The Utah Democratic Party is in shambles. After the Salt Lake County Clerk counted up the votes, it turns out that our gain of one seat in the Utah House of Representatives is really a net loss of two. Add in the loss of a Congressional seat, and it really couldn’t get much worse for Democrats than the 2014 election. And this, after Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon was hopeful that this was going to be a better election for Democrats than the past couple of years:
“2010 was a big tea-party year. In 2012, Mitt Romney was on the ballot, and Republicans had the Romney tsunami,” Corroon says. “But this year we see a lot of anti-incumbent sentiment.”
Well, we didn’t exactly see that, did we? This, despite the fact that we raised 15% more this cycle than in the 2011-12 cycle. (State account only. State parties have both state and federal accounts. Money flows between them regularly, so it’s hard to narrow down a number.) Comparatively, the Utah GOP raised half the money this election cycle that they did in the last one.
I could delve into some race-by-race numbers, but this post isn’t about fundraising. This post is about how Utah Democrats are going to pull out of this tailspin. And all it takes is a few easy steps, in no particular order:
Step 1: Find a message.
Right now our message seems to be “Don’t vote for Republicans. Vote for us, because we’re not Republicans. And we’re not that liberal, either.” Democrats need to give voters a reason to vote for them, other than not voting for Republicans. Honestly, the only reason I turned out to vote this year was to vote against Mia Love. And I’ve turned out to vote when all I had to vote on was a city council race where a candidate was running unopposed. That’s how bad the messaging is — it almost got ME to stay home on election day. No wonder nobody else voted.
Step 2: Hire a communications director.
Do you know what helps an organization distribute its message out to the masses? A communications director. A communications director would be in charge of designing mailers, writing press releases, and making sure things are proofread before getting sent out. I was shocked, and simultaneously not surprised, to see that the UDP has no communications director.
Step 3: Have useful information on your web site about candidates.
I get it — not every candidate is going to have a web site. Seems silly to me in 2014, but I get it. However, at the very least, can we get a paragraph about each candidate? Maybe a picture of every candidate even? The “Candidates and Campaigns” page of the UDP web site has 80 candidates and 20% of them don’t have pictures.
Step 4: Regularly update your web site.
My dream party web site would have much more than this, but I’m sticking with the basics right now. The “In the news” portion of the party web site currently has 3 articles dated October 30 and 7 articles dated October 10. Either news outlets talked about us on only two days last month, or someone got around to pushing stories to the web site twice. It’s still better than the “From the party” section, which features one item from October 30, and nine dated July 22. Most, if not all of the July 22 ones are from sometime before that date. My favorite is the formatting error that has caused the following sentence on the page: “BREAKING NEWS: Shurtleff and Swallow Arrested Democrats, A dark shadow was cast on Utah and our history.”
Step 5: Stop recruiting candidates based on their religion, gender, or color of their skin.
We’ve spent years recruiting members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to run for office. It’s like party leaders think that people will suddenly go “Oh, I’ll vote for Candidate D because they attend the same church as me.” Which ignores the simple fact that most of the Republicans they are running against are also LDS. Having LDS candidates is fine, but you need to give voter a reason to vote for them other that their religion. Same goes with women and hispanic candidates. Do we need more women and minorities in office? Yes. Will most voters vote for someone based solely on gender or skin color? Not really.
Step 6: Be the party of the working man.
There were several legislative races where the AFL-CIO endorsed the Republican. Our party has gotten away from its working-man roots.
Step 7: Not every function has to be a fundraiser. Not every fundraiser has to cost $65+.
This is basically step 6B, but deserves its own step. The late Eddie Mayne used the phrase “white wine and cheese Democrats” to describe a certain segment of the party. Unfortunately, it’s to that segment of the party that almost every party-sponsored event caters. In 2006, the party (at the direction of the DNC) hosted what they called a “Democratic Family Reunion.” It was just that — we rented out a park, had a potluck meal, and socialized as Democrats and friends. It was really, really simple. Not everyone has $65 (plus $4.57 fee) a person to pay for the Taylor Mayne NotADinnerAnymore. We should allow events for the regular people to feel included, too.
Step 8: Reach out to disaffected Dems.
They’re out there. They are easy to find, because they’ll let you know who they are. Reach out, talk to them, and listen to them. Invite them back into the fold. We need their help. (I’m starting to include myself in this group)
Step 9: Candidate recruitment starts now.
Jesse Harris said it best here at UPH a couple of weeks ago: When we leave so many races without a candidate, it’s like we don’t really care to even try anymore. At the Davis County Democratic Convention this year, Rob Miller said that when the state party brought him in to do candidate recruitment, there were several Senate races that weren’t even on their list. This type of thing is unacceptable. We need to make a list of every race in 2016 and start finding people to run. Start getting people to consider running. I’ve heard too many candidates talk about getting that recruitment call and heading to the County Clerk or Lt Governor’s office within 48 hours of the call, because the filing deadline was closing quickly. Running for office shouldn’t be an impulse buy. Also, we need to start recruiting candidates for nonpartisan races as well.
Step 10: Potpourri.
You’ve spent enough time to read over a thousand words thus far, so I’m going to quickly run through some other things that are on my list that I’m leaving out: The use of Twitter, Facebook, Hashtags, and YouTube. Reach out to those using said devices. Make conventions useful. Democratic delegates are not cattle. Be proud. Stop playing victim. Stop listening to people who are good at losing elections.