The Dems need to give their grassroots organizations some TLC.
Yesterday some bloggers and I sat in on a session organized by the DL21C and 2020 Democrats. Representatives from some 40 or so small liberal grassroots organizations gathered around tables, trading business cards and schwag. The point of the exercise was to discuss how to better organize and coordinate these groups, with an emphasis on using the Internet to connect people together.
As I listened, I realized that a deep divide existed. On one side of our table were extremely tech-savvy netroots organizations like ActBlue, ProgressivePunch.org and Music For America, full of suggestions involving RSS feed and instant two way communication between volunteers and campaigns. On the other side were the more old-school organizations who were focused almost entirely on how to get more feet on the street, and who looked utterly blank at the technical jargon being thrown around. If any progress is to be made on making more efficient use of the Internet, intensive tech support for these more traditional groups is desperately needed.
The most striking thing about this gathering was the amount of duplication of effort and inefficiency of the grassroots approach. Although there are excellent justifications for lots of small independent organizations, there is definitely room for some group to act as an overseeing body, putting similar efforts in touch with each other and getting organizations together to discuss what works and what doesn’t. 2020 Democrats are attempting this, but they will have to seriously step up their efforts if they’re to have any effect by this election - their next conference isn’t until January.
One wonders how many of the smaller organizations will be around come November 5th or so. Unless something is done to bring them together into a coherent grassroots network, the Democrats risk squandering the recent outpouring of energy, effort and dedication that have characterized the 2004 election.
(Originally published 7.29.04 on Fly Trap:Convention Edition)