emerge America:
Emerge America is the premier training program for Democratic women.
We inspire women to run, we hone their skills to win.
Our goal is clear: to increase the number of Democratic women in public office.
A broader problem is going to be installing new blood in a Democratic Party encrusted with old ideas and old habits and slow to make way for new talent still on that learning curve. Sen. Chuck Schumer may have rushed to embrace Rep. Keith Ellison's bid for DNC chair, but he's reading the wind, not suddenly embracing a fresh vision. There still is not an appetite at top levels for new leadership. The White House is exploring instead whether Joe Biden might be interested or "whether Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez and former Gov. Jennifer Granholm of Michigan would be willing to run for the post." Whatever their accomplishments and talents, that won't say "new hotness" to an emerging generation of activists hungry for a party overhaul. It will sound more like "old and busted." Now, if Michelle Obama wanted the job....

Will they hand over the keys or not?