Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders

by johndavis, August 22, 2013

Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery   Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders    By Madison McLawhorn, Senior Communications Major, North Carolina State University  August 22, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 17            9:13 am Editor’s Note:  Today’s report on the role young Democrats can
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Top 10 Keys for NC Democratic Political Recovery

 

Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders

 

 By Madison McLawhorn,

Senior Communications Major, North Carolina State University 

August 22, 2013        Vol. VI, No. 17            9:13 am

Editor’s Note:  Today’s report on the role young Democrats can play in the party’s political recovery is written by Madison McLawhorn, a Senior Communications Major at North Carolina State University who has worked with me this summer as an intern.  Madison, a Democrat from Winterville, is related to two former Democratic members of the North Carolina House from Pitt County, including her grandfather, Charles McLawhorn, Sr., and Marian McLawhorn from Grifton. 

 

Where are the others?

The State Executive Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party convened Saturday, August 17, 2013 in Greensboro. As expected, the theme of meeting was reparative; it was apparent that many came “fired up and ready to go” and prepared to tackle the restorative effort.

My attendance at my first State Executive Committee meeting this past Saturday was both reaffirming and eye-opening. Of the several hundred members and guests—I’ll estimate 600 total—probably less than 10 percent of those were relatively young, like me. I’m 21.

What was even more glaring was the lack of young women. I had the pleasure of speaking with a couple of college-aged women while I was there from Noon until 8 p.m., when the Sanford-Hunt-Frye reception ended. I spotted only three others.

Where are the others?

I spoke with several leaders of organizations like Young Democrats and College Democrats, and a handful of other twenty- and early-thirty-somethings who take an interest in the party (almost all men, as they seem to be much easier to come by in this realm). Many saw the need for more enthusiasm on the part of college students and young professionals, but several also noted in accord that the party could and should do more to engage this group in the formal party process.

There is a leadership deficit in the party right now.  The emerging generation of Democrats needs to be more involved. The party needs us. And we need those who are experienced to foster our growth to ensure this long-desired comeback will be a lasting one.

Editor’s Note:  This report is the seventh in a 10-part series on the keys to political recovery for North Carolina Democrats.  As with the previous series on the keys to Republican political longevity, no state legislator or legislative staff member was interviewed.  All interviews were conducted with the promise of anonymity.  The rules thus far are:

  • Rule #1: If You want to Lead a Purple, Business-Friendly State, You have to Recruit a Purple, Business-Friendly Slate.
  • Rule #2: It's All About Who Does the Asking; Get the Right Person to Ask the Right Person to do the Right Task.
  • Rule #3 Moral Mondays - A Therapeutic Dose of Political Energy Restoring Rhythm to the Heart of the Democratic Party.
  • Rule #4:  Investors will Return to the Party of Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas when it has Bold, Visionary Leaders and Ideas.
  • Rule #5:  There is Gold to be Mined among Professional Women for the Next Generation of Candidates and Campaign Leaders.
  • Rule #6:  Stale Bread and Butter Social Issues won’t Nourish Moderate Voters Hungry for a Meat and Potatoes Economy

Today I am adding this guest report, written by Madison McLawhorn, as Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders. 

A fresh talent pool is needed

In 2008, Barack Obama surged the young voter demographic through his image, minority and progressive appeal and the strategic use of social media for fundraising. In his campaign, young people were indispensable in grinding out the registration and get-out-the vote efforts that are credited with delivering the ultimate prize.

However, in 2010, Republicans gained control of the state legislature for the first time in a century, leaving Democrats besieged and bewildered.  During the next election cycle, Republican margins in Raleigh increased as the Democratic state party coffers diminished and party morale declined.

Maps were redrawn and Republicans put plans into motion that would effectively destroy the last vestiges of a political dynasty. The proud legacy of power Democrats like Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt and Henry Frye, for example (all for whom an annual get-together of party faithful is named) has fallen victim to a Republican wrecking crew.

So how do Democrats recover? How do they protect the work their party has been credited with for a century, like public education, and take back control of the state?

North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Randy Voller, who presided over the meeting, likened the party’s situation to marriage, saying in fewer words that in marriage there is a blissful “beginning part” and then an ongoing phase of “all we’re not.” Perhaps the key to a great renewal of vows for the Democratic Party of North Carolina may well lie with a fresh talent pool.

It would be hard to argue against fostering this possible political jackpot for North Carolina Democrats.  In 2012, “Barack Obama won among young voters by 24 points in a head-to-head matchup with Mitt Romney, 60-36%,” according to the Youth Voting Stats page on the Young Democrats of America website. In North Carolina, voter turnout in the presidential election of North Carolina citizens between the ages of 18- and 29-years-old was 55 percent. Millenials have a propensity to vote Democrat, too. At the last count, 44 percent of them identify as Democrats.

The emerging generation must be the party’s priority

What more could the current and former elected officials of this state do to foster the emerging generation? What could the younger generation do to motivate others to get involved, garner party support and ensure a bright future for the state Democratic Party?

Perhaps a targeted outreach effort should be made to instill in young individuals the general importance of government and the importance of their role in it. What if elected officials made themselves available to college students over a group lunch? The Dean of North Carolina State University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences makes himself available to students on a regular basis in a “brown bag” forum where students may express their concerns and learn more about the college’s recent happenings in a casual setting.

The North Carolina General Assembly House Page Program and Senate Page Program give students the opportunity to participate in the legislative process through shadowing representatives and assisting with office duties. Another solution to the problem at hand could be this: 2014 campaigns could have young people shadowing every key person in the race. That would include the areas of fundraising, polling, opposition research, television ads and general public relations. Opening up spots like this would be beneficial in arguably every way. The campaigns could get more free help, students would have an opportunity to actively participate in the process and learn hands-on lessons for the future—which may, in turn, become their future in politics.

Many undergrads and recent grads need some help “getting it.” We know health care is important, we know we are supposed to care about taxes and we certainly can see the effects of unemployment and statewide cuts in funding, but such things don’t equate to immediacy in our generation’s immediate-gratification set minds and our world of millisecond Google searches. But those issues are still present and they will impact our lives and there is something we can do about all of them.

Last Saturday, at the State Executive Committee meeting in Greensboro, less than 10 percent of the approximately 600 attendees were young Democrats.  Where are the others? Where is the next generation of young Democratic candidates and party leaders?

There is a leadership deficit in the party right now.  The emerging generation of Democrats needs to be more involved. The party needs us, and must make the next generation of young Democratic candidates and party leaders the priority.

Rule #7: Where are the others? The Next Generation of Young Democratic Candidates and Party Leaders

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