Monday, March 29, 2010

New Democrats for Plainfield: Reflections from a Founding Member


A couple of weeks ago, my friend Dan Damon ran a story on his Plainfield Today blog (see that story here) that focused on the New Democrats for Plainfield. The context there was that Councilwoman Linda Carter was being elevated to run in this year’s Democratic primary for a freeholder seat. With that story, Dan ran a photograph (reproduced above) of some of the founding New Democrats from our 2003 campaign to elect Linda Carter and Councilman Cory Storch. Seeing that photo truly resonated with me, and I made a comment on Dan’s blog about what being a New Democrat for Plainfield has meant to me. I had said that I would expound further on my own blog, and after receiving a number of email queries—even a couple from subscribers (like my mother!) who don’t live here, but who are interested in my political activities—I finally have time (after finishing the grading of dozens of student research papers!) to post my comment here—with a few edits and additional words.
This photo remains one of my favorites—it has all of our first candidates together—Adrian, Al, Linda, Cory, and Rayland—a great team. I still miss Al deeply, and to see this photo brought it all back. I have been thinking a lot about the New Democrats over the past few days. As others have pointed out, the New Democrats for Plainfield are life-long Democrats, and our club continues to work for the betterment of Plainfield.

As a founding member of the New Democrats for Plainfield, I have served as GOTV Operations Manager for several years, including during Annie McWilliams and Adrian Mapp’s successful races for 2008 citywide and 3rd ward council, respectively, and I managed Linda Carter’s 2003 primary campaign, Cory’s 2003 general election campaign, the late Ray Blanco’s 2004 citywide campaign, and Al McWilliams’s 2005 election campaign. I also volunteered on Rayland Van Blake’s 2002 campaign, where he unseated a long-time incumbent. Aside from Ray’s campaign, these were all “off the line” races—some we won, and some we lost. Nonetheless, I remain proud of the work New Democrats have done.
I have heard comments on occasion to the effect that Plainfield has two Democratic parties—well, those who say that err. We are one party. When Barack Obama (a self-proclaimed New Democrat!), Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, and all the other Democratic presidential contenders participated in the primary process in 2008, they weren’t considered “non” Democrats, nor did anyone suggest that there were eight or more Democratic parties.
During the 2008 primary season, even Democrats of the Regular Democratic Organization supported either Frank Lautenberg or Rob Andrews without being accused of being members of two different parties. The RDO supported Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama without being accused of creating two different parties!
Plainfield's New Democrats have focused on ethical, responsible leadership and community activism. We campaigned for Obama in 2008, for Kerry in 2004, for our senators, for our congressmen, for former Governor Corzine, and for our other state officials. We have supported various candidates during the primary season for freeholder and city council as well.
Our Democratic club has had many successes, given that we are such a young organization (founded in 2001), and we have sustained losses, as I mentioned earlier. However, those losses have not kept us from being politically engaged, and we remain a force in this city.
Being a part of the New Democrat political club does not mean that one is not a true Democrat--take a look at other cities--many have different political clubs focused in different ways (LGBT, senior citizen, African American, Jewish, progressive, youth-based, ecologically-based, etc.). These clubs bring their own agendas and political philosophy to bear on the party at large--ideally to help build better communities.

The fact that our club elects to run candidates during primary season does not mean that we are not Democrats. I would submit that the presence of New Democrat candidates in the process has resulted in a rejuvenated local party. Even Chairman Green has stated this, and he recently publicly acknowledged our work ethic and dedication. We work very hard and are committed to ethical leadership and putting forth strong candidates. Once elected, however, the council people are expected to bring the New Democrats for Plainfield ethos of ethical, responsible leadership to their work on behalf of the city’s residents, as opposed to political expediency or personal ambition.

Although I am an elected member of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee in the Second Ward (2-9) and currently serve as Second Ward Democratic Committee Leader, I have campaigned in all wards of the city (especially in the 2009 and 2005 mayoral races, the 2008 and 2004 citywide council races, and 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th ward and at-large races from 2002 to the present), walking day after day and knocking on doors with our candidates and recruiting and organizing a New Democrats army of volunteers to work on behalf of the city. I have been registering voters all along and have developed lasting friendships with voters and residents all over Plainfield.
Last year, as well as in 2008, I worked especially hard in both the Second and Third Wards, helping to recruit and elect several new members of the Plainfield Democratic City Committee, which had become rather moribund over the years.
The New Democrats now comprise a majority of the county committee seats in the 2nd and 3rd wards—we are duly elected members, and our role is to bring our commitment to ethical leadership and community activism to bear on the RDO to make a stronger party.
I am happy to discuss any aspect of our club's founding/organization/perspective/political philosophy with anyone who would like to know more about us. I am committed to continuing to do as much as I can to help Plainfield move forward—the struggle continues.

Whether or not I continue my political engagement in Democratic politics on or off the line, I will never lose my focus on what the "New Dems" stands for, and I will not run and hide from the label. We need effective leadership in the city at this critical juncture, and I know there are good candidates out there can serve and not feel that they have to sacrifice their principles in order to help our city.
All best,
P.S. For my next post, it's back to literature and pop culture!