Do MA Dems Have the Statewide Infrastructure to Resist Trump?

It is telling that the Indivisible groups are sprouting up parallel to the Democratic party itself. Some local Dem party outfits (DTCs et al) are a lot better at encouraging, absorbing and channeling energies than others. Sounds like a best-practices scour for Gus Bickford. Gus, are you reading? This is not a new problem. -Charley - promoted by david

Mattapoisett Democrats meet (Steve Urbon/N.B. Standard-Times)

If it’s going to lead to sustained success and create lasting change, the movement to resist Trump needs infrastructure – meetings, regularly-updated online information, people willing to organize both – not just in Boston and its suburbs but across Massachusetts. That could be through new groups like the Indivisible movement, through existing groups like the Massachusetts Democratic Party, or a combination of both.

What it can’t look like is the same old people showing up to the same old meetings wondering why the young people don’t magically materialize out of thin air. As Steve Urbon reports for the New Bedford Standard-Times, it sounds like that happened at not one but two meetings along Southcoast on Sunday:

The New Bedford session was one of many such Huddles conducted by Women’s March organizers in recent days and weeks as an organizational follow-up to the protests, and it was attended almost exclusively by middle-age women fired up about the nation’s agenda as viewed through the lens of the march.

The Mattapoisett meeting, meanwhile, was long on retirees, several of whom had political experience. There were only about 3 young people, but many retirees, leading to concerns about how to draw young people into the political process.

The New Bedford Democratic City Committee has an active Facebook page but its website is down. The Mattapoisett Democratic Town Committee only has a static webpage but there’s no way to sign up and the listed contact email address is dead (UPDATE 2/28/17: They’re on Facebook!). I’m going to pick up the phone to get in touch with the committee, but expecting new members to cold-call strangers is not a path to growth.

Neither of the events were listed on the calendar of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, which had just 21 listings total statewide for the entire month of January.┬áThere’s a major Rally to Stand Up for Science planned for Copley Square on Sunday, but you would not know it from visiting any of the above.

When I moved to Fairhaven in 2015, I emailed the town chair listed on the state party website but never heard back. In January 2016, I emailed the state party saying I was eager to volunteer but hadn’t been able to get in touch with the local contact & that I couldn’t find any evidence a local caucus was planned. I got an unsigned email back that nonsensically told me “The deadline has technically passed to report your caucus but you can definitely still do so” and didn’t tell me anything about how to get involved.

I’ve volunteered for & knocked on doors for a bunch of local Democratic campaigns – Warren, Coakley, Markey, etc. – but those all pop up, burn like wildfire for a few months, then the 22-year-old local campaign manager goes back to Boston & I don’t see any of the other volunteers until the next campaign.

These are just a bunch of random data points, not analysis. I’m just bitching & moaning, not proposing a solution. But what I am hoping is that more people start talking about it.

Do you agree Massachusetts progressives and Democrats have an organizing infrastructure problem? If so, how would you start to solve it?


3 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Agreed overall

    Perhaps. I do tend to agree overall but with maybe a slightly different thought process. In part I suspect it may be a three-fold cause.

    One aspect, it’s the classic thing that many groups run into. There aren’t enough people do things such as fuller outreach, recruiting and organizing. Even though people are needed, there aren’t even a enough people-hours to coordinate, involve, etc. the folks who might be interested in being involved. So it tends to form a bottle-neck that many groups have trouble getting beyond.

    Think of it like how it can often work in one’s personal life – being organized would help make things easier, if you had the time to step back and organize things rather than constantly be in the heat of trying to get things done.

    The second aspect, there’s has always been a tension between movement and party focus anyway. And the MA Dems seems to be more party focused than movement (at least judging by everything I see in their outward facing aspects.

    Nothing totally wrong with that since at a certain level that is technically what political parties are meant to do. It can tend to (depending how one orients that outward face) discourage involvement by ordinary folks.

    I often felt there should be two groups one aimed at party management/strictly electoral stuff and one aimed at substantive movement building, network, recruitment – of course, that involves resources that can be in short supply.

    I’ll also add the second aspect ties into a general trend in organizing, NGOs and politics where ordinary folks are funneled more and more into a mode of just being donors and not to worry themselves and just the experts trained professional handle things. This has become way more prominent over the past couple of decades partly with the foundation funding model of groups. I don’t think it has been a good strategy overall, since it disempowers any connection with ordinary concerned citizens and tends to focus the groups only on their respective bubbles of donors, foundations and professionals.

    This tends to lead to a powerful disconnect between official groups, movements and social media/electronic (in general) activism. Just my opinion..

    I think the third thing is the tendency for all groups to do what has always been done. The “tradition” – the people already connected know how things work and are comfortable with it. It’s how they got involved so what’s wrong with others having to do the same thing? It doesn’t tend to flexibility and openness toward the fact that social networking, society and neighborhood connections have been changing dramatically over the past couple of decades and working across both the old ways and newer ways is a challenge to say the least.

    Just my random thoughts in the matter…

    • Theoretically at least...

      …the MDP has enough manpower and the subcommittee infrastructure to handle both of the aspects you mentioned in the 6th paragraph above. I would counsel just a bit of patience while we get through caucus season (though, again, a great way to get your foot in the door is showing up at yours) and subcommittees rev up. A new Chair, as Gus is, gets to appoint new subcommittee chairs, which he has and announced at the DSC meeting on 2/2. DSC members will be asked to apply for subcommittee assignments which will be announced 3/10. Thereafter there may be a chance for non-DSC members to apply to join subcommittees as associate members. Our current bylaws allow for up to 25% of a subcommittee to be non-DSC members, but it is up to the Chair how much he wants to take advantage of that provision. I’ll be happy to post when that info is available.

      It is specifically the Field Services subcommittee tasked with supporting and developing town committees. Here is the contact information for chairs, though I notice the list is not complete. Town committees generally allow for associate members which you can inquire about being if interested and many have vacancies in their full membership as well. At the risk of sounding like a broken record I will again advise going to caucus to introduce yourself. It is true that the level of activity and welcoming attitude varies greatly among town committees. If you cannot find your town committee information, contact one of your district’s state committee members to inquire as to status.

      I too, very much wish the Venn Diagram of campaign volunteers and town committee members overlapped more than it does sometimes. IMO campaign volunteers should be actively recruited by town committees and town committee members should be first in line to volunteer for campaigns. During this caucus season, especially with turnouts like Pablo mentioned in Arlington, contact info for all attendees should be retained by the town committee to keep them involved.

  2. I have lots of thoughts on this

    Democratic Ward & Town Committees run the gamut of non-existence to insiders-only-welcome to progressive book club to speaker circuit to activist organization to lobbying group and so on and so on. Often they take on the personalities of their leadership.

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Wed 29 Mar 3:09 AM