Dems Should Try Organization


“Democrats have made a profound mistake in ignoring large parts of this country,” claims US Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in an interview with In These Times magazine. He continued, “While the world in Vermont is very different from the world in South Carolina, Mississippi or Alabama, the truth is working families are hurting in every state ... not to mount a challenge in a very forceful way in those states is wrong.”

The national corporate media claims Washington State is a “blue state” (Democratic) because we can be relied on to vote for the Democratic candidate for president but a look at our Congressional delegation and our state legislature makes one question that assessment and ponder the remarks of Sen. Sanders. Once you are East of the Cascade Mountains the Democratic Party disappears!

My family owns acreage in North Central Washington a mile south of the Canadian Border “east of the mountains.” I just returned from an “inspection” of our land. I like to kick the dirt at least once a year. The primary election had just ended. Democratic Candidates were no where to be seen. Washington has gone to the undemocratic “Top Two” primary so the elections often will be between two Republicans. There is not even a Democratic Candidate for Congress in the district! Welcome to a one party system. But the problem does not lie with the primary system alone. The National Democratic Party and the Washington Democratic Party has ignored the entire Eastern half of our state for years.

I have been active in state party politics since 1964 and the party’s invisibility is beyond my understanding. For example – during the 2012 election as I drove into the Okanogan Highlands I observed “Romney-Ryan” 4X8 campaign signs located next to the road in front of many farm houses. Yet just a few feet further would be a cyclone fence enclosure surrounding a pump providing millions of gallons of water to the irrigation system keeping the entire farming economy alive in Eastern Washington. On the gate of the enclosure is a metal sign reading: “PROPERTY OF THE US GOVERNMENT – NO TRESSPASSING.”

The economic life of these reliable Republican voters depends on the largest hydro-power/agricultural project in the world. Can you say “Grand Coulee Dam?” Yet they proclaim an right-wing irrational hatred of the Federal Government in every way including voting! Only the City of Spokane can claim three Democratic legislators but the Yakima Valley, dependent on federally supplied water, a huge military training base and home to a huge Hispanic population, can’t claim one. Neither can Benton-Franklin counties, the largest recipient of federal tax dollars in the State of Washington, thanks to the Hanford Nuke Reservation. No Democrats – the political party responsible for the programs that are the very life blood of Eastern Washington Republicans.

At the Republican National Convention in 2012, Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, the token woman for the Republican Congressional Caucus, attacked President Obama’s remark that business is often successful because of government assistance. Unfortunately he added “you didn’t build it” without completely explaining his point. McMorris-Rodgers seized on this and using her family farm in Eastern Washington as an example of the “rugged individualism her family used to build it ourselves without the government interference!” What she neglected to add was her family farm sits on the shore of Lake Roosevelt – created by Grand Coulee Dam, without which her family farm would be a pile of dry dirt. The response to this speech from the Washington State or National Democratic Committee? Silence – snowflakes falling on water – absolute nothing!

Unfortunately this seems the common pattern followed by the Democratic Party everywhere. Alleged to be “The Party of the People” the party doesn’t seem to think “the people” need information or perhaps believe the voters are just are too dumb to process it. I am not sure which. What I am sure of is I am a Precinct Committeeman – a party activist – someone who is usually involved in at least one campaign a year and a perfect voter. Yet all I hear from the Democratic Party is – SEND US MONEY! The “issue?” — “Because we are not Republicans!”

Election after election proves the Democratic Party needs basically one thing to win – voters! If the Obama election and re-election didn’t prove that I don’t what does. The Democratic Party should begin the day after every general election to concentrate all resources on two things. Issue education aimed at workers, farmers and small businesses to show them how they are voting against themselves when they vote Republican. And every day in every neighborhood, city, county and shopping mall the party needs to have volunteers at card tables signing people up to vote and be handing out information on issues.

Hey Democratic Party “leaders” — this ain’t rocket science – just basic organizing with a plan! It’s not that hard to figure out.

Bill Johnston is a retired staff organizer of the United Food and Commercial Workers. He is a member of the National Writers Union (Pacific Northwest Chapter). Email

From The Progressive Populist, October 15, 2014

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