We all know the stereotype of the composition of local and state Democratic Parties: a plethora of old activists that consider anyone under 50 a young Democrat. While this keeps many younger voters from becoming involved in those entities, it would be to your advantage to bite the bullet and take the plunge.
“But Kevin, there is nobody at these meetings that is even close to my age and I would rather just be involved with Young Democrats instead!”
I know that’s what your thinking, and trust me, as a former state party employee I feel you, but the rewards of involvement will vastly outweigh the costs if you and your organization commit. Here is why:
- The local and state parties determine the allocation of a lot of resources, and if nobody is there to advocate for youth programs, they are going to be overlooked.
- Elected Precinct Committeepersons and state committee members (at least in Arizona) vote on who becomes delegates to Democratic National Conventions, so while advocating for youth representation goals in delegate selection plans is important, having a number of young democrats involved will make the biggest difference.
- Some of those older activists are actually quite interesting, and talking to them and learning from their experiences can be an invaluable education for you and your members.
- Fundraising lead generation. The members of your state and local parties are the high-efficacy donors, even if they are small-contribution donors, and knowing them personally will give you a much better opportunity of raising money.
- You can sell your organization and young voters in general to party regulars, and getting your message out to them will increase your legitimacy and exposure.
- You are officially changing your role from “future of the party” to the “present of the party.” As long as young democrats are absent from the regular party apparatus it will appear that Young Democrats is AAA and the local/state party is the major leagues, and when you get older you graduate and get called up.
- The more your state party knows you the more you will be able to partner up with their big events. In Arizona the state party works with YDAZ to have after-party fundraisers following their big dinners.
Common apprehensions of Young Democrats about getting involved:
- The older activists don’t want us there. This, actually, is far from the truth. During my time at the Arizona Democratic Party I can’t count all of the activists that openly expressed their wishes that more young people were involved. While there will always be a few that look at younger Democrats condescendingly, they tend to be the minority. They won’t bite, I swear (a lot of them don’t even have real teeth).
- But there won’t be any people close to my age there. Not yet. That is why you have to bring them. The Arizona State University Young Democrats have done a great job of this in the state legislative district that encompasses Tempe, and with that involvement there are now two state representatives from that district under the age of 30. How cool is it when their are people representing you at your state capitol that are your age? The answer is: very cool.
- It isn’t worth my time. Seriously, did you just forget to read the entire first part of this post? Yes, it is worth your time.
Alright Kevin, you’ve convinced me. Now how do I get involved?
- Become a precinct committeperson. Get appointed now and when elections roll around become an elected PC. Your local/state party can help you with the process.
- Start attending your local meetings. Find out when and where they meet, bring some friends, and talk to the people there. Let them know that you want to get more involved. Once you’ve been to a couple meetings tell other friends that they should come too. Once there are more young people attending, more young people will attend. If you build it, they will come.
- Go to state committee meetings. The people here are the top Democratic activists in your state. See if a representative from your state chapter can give a report at these meetings.
Have you been successful in getting involved with your local and state parties? Is there something I missed? Leave a comment and share your stories and ideas.