We all deserve to live in an Ohio where each resident is represented fairly, regardless of their zip code. An Ohio that protects our right to vote in a transparent process so we can elect leaders who hear our voices, so that Black, white, brown, and Indigenous are all heard in every election. An Ohio that helps keep us safe by establishing common sense gun laws. And an Ohio that understands when it comes to the most important decisions in life, such as when and if to start a family, everyone deserves to make personal health care decisions with dignity and respect.
We are at a turning point. Our democracy and our freedom, hang by a thread.
With Republicans in Ohio’s statehouse brazenly thwarting the will of the voters, an incredibly low turnout for this month’s primaries, and with democracy itself being threatened, I’m humbly asking members of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party’s Central Committee to support me for party Chair.
(Here is a copy of the letter being sent to all members of the Central Committee).
The recently released draft overturning the right to choose is only the first strike in Republican attempts to remake America into their irrational image. Last month, an Ohio Republican lawmaker went so far as to testify that pregnancies from rape are an “opportunity” for the victim. Their paranoia has them convincing many that 2nd graders are being taught how to have sex, Democrats want to abolish all police departments, and that your daughter’s chances of Olympic gold are being threatened by transgender athletes. The party who claims the mantle of religious superiority yet has taken Christ out of Christianity won’t stop there. The next steps Republicans will take, some of which they’re planning now, will be overturning the right for people to marry who they love, further and far more sinister reductions in voting rights, outlawing birth control, and continuing to force neighbors to turn in neighbors for violations of laws that have no right existing like they’re doing in Texas.
I’m currently a member of the CCDP Executive Committee, president of the Cleveland Ward 16 Democratic Club, and work for an east side nonprofit. Before this, I taught American history at the college level, with an emphasis on the period from 1960 to 1990…the very period that set the stage for the current predicament in America.
BACKGROUND IN POLITICAL ACTIVISM
Two years ago, to increase voter turnout and (hopefully at the time) flip the state blue, myself and another West Parker mused about working together on a GOTV project between Wards 16 and 17. We raised thousands of dollars outside of the CCDP network, reached out to fellow Democrats in three other Cleveland wards, had door hangers designed, obtained voter data, and…“The Amazing Ballot Race” was on. The result? Five city wards and Bay Village all participated, with over 200 individuals from all ideological backgrounds pitching in. Not coincidentally, each saw an increase in turnout, which sadly wasn’t the case in some Cleveland wards.
About a year ago, I started meeting with a few others who also envisioned a more active Democratic party here. Working with different groups and individuals, we helped recruit a diverse mix of hundreds of residents from all over the county, to run for CCDP Central Committee. We secured a graphic designer who donated her time to create a flyer template whereby all we needed to do was change the candidate’s name. We put together Zoom trainings, including one titled “How to Run a Local Campaign,” led by those who’ve done the organizing and strategizing for local races.
Much of this type of empowerment can be replicated in communities across the county. Take what we did in 2020 and expand it across Cleveland’s 17 wards and we‘d have approximately 1000 volunteers knocking doors for weeks and weeks. Expand that across Cuyahoga County and you have roughly 3000 people dedicating their weekends to electing Democrats. That level of commitment CAN make a difference. And this needs to happen year-round. The good news is I’ve done this before. And, based on thousands of calls, emails, and texts over the past six months, many volunteers are ready to jump in. We just need to encourage them and give them the tools they need to make this happen.
Visibility and Messaging
Walking around last Saturday at the abortion rights rally downtown, I noticed that there was no official CCDP presence. No table. No handouts. No tent. And, I know they have a tent because they bought it for a group of us in 2019 to use at The Hooley in West Park. (Yes, that’s a subtle way of saying three years ago I collaborated with other volunteers to set up a tent at West Park’s biggest event of the year on behalf of the CCDP).
We can no longer talk about justice without working to ensure it. Economic justice. Sexual justice. Worker justice. Racial justice. Environmental Justice. The events in Buffalo last weekend just reinforce what we already know: racism and discrimination aren’t going anywhere. Being non-Republicans, or being personally free of prejudice, is no longer good enough when it comes to race in this country. Anti-racism, and anti-discrimination itself, should be part of our underlying creed if we’re to defeat the party of “white genocide.” One step I’ll take will be to appoint a Vice-Chair for racial justice.
The local Democratic party must also reassert its commitment to labor and unions more broadly. As the child of two union members, I know first-hand about the role unions played in building Cuyahoga County’s middle class. As a historian, I also know that America’s middle class wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for unions. Which is why, if chosen as Chair, I will also appoint a Vice-Chair in charge of labor relations, so we more stridently stand with them in their efforts.
- Voter Contact: Target and create networks of volunteers and activists in the county that will work year-round, not just before elections.
- Modernizing the Party: In addition to creating a strong door-to-door operation, the party must utilize cutting-edge political tools like deep canvassing, relational campaigning, a vigorous texting program for notifications and fundraising (one that doesn’t presently even exist), and create or obtain a voter data platform that is usable and available to Dem groups and leaders in the county.
- Template Building & Sharing: Develop and share templates (flyers, emails, fundraising requests, etc.) with Democratic clubs, affinity groups, and others who want to increase engagement and turnout.
- Vice-Chairs to Re-engage our Communities: Appoint Vice-Chairs with specific portfolios for fundraising, outreach, racial justice, labor, faith communities, etc.
- Increase Party Visibility: The party’s presence at events, rallies, etc. must be felt and there are many of volunteers who will proudly pick up our standard
- A More Engaged Central Committee: The newly-elected members will be asked to make a greater commitment: writing postcards, canvassing, texting. attending meetings, etc.
- Full-Time Chair: The stakes are simply too high for the Chairperson of the party to be focused on running for office or distracted by other professional commitments.
- Fairness and Transparency: The party organization itself must operate in a manner that is inclusive, free from favoritism, and committed to welcoming new methods.
The party must continue to strive for the high ideals the Democratic party has symbolized for the past century: democracy, fairness, equality of opportunity, truth, and the rights of average Americans. This is going to take an effort and focus beyond what our elected representatives and the Central Committee have undertaken before, but one that will bear fruit. For far too long, Central Committee members and Democrats countywide have participated in and observed the election of party Chair, only to wash their hands and move on soon thereafter.
There are 1.2 million people in this county. Elected officials, and the party Chair for that matter, aren’t the only ones with good ideas. There are many people who never desire holding elected office with significant contributions to make to our body politic. We must find and listen to them.
This is some of what I’ll do as Chair of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party.