Moving on from Voter Outreach

Earlier this year, I was appointed as co-chair of the DCDSC’s Voter Outreach, Education, and Training committee. While some said, “hey, you’re an organizer, of course you should do this,” it was still an unlikely appointment for an outspoken, left-wing organizer newly-elected to the body. Several people, I’m told, warned against appointing me to this position. The officers took a risk, and I’m grateful for it.

Early on, co-chair Gordon Andrew-Fletcher and I laid out a proposal that we believed would help correct the party’s course by engaging active and low propensity voters in all eight wards and gently re-introducing a grassroots organizing approach to the way the local party does business.

Rather than spending our time executing this plan, I spent my first one hundred days mostly trying to persuade the unpersuadable. I was breaking one of the key rules of good organizing: don’t spend your time on the segment of people who are already firmly planted against your position. Unfortunately, that segment within the DCDSC is both high seniority and vocal.  

I was willing to give that a shot, to do the slow, methodical work needed to build out a standing committee with enough members who actually wanted to get to work, until this week. That’s when the same faction on Voter Outreach that has refused to take on basic tasks suddenly activated to try to whip votes in favor of our corrupt National Committeeman, Jack Evans. Turns out these fellow members weren’t people reluctant or incapable of doing the work. They were just more willing to do it in service to people like Evans than to voters who feel unheard by the District’s dominant party.

Why, I wondered, am I trying to win consent and approval for a grassroots approach to politics from people who have made so clear they won’t put their skills to use for it? Could I get more done relying on a cadre of fellow members and non-members who actually want to do grassroots work? I concluded that the answer to that second question was a hard yes. So on May 3, I submitted my resignation as co-chair of the Voter Outreach standing committee.

Some told me that if I stepped down, I would be “letting them win.” Hardly. The standing committee to date had been given no financial or material resources. Good people had stepped up to volunteer, but they were quickly demoralized by senior members. So I’ll be using the hours I previously devoted trying to make this committee function to actually doing the work Gordon and I proposed, starting here in Ward 4, where I remain as a Committeeman through 2022. I’m a firm believer you win by getting the work done, and now I’ve reclaimed about 20 hours a month to actually do it.

Here is my full co-chair resignation letter, submitted to Chair Wilson:

Charles,

I write to submit my resignation as Co-Chair of the Voter Outreach, Education, and Training committee. I know this comes as no surprise given our previous discussions, but an explanation is in order.

I’ve come to realize that I can accomplish more by engaging grassroots and rank-and-file voters directly than I can by attempting to steer fellow members who view activists and young people not as equal colleagues but as unwelcome interlopers who are “to be seen and not heard.”

I’ve previously said I would find it virtually impossible, if Mr. Evans continued as our national face, to execute the bold proposal that I and my co-chair laid out for the Voter Outreach committee. That agenda focused on leading the party on a listening tour of both active and low propensity voters in each ward; developing a package of responsive resolutions for the committee to adopt to demonstrate its ability to learn directly from the voters; then engaging in an unprecedented canvassing and speakout effort to grow the rolls, increase turnout, and identify new leaders.

Rather than spending the first 100 days doing that work, I’ve found myself repeatedly obstructed by the same sneering forces that last night put patronage before good policy. Senior standing committee members rejected the need to listen to or survey voters, refused to review documents or emails prior to discussion, derailed phone calls with paternalistic lectures, and railed against the involvement of citizen activists in our standing committees, all while offering to do little of the proposed work.

Now, with last night’s vote, they’ve delivered the task of doing all of this among a party base that rightly wonders why we embrace a lower ethical standard than ANCs, civic associations, party constituent groups, and the DC Council itself. One of these individuals has even threatened to use my vocal role in the Evans effort as an excuse to obstruct Voter Outreach work. It is, frankly, a waste of precious time.

I fully intend to carry out my duties as a Ward 4 Committeeman, a position to which I was elected on a platform of making the party present and active in Ward 4 neighborhoods and holding elected officials accountable on issues that impact working class people.

I am now convinced that I can have a far bigger impact, mobilize a greater number of voters, and deliver on my accountability pledge better by doing this work alongside the Ward 4 Democrats, other DCDSC standing committees, and grassroots political organizations than I can by spending time corralling fellow committee members who don’t believe the party must improve in order to progress.

I look forward to the publication of the last night’s roll and to working with you and the rest of the DCDSC on making the DC Democratic Party better.

All the best,
Todd Brogan
Ward 4 Committeeman

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