Monday, August 22, 2011

Laying Claim to Louisiana

Progressives and Democrats from across Louisiana will gather in Alexandria on Saturday, August 27, to unite behind a strategy to plug grassroots activists into Democratic legislative campaigns this fall.

The event -- "Laying Claim to Louisiana"-- is the first part of a 500-day strategy to renew and revitalize the Louisiana Democratic Party and change the course of electoral politics in the state.

At the core of the strategy is the belief that all politics is local and that the key to renewing the state party is to harness the enthusiasm and passion of Democratic activists who have been motivated and engaged primarily by national campaigns and national issues.

The organizers of the event include officers and members of the Louisiana Democratic Party at the state and parish levels, traditional Democratic constituencies, and the in-state leaders of organizations active in national Democratic campaigns.

The goal is to build a new, working coalition that begins with electoral politics but extends beyond that into joint work on legislative and public policy issues.

The redistricting process completed earlier this year by the Legislature provides a new map from which the leadership of the Louisiana Democratic Party will be elected next year (qualifying is in early December). The state party leadership is going to change because the legislative map has changed.

We will plug in these activists into that new map to bring new vitality and energy into the state party through the election of members to the state party central committee, as well as to parish Democratic executive committees. The aim is to utilize the structure of the Democratic Party to channel the efforts and enthusiasm of the activist base into Louisiana state and local politics. We want to build a functioning political party that can provide resources, technical skills, and people to help Democratic candidates win election across the state.

It's a model that has been shown to work for Democratic parties in other states. Hell, it's worked for the Republican Party in Louisiana.

The election calendar provides the road map to guide this effort. The October 22 primary election and the November 18 runoff provide great opportunities for activists to connect with Democratic legislators and their allies to help those legislators stave off the attacks coming at them from Republicans led by David Vitter and Bobby Jindal.

Many of the activists who have been drawn to politics by national campaigns have not been as active in Louisiana politics. They have been turned off by Democrats who tended to run 'Republican-lite' campaigns. The exodus from the party of many of those candidates combined with the explicit targeting of Democrats by Vitter and his operatives, Democratic candidates must now follow the model of their Republican peers and understand that winning campaigns begin by securing their base — not in trying to themselves from it.

In Alexandria, there will be a list of targeted races presented where activists will be asked to help Democrats win election. That cooperation can serve as the springboard to greater cooperation between the activist wing of the party and legislators who, prior to this year, tended to operate independent campaigns with little or no regard for party.

The explicit external threat posed by Vitter's Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority has produced a willingness to engage the party's activist base among Democratic legislators that did not heretofore exist.

That opportunity to cooperate shows the path forward for the entire party, not just the legislators.

The entire 500-day plan will be discussed in detail in Alexandria. Keynote speaker Melissa Harris-Perry will put our fight in the national context of other fights in places like Wisconsin and Ohio (the same anti-labor, anti-women, anti-democratic forces at work there, are working with Vitter and Jindal here).

The days of Democrats being able to hide their party label are over -- Vitter and the Republicans have seen to that. The path forward is to embrace to our party. We are the only multi-racial, pro-middle class, pro-education, pro-small business party in our state.

If we lay claim to our party, we can once again lay claim to our state.

See you in Alexandria on Saturday!

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