The DNC needs new leadership to deliver a fresh start. The solutions we need to rebuild our Party will come from our local communities, our states and territories- not from Washington. The next Democratic chair must speak to the common threads that bring together our diverse constituencies, not be afraid to reach out to new ones, and build a new future for the Party around our shared values.
The Democratic Party needs a fresh start. However much pride we take in the work that has brought us to this point, we must confront the fact that our presence in state legislatures, statewide offices, and Congress is at its lowest point in nearly a century. Even if we had won the White House last year, our party would be facing serious challenges today.
But for all of our challenges, there are solutions. We will develop our bench by focusing on the long-term needs of our party. We will harness new and existing sources of financial support, and use it to invest in real infrastructure for our local and state parties so we can more effectively organize at every level, engage every part of our membership, and think beyond one election cycle at a time. It’s time to invest in real on-the-ground organizing and make it the heart of our national work as a party. We will run the Democratic National Committee as a resource for state and local parties and nationally organized allies like our friends in organized labor, to meet their needs and support their work. A stronger partnership with our communities and constituencies is the only way to ensure we turn out our voters, and attract new support.
This will require resources, but that is only the beginning. Finding our way forward means leading with our values, returning to the basics of running campaigns and winning elections, acting from the ground up, modeling democratic practices, and innovating for the future.
Speak up and defend the values that make us Democrats
In order to win not just elections but the future, the Democratic Party must do what we do best: put forward a compelling economic message that resonates with all working- and middle-class families. We are the Party of the New Deal, the Great Society, equal rights, access to the voting booth, and economic justice. We can’t step back from these values. We must ensure every citizen knows that we are the party of freedom, fairness, families, and the future. We reject the false premise that speaking to a group of voters means abandoning another. We must bring our message to ALL voters, showing how they belong in a better future for our country.
Return to the lived experience of Americans
Most Americans aren’t concerned with The Show, with beltway chatter or politicians and their antics. They are concerned with their families, their household budgets, and the safety of those they care about. Every Democratic idea, and candidate, must be promoted and defended in terms of the ability to improve people’s everyday lives. The other side has made lavish promises to the American people. We will hold them accountable for what happens on the ground.
Organize to defend our values in all parts of the country
A 50+ state strategy is necessary but it’s only the beginning. The challenges that face our party are varied and complex, and our solutions must reflect this fact. They need to be detailed. They need to be rational, credible, and attainable. We need the DNC not only to fund, but also to authentically partner with and fully respect the needs of the state and local parties. This means raising and deploying the needed resources for the State Partnership Project, but it’s also about supporting our organizing from the ground up. Democrats will run candidates in over 3,100 counties, boroughs, and parishes across the country. Republicans have cleverly and patiently built majorities in local and state elections for decades, with powerful effects. Whether it’s a race for State Mine Inspector in Arizona or Prosecuting Attorney in Starke County in Indiana, we need to emphasize our values on every door, to every voter, in all parts of our country.
State-by-state long term planning
The best use of DNC resources is to sponsor and support long-term plans built by state party leadership for their state and territory party organizations. The DNC must be in a reciprocal and respectful relationship, supporting planning and investing in the capacity of state and local parties. This means ensuring the DNC understands the priorities in each state rather than attempting a one-size-fits-all approach. To support this work, as Chairman, I will personally visit every single state and territory in the first year of my term.
Encourage more flexible models for funding the states
The support state parties receive from the nationwide community of Democrats should not be limited to direct hard federal dollars from the DNC. As a Mayor, I understand first-hand that the priorities of the state parties are often on the non-federal side in each cycle. For years, Chairs, Vice Chairs, and Executive Directors are caught scrambling at the end of the year for state funds. As part of the new DNC, I will ask a respected Democratic leader to convene a committee of former statewide officials to head up a new non-federal committee focused on investments for State Parties to raise state dollars. Although, for compliance reasons, the National Chair cannot be directly involved with this work, the chair must fully acknowledge and support this vitally important aspect of fundraising while advocating for legislative improvements that empower state parties to continue their good work.
Connect local resources to national needs, and vice versa
Keeping our promises to build up state and local parties will be expensive, and calls for new funding resources. The one level of officeholders where Democrats dominate—mayors—can and should be engaged more fully by the DNC. We should engage mayors, council members, and other municipal and local officials to take advantage of their access to unique local donor networks, and reciprocate with greater support for their efforts from the national party.
Perform a comprehensive DNC fundraising audit to create an evidence-based future plan
As with any major organization, strategic planning needs to be informed by strong analytics. We need a comprehensive fundraising audit of the DNC to determine Return on Investment analytics that show what’s working, what isn’t, and what we can do to make fundraising as effective as possible. Are there approaches we haven’t tried yet? What does the future of online, mail, and event-based fundraising look like? How do we improve email fundraising to build long-term relationships rather than burn out supporters one cycle at a time? How do we best unlock the power of grassroots donors? We can’t answer these questions without an impartial study of how the DNC can get the best yield from our efforts.
Develop top-level cybersecurity capabilities
Cybersecurity will be a top issue for party infrastructure from now on. The DNC already took an important step forward by responding to last year’s attacks with the newly created Cybersecurity Advisory Board. I will use my professional training in cybersecurity to take this work to the next level. We must engage the best practices of public and private sector information security to make sure the DNC’s systems and information are protected. There will be two pillars of our cybersecurity strategy: systems (including network defense and secure authentication) and people (including skills training in operational security at all levels).
Create Robust Partnerships with Democratic Organizations
The DNC can’t and shouldn’t try to do it all. Our Party relies on an interconnected web of groups to make sure that we’re competitive at every level of government. The DNC needs to create new and robust fundraising partnerships with the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Attorneys General Association, the Democratic Municipal Officials, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Redistricting Committee. The DNC should also seek to identify partners to help support efforts for statewide elected positions like Secretary of State and State Treasurer, and identify uphill battles that are worth investing in for party building and bench development.
Quarterly Roundtables with Stakeholders Cultivating Emerging Leaders
The DNC should hold quarterly roundtables with stakeholders like the State Innovation Exchange, Local Progress, Emerge America, Higher Heights, Wellstone, the Truman National Security Project, NewDEAL, and the Arena Summit to better support their work in developing ideas and leaders for the party’s near- and long-term future.
Reinforce the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute and Voter Expansion Project
Across the country, the Republican Party has launched an all-out assault on voting rights and is attempting to disenfranchise millions of minority voters. The DNC should immediately establish a well-resourced and agile working group to produce a strategic plan on how best to target staff and resources for the Voting Rights Institute and the Voter Expansion Project. Protecting the right to vote is not just a Democratic political priority, it is also an American moral imperative. We will mobilize to defend it at every turn.
Align regional desks more closely with the regions they serve
Regional desks exist to support the work of the parties in each part of the country, but they currently sit in Washington. These desks need a forward presence in the regions they cover, and we should do more work with state parties and campaigns to identify staff for these roles with on-the-ground roots and political experience. Better aligning these desks with the actual locations they cover will help them meet the needs of organizers on the ground, and make them a touchstone for permanent capacity that supports Democratic work between and across cycles.
More frequently convene and engage DNC members
DNC national committeewomen and committeemen are the DNC’s best forward-deployed leadership resource, but more could be asked of them. Greater engagement, listening, and participation would allow members to contribute more to the work of the party. The DNC should host at least one yearly orientation for new members apart from the winter and summer DNC meeting, and establish a mentoring program so newer members can learn from their fellow Democratic leaders upon joining the Committee.
Create a Local Surrogates Program to engage mayors and other local officials to help with media
We love our “political strategists,” but the Democratic Party shouldn’t be represented only by beltway-based TV talkers. Local elected officials often have easy access to earned media, and they enjoy more trust in their home areas. It’s time to better use, and support, their capabilities through a local surrogates program to recruit, train, and offer media placement services for local Democratic community leaders and elected officials. It’s also time to introduce many of them to a national audience that sometimes wonders if we have a “bench.” We have an extraordinary bench, and it’s time to invite them off the bench and onto the court.
Surrogate Scheduling Desk
Surrogate scheduling is a year-round function, and needs support after individual campaign cycles end. Although the political desks currently assist state parties in requests for national political star power, a dedicated team can help state and local parties draw speakers to their state conventions, annual Democratic dinners, fundraisers and community meetings. This staff can ensure that our human resources are used to produce the greatest result for our state party partners.
Get Ahead on Redistricting
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee recently announced by President Obama and Eric Holder will be critically important for our party. While fair districting is an issue that goes beyond partisan matters, our party has a vital interest and role in the path to fair districts. The DNC’s strategy should be closely aligned with this new effort, identifying and targeting those state legislative, gubernatorial, and other key races over the next six years that will disproportionately affect the post-2020 redistricting process.
State Party Stabilization Fund
Too many times, we’ve seen our state parties struggle. Whether the reason is a statewide loss, an economic downturn, an unfortunate act of God that affects your entire state, or a downturn in fundraising, the Democratic National Committee should be in a position to serve as a safety net. The State Party Stabilization Fund will serve as insurance for periods of dire financial hardship. We know how hard state party staff works, and no one from our Democratic family should be cast out during these times. We are all stronger when every state party member of our organization is robust and prosperous, in order to perfect our goal of building our party from the local level out.
Create an Independent Presidential Primary Debate Commission
We can’t afford another debate over debates, or anything else that threatens confidence in the fairness and neutrality of the Presidential primary debate process. The DNC should establish an independent advisory commission on presidential primary debates to recommend a system that establishes rock-solid confidence in the fairness of all future primaries.
As a delegate to the 2016 Convention, I was proud to support the creation of the “Unity Commission.” With the unexpected presidential election result, it’s more important than ever before to ensure that the Commission gets all of the DNC support and resources it needs to carry out its stated mission: to ensure confidence in a fair and inclusive Democratic presidential nominating process.
Evaluating the length of the Presidential primary process
The current prolonged presidential primary process is drawn out in ways that affect our success in the general election. It is time to start the conversation on how to have the best possible calendar for a focused and inclusive process among Democrats nominating our presidential candidates. The DNC should launch a process to evaluate our best options for the future, with a goal of maximizing voter participation and ending with an energized party unified for the general election.
Living our values with Vendor and Staff diversity
We must maintain the principle that diversity in our team and our vendor base reflects who we are as a party. The DNC should actively develop diverse capacity at every level—not only in-house, but also in our vendor base, verifying that we have given diverse companies an opportunity and are working with groups that specialize in cultivating diverse talent.
Modernizing the organization chart
At a basic level, state parties should know who is working for the national party, and how that staff is structured. If we are going to be a true resource, we must have a transparent, and streamlined headquarters. As chair, I will ensure that a DNC organization chart is drafted and submitted to state parties so that they fully understand the work we are doing, and back it up with strong relationships so state chairs always know the most efficient way to reach back to headquarters for support.
Democratic candidates and elected officials shouldn’t have to look outside for all of its technology and data services. The DNC will stand up an affiliated Democracy Labs, an in-house DevOps team of engineers, programmers, and designers to build platforms and tools that can be inexpensively licensed to Democratic candidates and officials through partnerships with state and local parties. This will also open up a new revenue stream for the DNC.
A new Bench Desk
The DNC currently has four political desks, all focused on regions – Midwest, Northeast, South, and West. The DNC’s desk structure needs to be revamped to include not just regional desks, but also functional desks. The DNC should build a new functional desk – the “Bench Desk” – with a political staff to help recruit, identify, and train a new generation of political stars. The Bench Desk will plug into the existing Democratic group ecosystem to fully integrate with current efforts to help build our Democratic bench.
Year-Round Persuasion and Turnout
We need as a party to refine the balance between our year-round relationships with voters and our use of modeling to help drive turnout in individual elections. Sophisticated data work is not enough unless we are also persuading and connecting with voters year-round. Every year local, county, state and the national party build an entire infrastructure of field operations that then dissipates after Election Day. As Chair, I will establish a department for continuity in the DNC, staffed with field organizers and talent retained from campaigns around the country in order to ensure that our data development and voter outreach continue to move forward between election cycles.
Establish a Digital Audit Grant Program for State Parties
The digital capabilities of each state party varies, but digital organizing and online efforts are crucial to our messaging efforts and political strength. The DNC should create a grant program to provide funding for state parties to contract with digital vendors to audit a given state party’s digital efforts, should a state party opt into the audit program. After a digital audit, additional funding can be provided to strengthen the state party’s digital organizing efforts.
Voter Registration Innovation Grants for State and Local Parties
The DNC can better use its funds to foster innovation among state and local parties. Many of the best private and public sector ideas have emerged from idea competitions, and we can adopt this tactic to support innovation. For example, a DNC-backed annual voter registration innovation competition will invite state and local parties to submit innovative ideas for voter registration programs to the DNC. The winners of the competition will receive a field grant to prove its effectiveness registering new Democratic voters. The programs that work best can be scaled and replicated by other state and local parties. A culture of innovation and trying new things at the state and local level is critical if we want to rebuild our Party from the ground up.