New Year Resolutions

Every new year we go through this exercise of reviewing the year that was and resolving to do good and/or better things in the one to come. This year there could not be a more important exercise for America’s Left. As Woodrow Wilson once said, “those that forget history are bound to repeat it.”

This election year saw an incredible spike in individual participation in the political process that was particularly evident on the left. Traditional establishment Liberals working side-by-side with Progressives of all flavors with the common goal of unseating George W. Bush. Having participated in this process myself, also for the first time, I have to say it was both exciting and frustrating.

On the one hand, it was a thrill working beside all different kinds of people, each equally motivated and anxious to elect John Kerry as the next President. On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I left an organizing meeting, volunteer training session, rally or whatever thinking “this thing is held together by bubble gum and duct tape.” It was evident to anyone who paid attention (and by the level of noise at some of these meetings many people were) that the Democratic election machine is ad hoc at best.

At one point, after a long day of volunteer training, I ended up driving a friend back to her car and engaged in an extremely emotional discussion. She and her family became active during the 2000 campaign and have donated an immeasurable amount of blood, sweat, and tears to the efforts to elect both Al Gore and John Kerry. I will never forget this conversation because I had been waiting to have it with anyone who would listen and it just so happened she had as well. We both agreed that regardless of the outcome of this election the most important thing moving forward was to build a highly disciplined and motivated Democratic machine that doesn’t pull up stakes as soon as the election is over.

The folks over at Mother Jones appear to have come to the same conclusion in these two pieces; A Gathering Swarm, and Life of the Party. Their take in a nutshell is that this election was either the best we could do or the first step in a greater movement.

In the tangle and promise ahead, much will depend on activist networks like MoveOn and America Coming Together, but also on lesser-known movement-party hybrids like Wellstone Action. A national effort to train political candidates, teach activists how to campaign, and turn out the vote, Wellstone Action is driven by the fierce desire to harness movement spirit to organizational force.

I could not agree more, and let’s not forget Democracy for America – after all it was DFA (then Dean for America) that awoke so much of the Democratic base.

Looking back on this past year I choose to see 2004 as a good first step toward building that highly disciplined and motivated Democratic machine. In order to make this a reality, I resolve in 2005 to continue to dedicate considerable time and effort toward working with the aforementioned organizations and using this blog to reach out to other like-minded individuals.

Happy New Year!

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