Today, I am pleased to present a guest blog by Valerie Ervin, a former Montgomery County Councilmember (D-5) and now a Senior Advisor to the Working Families Party.
The Maryland Democratic Party is poised to choose a new party chair. Unlike the National Democratic Party that to its credit engaged in a very open and transparent process that culminated in the close and historic election of Tom Perez, the first Latino to ever hold this position. It also ensured that Rep. Keith Ellison, the candidate whose support came from the left of the party, would become the Deputy Chair. The DNC is on the move as to build an inclusive party, one that promises to use its resources to build local state parties and to do that by grassroots organizing.
As the DNC moves forward, the Maryland Democratic Party remains stuck in the remnants of the past. The Maryland Democratic Party is set to bypass democracy and transparency and make one of its most important decisions for the future of the party, in a small room with only a few invited guests present.
In the 2014 mid-term elections, a Republican became the Governor of Maryland, only the second Republican Governor since 1969. Also, in 2014, Maryland experienced one of the lowest voter turnouts in its history. Less than half of the state’s 3.7 million eligible voters turned out. In the Maryland’s largest counties, Montgomery and Prince Georges, the turnout was particularly unimpressive.
Many Democratic voters stayed at home. There was an enthusiasm gap to be sure. Voters believed that the candidates running for state-wide office gave them little or no reason to go to the polls.
In a recent article by Steve Phillips author of Brown is the New White, he writes, “The largely untold story of the 2016 election is that more white Obama voters defected to third- and fourth-party candidates than the number who supported Mr. Trump. That is the white flight that should most concern the next DNC chairman. The way to win them back is by being more progressive, not less.”
The election of Tom Perez to lead the DNC is the starting point to what will be a long and difficult struggle to rebuild the party at the national and local level. The older and often moribund officials who still hold the power to singularly impact the future of democrats in Maryland are still in charge. The party will rebuild itself when we hold space for the emerging heart and soul of our party. They are more brown, black, young, female and progressive.
How do we win back the voters that left the party? Let’s first start by holding ourselves accountable. We must lead by example. When the Maryland Democratic Party meets on March 1st to accept the resignation of its Chair and to choose an interim chair, I hope that the party will rise to the occasion and instead of making an appointment, that the party leaders would consider waiting to elect and not select the person who will represent Maryland’s Democratic Party as its chair. Maryland is known as the Free State, let’s rise to the meaning of that creed. Let’s get back to the job of electing candidates that reflect the progressive values of that we are known for.