Democratic Underground  

Finding My Place
June 3, 2003
By Mark W. Brown

In November, 2001, I turned 18 years old. I had already made up my mind for quite some time that I was going to register to vote, and that I would register with the Democratic Party, so those were two simple decisions for me. Another thing I did in November, 2001, was happen across a timeless quote by an old humorist, for the very first time. I'm sure you've all heard of the one from Will Rogers - "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

I was certain that old quote had to be ancient history. Mr. Rogers penned this famous phrase in 1934, before all of my grandparents were even born. No way it could still hold true today, almost 70 years later, that's what I thought. Then I tried to find my place in the Democratic Party, and I learned better.

First, I thought I might try to find a group of Young Democrats in my area. Just two election cycles ago, it was Young Democrats in my area who provided a lot of the legwork that helped one of their number get elected to the state legislature. But, as I did some digging, it appeared the group faded into the mists after that electoral triumph.

The year 2002 brought the promise of an election cycle. It also saw me become very active in my university's College Democrats chapter - I even became the Secretary of the chapter. Over that summer, as I excitedly read articles in the local paper which foretold several close races in my area, I thought that, at the least, I'd get to be involved in one of these campaigns. And I was even more excited when I learned that we (our chapter) would get to meet with a worker from Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's campaign, to help out.

Then I met this worker - who was, incidentally, one of KKT's daughters, who I am 95% certain I had met previously - and all she had for our chapter was a bunch of campaign lawn signs. No practical campaigning techniques, no arrangements to transport our members to campaign events in the area, nothing beyond those signs, signs that we were not even able to place anywhere on campus, because they weren't the right kind of sign to be hung up according to campus rules. Yet, it was as though these signs were a panacea for all of the campaign's ills.

As Election Day drew closer, our chapter's membership began to dwindle rapidly. Some left because it was apparent tuition would raise regardless of the election's victor. Some left and joined with the Republicans because they bought into his campaign message, that it was time for a "change of climate". Some left because they were busy. And finally, come Election Day, we had four people who went to volunteer at an elementary school that was a twenty-minute drive from our campus. Included in the four of us was one foreign exchange student who was, for that semester, our most faithful member. And she wasn't even a Democrat. The four of us were not volunteering for KKT as we time and again tried to do. No, instead we only ended up as volunteers for a Democratic state legislator expected to cruise to easy re-election. Of course, we plugged the whole Democratic ticket, but the fact remained that we got snubbed.

In the spring, we had precisely two people at every group meeting, save for one, where we had three. I made many suggestions as to what to do to improve the situation, but none were heeded. I fear this fall semester will have more of the same story. And so, despite the old adage to "think globally, act locally," I had to move on from acting just locally, because locally I could do nothing.

This pursuit, in which I am still involved, has seen me become a member of the Legislative Action Committee of the College Democrats of America - the Chair of the Rapid Response Subcommittee, in fact. A very important-sounding title, no doubt, but even this has been little more than a continuing exercise in proving the truth of Mr. Rogers' old witticism. The committee - thirteen of us - has been operating for around three months, and of the three things we have managed to produce, none have seen the light of day. Our supposed contact point with the CDA executive board, the Communications Director, is on our listserv, but this does not seem to help us any.

We have written statements and fact sheets varying from a couple of paragraphs to a page, on issues like Senator Santorum's remarks towards gays, and tax cuts. And myself and several others have tried to steer the committee to speak up on issues like the Texas Democrats refuge in Oklahoma, judge nominations, outrageous Bush claims - "we found WMD" and the like - among others. None of our statements have been posted anywhere, and the "in charge" folks shot down the other suggestions.

Some might ask why I put so much effort into trying to help the Democratic Party when it seems they do not to want my help. There are many reasons, but one was reaffirmed recently. Ironically, it was in the process of my committee work that I learned of it. You might have heard about it - how the Republican leadership stripped a provision that allowed low-income families - families making between $10,500 and $26,625 per year - to receive the benefits of the child tax credit in the bill.

The Democratic Party is, whether or not the ruling faction wants it to be, the only national party that provides a voice to those who have none. It may be frustrating, and it certainly seems to be disorganized, but nowhere else will you find people who are among the haves, and want to help the have-nots.

My family makes over $100,000 per year. I can't even imagine how a family anywhere can make ends meet with incomes of a fourth of what we make, or a tenth. Yet there is a party out there that wants to prevent those families from receiving $400 per child. A party that has stripped this $3.5 billion provision from a tax cut for the wealthy. And that party is the Republican Party. Which reveals the key difference between the rank-and-file of the Republicans and the rank-and-file of the Democrats. The Republicans could care less about these families. It is grassroots Democrats who do the fighting for those who can't fight for themselves.

All in all, I am proud to be a part of that legacy, to count myself among those who are interested in the well-being of people other than themselves and those like them.

Right now, there does not seem to be a specific place for me in the Democratic Party. That's fine by me. I think I'd prefer to carve out my own place, anyway. Whether they want me or not, I'm here to stay.

Mark W. Brown is a college dude who grapples with tuition increases, psycho ex-girlfriends, and College Democrats who are already afraid to buck the establishment, among other things. He can be reached via Private Message on the DU message board as "CollegeDude."

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