Dear Louisville Democratic Party: Get Serious

Bruce Maples (bruceinlouisville@gmail.com)
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(Louisville) It’s a presidential election year, and you know what that means? It means that, according to state party rules, our Louisville Democratic Party has to “reorganize,” or elect its leadership for the next four years. (Why in the world we put new leaders in place right before a major election, I have no idea.) So, as our local party prepares to choose its leaders for the next four years, I have two words of advice for that leadership: Get serious.

Make that four words: Get the hell serious.

No, make that eight words: Get the hell serious about the right things.

Let me be clear. There are some good people in our local party, people who work hard. They realize how important an effective Democratic party is to the future of our city and state, and they want to see that happen. This article is not aimed at them.

But all you have to do is look at election results, or talk with elected officials and candidates, to realize that our local party structure is more concerned with holding office than winning elections, more interested in fighting each other than fighting for change, and bankrupt when it comes to both their pocketbook and their vision for the future.

So, to the local party Chair and the Executive Committee, current and future, here are the things you need to get the hell serious about:

Get serious about rebuilding the organization.

For decades, we have abandoned local grassroots organizing, and hoped that paid workers and advertising would win the day. Guess what? It’s not working.

For decades, we have spent three-and-a-half years ignoring our districts and precincts and the voters within them, only to go into panic mode right before an election because we need a ground game. Guess what? It’s not working.

The reason the party is organized by State House districts (“legislative districts”) is so that each Legislative District Chair can be responsible for that part of the county. Otherwise, we’d just have county-wide elections for party leadership.

Ideally, then, each LD chair would line up persons in the LD to help organize and motivate the Democrats in that district. Ideally ideally, you’d have persons in each precinct – the once-upon-a-time “precinct captain” – who would know the volunteers and voters in their precinct, and would be able to move “the party” into gear when needed. There are about 40 precincts in each LD, so each LD chair would need to line up 40 precinct captains; not an easy task, but not impossible either. And you’ve got four years to do it before the next big election.

Think I’m asking the impossible? Well, if people in Nassau can do it, and people in Sarasota, and people in Dallas County, Texas, and even the entire state of Texas, then I think we ought to be able to figure it out as well. If we’re serious, that is.

Get serious about raising money.

For years, the budget of the local party has essentially been “enough to pay the rent and keep the lights on.” A few years ago, the annual fundraising dinner brought in almost $20,000 (if my memory serves correctly), and everyone was ecstatic … except for one curmudgeon (me), who kept asking “is it enough to hire a staff or an executive director or place ads?” People just looked at me like I’d lost my mind.

And that’s the problem: we have a small budget because we have a small vision. We need to put a plan together that is bold, find leadership that can make it happen, then go after the local money to fund it. There are people in this town who can make that happen – but as long as the party is satisfied with just keeping the lights on, those people will keep their wallets in their pockets.

We need a checkbook that’s big enough to power a major political party in a city our size. If we’re serious, that is.

Get serious about holding people accountable.

Here’s a question: if you owned a business and had a sales manager who didn’t manage her district, didn’t take part in sales initiatives, and didn’t come to staff meetings, what would you do? You’d fire that sales manager, and find someone who was ready to work.

And yet, we’ve got leaders who don’t come to meetings, don’t volunteer for campaigns, don’t help the candidates in their district … yet still are in leadership positions in our local party. I was even told that last fall, members of party leadership were asked to just put a yard sign in their yard – and some wouldn’t even do that, much less go canvassing or do phone-banking.

It’s time to hold leaders accountable. It’s time to make it plain that you’re elected to serve and to work hard, and not just to get your name on a web page and have people kiss up to you at social events. And if you’re too busy to attend the meetings, or walk your district, or phone bank or deliver signs … then you’re too busy to be in leadership of the Democratic party.

We need to set expectations for our leaders, and hold our leaders to those expectations. If we’re serious, that is.

Get serious about a big vision for the party.

Years ago, I started going to therapy to work on some self-esteem issues. (Yes, really. <g>) My therapist shared a concept that I’ve never forgotten: congruence. Essentially, he told me, I had a poor image of myself, and even though I was able to be very successful, I would act in such a way that my external reality would come into congruence with my internal self-image. In other words, I would make my outer world match my inner world, and my inner world was a negative self-image.

For years, our local party has struck me as living in this same manner. Our facilities, our plans, our vision, all seem to say “We’re just a small, poor, local party of volunteers. We don’t have much, we can’t do much, and we can’t be much.”

It’s time for that to change.

We need leadership that dreams big, plans big, and executes big. We are the majority party in the largest city in the state, and we need to act like it. Our plans matter; our actions matter; and most important of all, our results matter. Let’s stop acting as if we only deserve leftovers, and let’s get serious about these four things. Let’s become the party we can and deserve to be.

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