Building a bench of talented, driven, and effective elected officials is a process that requires the constant attention of a dedicated group of professional party members. Sadly, this aspect of party growth has been unevenly distributed throughout the country in the Democratic party. Because of President Obama’s charisma and the long careers of the Democratic leadership it has been consistently bumped down the list of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee priorities. As the current makeup of the House and Senate show, there has been a steady decrease in the number of Democrats elected; the trend is even more pronounced in state and county legislatures across the country. As a party, the Democrats must begin to focus a considerable amount of energy and thought into rebuilding the foundations of the party through recruitment of prospective candidates and officials.
If we believe the adage that all politics are local, we must focus on races in smaller jurisdictions.
Start at the state level
Of the 50 largest cities, 38 of the mayors are Democrats.
12 State Legislatures are controlled by a Democratic majority.
Currently there are only 13 Democratic governors.
This Daily Kos article explains exactly what the grim statistics look like for the health of the Democratic party in the states.
County and state party organizations need to be brought into close partnership with the national one to find, retain, and polish the skills of proven elected officials to help smooth their transition to higher office, create a robust network of fundraising and campaign vendors and experiences staff.
Develop and recruit those with varying strengths.
On Capitol Hill, you could swing a stick and almost be guaranteed to hit a lawyer or the owner of a business enterprise. Gone are the days of the small businessmen in Washington. 45 of the 100 Senators have law degrees, while 21 Senators are women. When taking into consideration that 52 percent of Americans are women, and only 1.6% of the population of the US are lawyers, the overrepresentation is quite striking.
We’re tired of having lawyers and businessmen represent us- that’s not who all of us are. Candidates with career experiences spanning all sectors would be a better representation of American society, and could help craft legislation and policy to reflect the various priorities Americans have.
Diversity, diversity, diversity.
Representation based on gender, religion, sexual orientation, and life experiences.
Some states won’t allow atheists to hold elected office, which is wild.
According to a Pew Research analysis in conjunction with Roll Call, 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, while in the American population, 71% surveyed identify as Christian. http://www.pewforum.org/2017/01/03/faith-on-the-hill-115/
Finding the exact net worth of the current members of Congress is difficult, but it is safe to say that the majority of these lawmakers are millionaires. The stranglehold of the wealthy as elected officials perpetuates the disparity between policies that benefit everyone, and policies that benefit the wealthy at the expense of the middle class and poor.
Many Congressional officeholders have far surpassed the minimum age requirements to be elected to those respective legislative bodies. A new group of younger candidates has the potential to address some of the main concerns of our generation: climate change, student loan debt, and equal rights.
Activists into policymakers
Take the people that have built grassroots community coalitions, and the trust of those in that community, and set them on the path to create the change they advocated for. Many new organizations are doing just that. Run for Something, She Should Run, and Emerge America are two national organizations that seek to recruit non-traditional candidates, with the latter two organizations focusing on encouraging women to run for office.
And finally- we have seen a resurgence of civic engagement both before and after the 2016 Presidential Election, and organizations and the party structure should capitalize on this wave of enthusiasm to find tomorrow’s great leaders.
Katherine Tipton is a contributing writer based in Nashville focusing on the changing political landscape of the South.
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