Wednesday June 29, 2017
by Claire Miller
The new leadership of the Democratic National Committee recognizes the value of strong grassroots advocacy in local communities. Jess O’Connell is the new CEO of the DNC. You may recognize her name from Emily’s List, the organization that is successfully training women candidates to win seats for elected office. Jess is bringing her expertise to rebuild the Democratic Party and channel grassroots resistance to win elections. She acknowledged the tremendous progress we have made with our grassroots activism. We are bending the curve in how fast we have organized and had an impact on our communities. It felt encouraging for a leader of her caliber to acknowledge the work that we as community organizers and activists are doing at a local level. When the main question from the audience was about the democratic message, Jess asked us to build relationships using the democratic values that brought us into the fight. She stressed that it’s the relationships we build at the local level that will get people out to the polls to vote.
Jess is also tackling challenges head on. She admitted that the leadership has neglected the infrastructure of the party and it was good to hear her take responsibility on behalf of party leadership. Jess is putting a talented team in place to address those challenges. Amanda Brown Lierman is the new Political and Organizing Director. Amanda’s focus is at the state level where she is building relationships, empowering state parties and developing tools and resources. A key question from the grassroots groups was how we can collaborate, what tools can we use and are there funds to support our efforts? Amanda took point on this issue and I expect more will be forthcoming from the DNC. She also emphasized the role that grassroots organizers can play in our communities building relationships with non-voters and staying in touch with them. She asked for our help at the state and local level.
The panel of speakers also included community organizers who are making an impact in their communities. There are two organizations to put on your radar. The first is Network NoVA, a community organizing team that is working on how to flip VA blue. Stair Calhoun talked about running a summit to connect grassroots organizers, candidates and resources to effect change. The second is J Walkers Action Group. Nancy Walker positioned her group as experts in phone banking and canvassing. Her goal is to make every volunteer welcome and ensure they understand how the work they are doing at the local level contributes to the broader mission of the organization. Both of these women could be great resources as we plan network wide events in the state of Maryland.
A total of 200 people representing 113 groups signed up for the town hall. It was positioned as a first of many discussions between the DNC and the grassroots organizers in the tri-state area.