I don’t know who the next state Chair is going to be. I hear rumors. Then I don’t hear them. And then I hear them again.
But no matter who it turns out to be, there are a few things I want to put on the table. I didn’t always agree with Chairman Joe Cryan, but I can’t imagine anyone more driven, more alive, and more vibrant in the pursuit of victories. I hope the next Chair has a lot of Cryan’s qualities, and maybe a little of his swagger too. I admire him. And looking ahead now, a few suggestions for whoever the next Chair is:
Pretend you’re Howard Dean
When Howard Dean became DNC Chair, he presided over a transformation in the way the party spent money (on local organizing, not pricey beltway consultants), and a shift in the culture from over-reliance in high Democratic performance areas/states to not conceding any voter, or any state, anywhere. We won everything on the back of that seismic shift. I’d love to see that here. But more importantly, I hope the next Chair has their own clearly defined idea of what the NJ Democratic Party can be. Imagine something different, cast that line far out in the water, and change everything. Because there’s a lot in this party that needs to change, and everybody knows it. Imagine what’s possible statewide like Dean did nationally. Stick to your guns, and surprise the hell out of everybody. Because that’s what it’s going to take.
Aggressively pursue 21-County Strategy
Concede no voter. Concede no town. Concede no county. Be the sharpest, cleanest party with a mission that can be understood all over the state. And remember that red county parties need more resources to crack open those places and bring change. And in an atmosphere of crushing GOP infrastructure, the Chairs, county committees and candidates need all the training, and connection you can give them. Form a Red County Task Force at NJDSC.
Exist between elections for people – Have cool events
NJDSC needs a vibrant events arm. Issues Town Halls, Democrat-sponsored book talks with authors on book tours, movies outside in a park in Trenton, or against an outside wall in Jersey City or Camden. Brainstorm. Keep the idea of Democrat alive in people’s minds. Then employ or implore the people who can do it.
Get the Dem State Conference out of Atlantic City, and out of September
I’ll say this as plainly as I can: It’s insane to take 1,000 of the state’s most passionate Dems out of play for a whole half-week just as the rest of the electorate is waking up to the fact that there are candidates running. Move the thing to late spring/early summer (after the non-partisan elections). Nothing against AC, but move it out of there or at least revolve it all over NJ.
Make it a grassroots event, not an insiders’ schmoozefest.
Move it to a college campus.
Make it a convention, not a conference. Use the opportunity to develop platform, bump up training, and let the people in attendance help set the direction of the party by involving them in decision-making, platform-writing.
Make part of the convention open source. Some of the most exciting meetings in the country are run this way.
Listen to The Citizens Campaign
New Jersey has an idea factory for vibrant civic engagement and good government. They’re about clean, fair politics, and they have the sharpest tools in the toolbox to get us there. They don’t work for you – and that’s good – but they have all the answers. Same suggestion, by the way, for my GOP brothers and sisters.
Play with New Media
Webinars for skills-building. Twitter. Show up on political blogs. Write an internship for a vlogger to travel the state and make short videos asking people why they’re Democrats, or interview vets about the country they fought for, interview workers on labor issues. Experiment. Do stuff I haven’t thought of. This won’t cost you much, if anything. It’s not about that. Do it right and it’ll be fun, and make people see you differently.
Give the party a platform
Let the pro-choice ones battle the anti-choice side. Hash out differences on taxes. Make your stand clear on home rule. The party needs to stand for something, and voters need to see what that is. And not inconsequentially, active Democrats need a voice in setting your direction. That’s their route in, how they can buy-in to who the New Jersey Democrats will be.
You have a nifty website. But it doesn’t do enough. Publish the DNC bylaws, NJSDC bylaws and bylaws of every county party. Everybody needs to know the rules, and how to work them to get done what they want to. Knowing the rules levels the playing field, and if you want us to believe that Democratic is also democratic, you’re going to want to level that field.
Post on your site every member of every Democratic County Committee and how to reach that person. This party should make it easy for Democrats to see who’s supposed to be doing the work where they live, and if that person’s unresponsive, then the party should make easy for someone to challenge and contribute that work. UPDATE 8/2/10 – State Committee reps should be posted, too.
Let young people in
I know the party celebrates its youngest. But I think we can be doing more to provide opportunities, access and resources to them – to College Dems, to Young Dems and to the high school kids working their hearts out in local Dem HQs all over the state. Create committees for them to serve, with real participation, direction and responsibility. Ask the Cory Bookers and the Loretta Weinbergs and the Steve Sweeneys of this party to host Open Houses for kids interested in politics, if they’re not already doing that. Do what we did in the 2005 Corzine Connection part of his campaign: host First-Time Voter events where 18-year olds get access to your Senators, your congressmen, your stars. When national political hotshots come here, don’t just run a fundraiser, tack on a free event for young people to meet that person and ask questions. Be creative. See where kids get interested, then find ways to up the ante for them. Above all, listen to them. In about 5 minutes, they’re going to be running the show. Invest now.
That’s it for now. There will be more. This is an Open Thread.