When I ran for DNC, I promised to keep you informed not only about what was happening at the DNC, but also what I was doing to help make the organization more transparent and accountable to all of us as Democrats--with a key focus on putting us in a better position for victory in the midterm elections.
With last weekend’s DNC meeting in Washington D.C. having come to a close, I am happy to keep that promise and provide some insights that activists and interested parties will hopefully find helpful.
First, I want to congratulate the many members of the California DNC delegation who won election and served via appointment to various positions on the Councils and Caucuses of the DNC. California delegates are making a big impact in the leadership of these organizations.
I was also inspired to share tips and ideas with many amazing activists and party leaders from around the country on topics ranging from voter engagement to communications to organizing and much during they are, pushing back on misinformation, and ensuring that we not only keep but grow our majorities up and down the ballot in the midterms and beyond. I was happy to attend many of these councils and caucuses and vote for their leadership (as a new member at my first meeting I felt it would be presumptuous to run for a position myself!) It was also an honor to hear directly from President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on their and the Party’s priorities for the coming year. You can watch the video of President Biden’s speech here and Vice President Harris’ speech here.
But now for the not-so-good news: unfortunately, these various councils and caucuses—and, more broadly, the hundreds of talented and energetic activists around the country who are members of the DNC—have very little power and influence to actually affect real policy at the DNC.
This is something that needs to change. One of the many complaints about the DNC is that it often seems like members go to meetings primarily to attend parties and get pictures with elected officials. This perception is sadly more or less accurate—largely because there is not much opportunity for active work in and influence on the organization. Even at the DNC’s Executive Committee and Standing Committees, level most decisions are sealed well in advance, with little in the way of debate or discussion. This is, in my opinion and that of many other DNC members, a tragic waste of the talent, skills and energy of the body. It also leads to top-down decision-making that may not reflect the experiences and needs of the activists closest to the challenging conditions in battleground states and districts—which in turn may lead to unnecessary and avoidable defeats this November, including the loss of our Congressional majorities!
To that end, I have been proud to help organize with the reform efforts covered here in this Washington Post article (kudos in particular to fellow Californian Michael Kapp who has been tirelessly helping to spearhead these efforts.) From the article, which I encourage you to read in full:
The gathering at the Churchill Hotel in D.C., across the street from the party’s winter meeting, came after months of growing complaints among some rank-and-file voting members. They argue that the top-down structure of the DNC, which is directed by advisers to President Biden, risks undermining changes aimed at empowering the grass roots that went into effect after the 2016 presidential election.
Calling itself “DNC Members for Party Modernization,” the group is pushing for a greater share of the national party budget to be channeled directly to the states, more distributed regional representation in the party leadership teams, greater internal oversight of the party budget and other changes to the party’s governing rules, such as new restrictions on proxy voting.
The reform group will be presenting a specific list of proposed reforms in the coming weeks, to which I have added my own suggestions and about which I am in close conversation with other the organizers.
All told, I believe DNC Chair Jaime Harrison has been doing a tremendous job leading the DNC, and the organization has adopted a much greater focus on state-based organizing, with deeper canvassing and intensive voter engagement than in the past. The DNC has hired a record number of staff and increased its investments in voter protection and long-term engagement all across the country—as opposed to parachuting into only battlegrounds right before an election. This is all to the good.
However, much more work remains to be done not only on the field against Republicans but internally as well: virtually all of much in the budget remains opaque; the vast majority of decisions are made without questioning or accountability from within the White House; and DNC members have almost no say whatsoever even on internal organizing decisions, rules, platform, etc., and even much less on more important decisions such as about relative investments in elections. For instance, the DNC committed to give a $15 million blank check to the DCCC and DSCC without any discussion or input from the membership on whether those funds might be used in a more effective and targeted manner. We can and must do better.
That said, from now to November, our primary focus must be on laying out our positive vision for the nation while defeating Republicans who are still trying to overturn the last election, stop the Biden agenda and prevent us from making progress on social, economic and environmental justice. We must do this by championing the policies Democrats have successfully passed, engaging our legislators to achieve even more tangible gains this year, and beating back the tide of racist theocratic nationalism that has swallowed the Republican Party whole and threatens to destroy our democracy.
I am proud to be your representative on the DNC to help do exactly that at the local, state and federal level—both through my work within the Party at all levels, and also through my writing at Washington Monthly and advocacy on social media (you can follow me on Twitter at @DavidOAtkins.)