What Kind of Blog Has It Been?

Sorkin QuoteIn part one of my "Five Thoughts" series, I promised to present the following thoughts on the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP): an absolution, a mea culpa, a path forward for the party, a path forward for Democratic campaigns, and a big idea. Since then, I added a path forward for party leadership and a couple of other thoughts here and there. That's a lot of content, so here's a summary of the series. As some of my friends in other states have noted in their feedback, many of these thoughts are relevant to the Democratic Party at every level.

  1. The Democratic Party has problems that run much deeper than the current leadership. These problems include legal, financial, and civic environments that aren't favorable to the traditional party structure. Bad party leadership in recent years has been the product of a weak party, not the other way around. NCDP needs significant changes to be able to adapt to its new environment and win elections again. The way the party operates is unsustainable.

  2. The party's leadership and governing committees haven't been convinced en masse that the Democratic Party exists to elect Democrats, and many party members lack the "campaign literacy" to know how to win elections. If an organization doesn't agree on a clear goal and doesn't know how to get there, it will never be successful. However, campaign professionals and elected officials can't be dismissive of activists. The party has to have conversations and trainings that demonstrate why an electoral focus brings value to party work and gives Democrats at every level the tools to understand campaigns and succeed in a campaign environment.

  3. The Democratic Party is only as powerful as the work it accomplishes. The organization should be changed to eliminate redundant positions, inefficient dinners, and unnecessary meetings. Participation in the party must create value for volunteers and donors, not bureaucracy. The party has to hire a professional staff that's large enough and local enough to help manage and train a party with 100 counties, over 10,000 positions, and 2.6 million registered Democrats. The party has to be goal- and metrics-driven so that important work is accomplished. The party has to demonstrate a causal relationship between what it does and what happens at the ballot box.

  4. The Democratic Party needs qualified, diverse leaders and a professional, metrics-driven staff. These leaders have to raise money and manage it responsibly or the party will die. The next NCDP board is going to have to do a lot of call time to be able to raise the money to sustain operations. Our leaders need to use a modern, integrated approach to fundraising, and they have to be accountable to the rest of the party organization so that the work gets done. They have to inspire confidence with donors. Unfortunately, most of the candidates running for NCDP chair don't have the experience to be up to this task.

  5. We have to treat campaign workers and party staff better and develop them as leaders and operatives. Democrats don't use all of their resources efficiently because the aggregate demand for campaign work is too low. If campaign work becomes a full time job, we have more people working full time to help build the party. People who work on campaigns aren't in it for the money, but they should be paid a living wage and treated like the professionals they are. If North Carolina Democrats want professional, winning campaigns, they have to professionalize the political labor force in North Carolina.

  6. Aside from its people, the party's most valuable resource is its brand. Let's use it. NCDP should continue to repair its brand by electing new leadership and proving it can make the changes needed to win elections. However, it can leverage the power of its brand in ways that will immediately increase its relevance and bring new people into the party. One idea: letting the party endorse in primaries.

Thanks to everyone who's made it this far. Tomorrow is the final chapter in the "Five Thoughts" series: a big idea that should be considered once the party is back on sound footing.

Sam Spencer is no stranger to the North Carolina Democratic Party (NCDP). Since 2004, he's served as a precinct chair, a county board member, a member of numerous committees, a county executive director, a member of the party's executive council, and president of the state Young Democrats. 

Photo Credit: NPR's Best Commencement Speeches Ever

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