I appeal to my fellow long-term Democrats to put out the welcome mat for the new, excited and energized citizens who have joined our ranks recently.
The historic primary season we just finished brought many new members to our party, who will prove to be a critical part of our victory in November. And a crucial part of our party for decades to come. These new voters who joined to support Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in that primary process deserve not only our gratitude, but the sort of respect that, too often, the old-time rank and file Democrats have neglected to extend to "new blood."
I've seen this now, very personally, in six states, in my staff and volunteer work for candidates in California, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, New York and Kansas, situations where the established party folks were either negligent or downright exclusive with their local and county party organizations. Too often, the new members who join expecting to be welcomed and included and invited and involved, are ignored, shut-out, resented and disrespected by the entrenched rank-and-file.
There are many reasons for this chummy club phenomenon, but typically, as with all organizations, it comes down to the protective, territorial egos of the status quo, and nothing to do with the party itself. In the same way Republicans do not want to relinquish power in the White House, these local Democrats can't cut loose of their little bits of local power.
In terms of inclusiveness and exclusion, I've seen both good and bad over the years.
Our people here in Kansas' "Big First" Congressional district, for instance, are very accommodating and make an effort to provide an experience of kinship and membership to the new voters who come aboard. But I have also seen the opposite elsewhere, where the existing local, county, district and state officers and operatives jealously guard their positions, their authority and their territory, often to the detriment of the party. Too often, these groups have diminished over the years to include only a die-hard few, who tend to convert their party meetings into personal bridge clubs that revel in exclusivity and discourage new people from participating in order to assure their own continued personal ownership.
The Democratic Party can not afford to be a private club, if we intend to erect that big tent we all say we believe in. People need to feel welcome and involved, they need to know their ideas and enthusiasm are appreciated. And they need to know their votes will be counted, both in the local party process and in the actual elections. These new people need to be co-opted by the party old-timers, and those with the time and interest should be given working titles and tasks, to make them even more a part of the ever-growing Democratic Party
It's time for long term Democrats to put out the welcome mat, no, roll out the red carpet, sound the trumpets, bang a gong, strike up the band, stand together at the doorway and cheer them on as they enter our fold. Anything less would be unacceptable.
We should do everything in our power to make these new Democrats feel like they are a valuable and appreciated part of our party, if we hope to enter the next decade as the party of change, the party of hope, the party of the future, ... and the party of The People.
Lets welcome these new members with open arms, unbridled enthusiasm and unquestionable inclusion, and then lets join together to change the future from one we fear into one we will all be proud to pass on to the next generation. We have never had a better opportunity than the one we see today.