Blogging the YDA

From the diaries, if belatedly. Hopefully we will be hearing more from Woodhouse soon--Chris

It would be interesting to learn how many visitors to this site know that the Young Democrats of America is having its national convention in San Francisco this week. It would be even more interesting to learn how many give a shit. I've attached a poll to this diary to get an amusing, if totally unscientific, reading on those numbers.

Now let me tell you why I'm in the camp of readers that does give a shit that the YDA is meeting here in San Francisco this week, and what I'm planning to do about it.

As I've reported here before, I'm part of a committee of organizers that's kicking off a new Action Caucus at the convention in an effort to bring new people into the YDA and help transform the organization into a stronger voice for progressive young people. Despite the thesis of this otherwise enlightening article in the San Francisco Chronicle Monday morning, it has nothing to do with making the Young Democrats "cool." That is emphatically not our purpose in attending the convention. If someone could produce a study that showed that Lower East Side hipsters were statistically more likely to volunteer to walk precincts than other, less cool youth demographic groups, then coolness would certainly have to be a high priority on any YDA reform agenda. Until such figures emerge, our attention to the YDA should be focused on diversity and activism, not image.

The YDA suffers from more than an image problem. It suffers from an action problem. Simply put, the YDA is not an organization of activists.

I've said it; now I'll hasten to disclaim it. First, the YDA took a big step toward improving its field game by joining the Young Voter Alliance in the 2004 election. Second, a lot of legitimate criticisms of the YDA could just as easily be said about the Democratic Party as a whole. Third - and this really goes without saying - the YDA varies dramatically from locality to locality, and includes chapters that are more or less innocent of this charge.

All of that said, the fact remains that the YDA is not what young people or anybody else thinks of when they think progressive political action. The League of Pissed Off Voters is having its national convention in Pittsburgh over the same four-day period that the YDA is having its convention in San Francisco. Which city do you think the street-level activists are going to be in this weekend?

The Action Caucus of the YDA is introducing a resolution to the convention to commit the Young Democrats to mobilize its membership to activate around the races of 1,000 progressive candidates by the end of the year 2007. Our hope is that the resolution will not only pass, but will pass with a unanimous vote. Then the hard work begins: mobilizing the resources to invest in local chapters of the YDA to help to enable them to deliver on our objective.

I'll be blogging here on these pages from the YDA convention over the next few days, as will Charlie Eaton and Lilia Tamm, two more organizers in the Action Caucus. Stay tuned to hear the word from the floor.

Tags: (all tags)



I never know what people mean by "cool" (all those LES kids seem like geeks to me) but I definitely feel that YDA needs to become more active and more culturally relevant. That "cool" activity could be anything that is not a rally or meeting- i.e. a softball game, kareoke, poker, a party, etc. Becoming more active without trying to reach people on a level that they understand and feel engaged in is, IMHO, insufficient.

I'll be blogging the convention as well, both here and at Young Philly Politics.

by Alex Urevick 2005-08-02 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Cool
That sounds more like "fun" than "cool."  If the idea is to make the YDA more fun, then yes, I'm all about that.
by Woodhouse 2005-08-02 02:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Cool
Couple things.

I agree that the first and primary goal for revitalizing YDA is turning it towards a move activist approach  and getting the chapters better organized online (have you seen YDA sites?  A lot  of them look like relics from the late 90s).

But I also agree with Alex - making YDA activites "fun" (or cool, I think it is semantics here and "cool" has negative conotations forsome people) is the next step.   Ultimately, it's about cultural relevancy - changing YDA and (some) of their activities into something that makes sense to people in their everyday lives - softball games, concerts, drinks with friends, etc. - will yeild greater involvement in local political actions - including more traditional field work - and can help make our generation life-long participants in politics (hopefully for progressive causes and candidates).  

While I appreciate your  doubts about "hipster canvassers," the comment is glib.  Peer to Peer outreach focused around cultural activities and cultural "hubs" does increase turnout and activity among young voters - and (from what I hear) in a month or two there will be statistical studies of the 2004 election proving this.

But these alone are insufficient.  I also believe that YDA has a messaging problem - they don't know how to talk to the very people they want to involve and turn-on (and out) to politics.  This was evident in the actions of YVA as well during the election, where YVA pushed the phrase "I'm Young, I'm a Democrat, and I'm Voting" despite polling that the people we needed to turn-out didn't identify as Democrats.

Obviously, messaging isn't really somethign that can be tackled at a 4 day conference.  Your amendment is a great first step on the road to a more efficient and successful Young Democrats, but it's only one step.  There's a lot more to go.  

Looking forward to the rest of your posts from YDA.  AS well as yours Alex.

I myself will be in Pittsburgh with Music for America at IndyVoter's conference.  I'll be blogging as much as I can from there and posting in the Diaries here on MyDD.

by prank monkey 2005-08-04 09:36PM | 0 recs
Culturally Relevant
I think in terms of Chris' Identity Politcs that he blogged about earlier.

How do you apply that thesis to identity based on generation?

by gina 2005-08-04 06:16PM | 0 recs
How about this,

"We the Democratic Party value your identity of being a PERSON. And as one of these "persons" we will work together through a mechanism called the "government" to better your life as well as the lives of other so-called "persons" in your community, country, and world."

by adamterando 2005-08-04 07:58PM | 0 recs
Who knew?
I didn't until I read it in this morning's paper, and I live in San Francisco!  Mayor Newsom and Nancy Pelosi are speaking.

If it's anything like other "Young Democrat" events I've attended, you'd probably mistake them for Young Republicans.

by stuckinsf 2005-08-04 05:30PM | 0 recs
We need to seize this moment
As a 20 year old college democrat I may be able to shed some light on this subject.

Many of my peers have great political potential but lack the real drive to get involved.  Put simply, they do not seek out politics.  I believe we need to bring the issues to them and explain not only why they should care but what they can do about it.  

Leighton is dead on concerning the severe lack of action going on.  Most college democrat groups are completely unorganized and only really come alive during the presidential elections.  The problem there is that these students only experience the mostly dissatisfying taste of a national election.  There's more to politics than just the crazy mudslinging that every 4 years brings.  Action on the local and state level is critical and needs to be supported as well.

YDA can fill the needed role of mentoring these groups all over the country.  As it stands now, disorganization is turning people away from politics and these democratic clubs are folding as a result.  My peers can go a long way with just a little guidance and help getting started.

Now is the time to change this tide.  Frustration can be translated into action.  Apathy can be transformed into commitment.

by Kyle Shank 2005-08-04 06:05PM | 0 recs
Are they really so bad?
I am a former young Democrat. My memory of the Richmond club was that we were very active and did a good job in contributing to the victories Democrats enjoyed in those days. It has been some time since I had contact with any young Democratic group, so I cannot speak to the current organization.

But I cannot help but be struck at the very superior attidude common at both MyDD and Daily Kos and can't help but wonder if those writing are really so superior to the current Democratic party or if they even have a basis for an opionion.

How many on these pages are members of their local committees? How many have participated in party activities where they live?

by Alice Marshall 2005-08-04 07:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Are they really so bad?
There are some strong chapters of the YDA that are serious about political action.  There aren't enough of them.  We're trying to replicate those chapters throughout the organization.

I hope your suspicion of a sense of superiority wasn't directed at my posting; if it was, then perhaps I should have been clearer.  There are many smart, principled and motivated people in the YDA.  I don't think it comes down to personalities, it comes down to institutional culture.  I believe that the YDA can become a much stronger force for progressive political action if an effort is made to change the orientation of many local chapters away from pre-professionalism and toward activism.  I believe that such a transformation is possible with the current members of the YDA.  I don't believe that the problem is the people in the YDA, it's their sense of what the organization's priorities are.

by Woodhouse 2005-08-04 08:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Are they really so bad?
Your post came across as arrogant to this reader. I am willing to believe that you did not  mean to come across that way.
by Alice Marshall 2005-08-04 10:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Are they really so bad?
It's good to know there are people within the national structure who understand the problem and have solutions.
by DWCG 2005-08-04 10:35PM | 0 recs
Why not merge w/College Dems
Why not just merge with the College Democrats of America and become a part of them?  These are two organizations that serve similar groups, the difference being that the YDA is a 527 not officially part of the DNC, while the CDA is the college outreach arm of the Democratic Party.  CDA State Feds have relationships with their state parties, just as local College Dem chapters have relationships with their county parties (at least in good states).  It seems counterproductive to waste time and money on two organizations like this.  Just my take.

Oh, and for what it's worth, I strongly support the actions of the CDA - it's partially because of them at youth were the only age group to swing Democratic this past election.

by LaX WI 2005-08-04 07:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Why not merge w/College Dems
Why not just merge with the College Democrats of America and become a part of them?

Because not all young people go to college. Retail clerks and office workers will not go on campus to meetings. College students are unlikey to go off campus to attend young Democrat meetings.

by Alice Marshall 2005-08-04 08:07PM | 0 recs
All you'd have were for example the UCLA Young Dems and the Los Angeles Young Dems.

My big objection to a merger would be the power-fight that would ensue.

by DWCG 2005-08-04 10:33PM | 0 recs
This "young at heart" Dem
knew about the convention.  There is a Georgia YD contingent in SF and we have a Georgia YD running for Secretary of the YDA - Flora Brooke Hesse.  Georgia has an active YD organization - and even though I'm well past YD age I'm proud to have many friends among our YDs.

Go Flora Go!

by CatherineAtlanta 2005-08-04 08:41PM | 0 recs
Get em while theyre young
The CDA needs to take back college campuses. On the campus from which I just graduated, there were over 10 religious organizations, most if not all advocating social conservatism. Granted I live in the bible belt, but we must combat this kind of crap. Furthermore, the republicans have the leadership institute. We Democrats need a similar organization to help educate and train young progressives.
by schwompa 2005-08-04 09:21PM | 0 recs
Couldn't agree with you more
The YDA suffers from more than an image problem. It suffers from an action problem. Simply put, the YDA is not an organization of activists.

Truer words have never been spoken.  And the same goes for CDA.

by DWCG 2005-08-04 10:31PM | 0 recs
Pragmaddict from my blog, Corked Bats is there.  he will be liveblogging.  Stay tuned.

Also, be sure to cover Chris Bell's speech.  The DeLay slayer just declared for TX Gov.

Disclosure:  I want to work for the man.  

by Garemko 2005-08-05 03:34AM | 0 recs


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