Democratic candidates everywhere are missing a unique opportunity to use their own political campaigns as educational tools, Party-building exercises and vehicles for long-term change. My own candidacy for a seat on the Cecil County Democratic Central Committee in Maryland has given voter education, Party-building and promoting Democratic Party ticket unity a higher priority than gaining votes for my campaign.
I am unsure if I am going to win my election on September 12th. However, I am sure that the Democratic Party in Cecil County will be a stronger alternative to the local Republican Machine because I ran.
My campaign has been issue-based. This is unusual locally for this elected, unpaid Democratic Party position. Usually, the seats are filled largely on personal popularity and name recognition instead of specific plans or positions. I used my campaign to distribute information about alternative media, crusade for Party loyalty and criticize local Republican politicians.
Cecil County is closely divided along Party lines although Democrats once were clearly dominant. Our local newspaper, The Cecil Whig has always tilted Republican. The news content is more fair and balanced than the editorial content or columnists. Local Democrats have a difficult time getting their full views published as Letters to the Editor or guest columnists although they are not always completely frozen out.
In my opinion, the tilt of the local newspaper has shifted local political thinking toward Republicanism. Newspaper headlines are generally very favorable toward Republican politicians, goals or activities. All the Cecil Whig columnists are from the Republican Right and some are very extreme. There are no Democratic leaning columnists to balance the unrelenting repetition of Republican Right talking points. As a result, Cecil County politics has been trending increasingly Republican in a very Democratic state.
When I submitted a Letter to the Editor that was highly critical to a local Republican officeholder, Maryland House of Delegates member Mike Smigiel to the newspaper, it was rejected with scathing remarks. I turned the rejected comments into a campaign flyer under the title "Censored Cecil Whig Letter: Smigiel Bad for Cecil County."
It criticized Smigiel for holding a $500 per person fundraiser with our Republican Governor. It stated his priorities were reflected in the ticket price and he voted in the interests of the large corporations and the wealthiest of the wealthy. I cited his opposition to the so-called "Wal-Mart employee health insurance law" that requires Maryland's largest employers to spend 8% of payroll on their workers health insurance or pay higher taxes. These employees' health care needs are currently being funded by the taxpayers. Local businesses are paying the health care costs of their most difficult competitor in the form of higher taxes. Additionally, I pointed to Smigiel's inability to actually get legislation he introduced passed. He is good at getting Cecil Whig headlines but not in meeting the needs of the citizenry.
The flyer generated newspaper headlines when Smigiel and his staffer Diana Broomell created a public scene over distribution of the flyer at the Cecil County Fair. Broomell is a County Commissioner and a Republican Central Committee candidate. Smigiel is running for re-election. If he gets past his Primary challenger, he will face a tough Democratic opponent in County Commissioner Mark Guns. The exchange made Smigiel and Broomell look bad. I took the opportunity to challenge Smigiel to a public debate over his voting record, performance in office and fundraising. Smigiel continues to dodge the debate challenge.
Smigiel and Broomell engaged in name-calling and attacked the messenger instead of responding to the message. My criticism of Smigiel's public record was called both "libelous" and "character assassination." A few local Democrats, who have been trying to form alliances across Party lines to advance their personal agendas and interests, were critical of my efforts. The majority of local Democratic activists and officeholders have been delighted.
Besides the flyer, I created a website called Censored Whig Letters.com http://www.censoredwhigletters.com that other Democrats can use to publicize Democratic views that the newspaper will not publish. In order to help voters find the site, I designed another flyer that lists websites that are useful for Democratic activists and voters seeking information difficult to find in the Corporate Media. It lists other sites like OpEd News http://www.opednews.com, Smirking Chimp http://www.smirkingchimp.com, Democratic Talk Radio http://www.democratictalkradio.com, Buzzflash http://www.buzzflash.com, along with Democratic and union sites. I include a couple of excellent books by the likes of Greg Palast and Molly Ivin. The flyer is called "Educate Yourself for Democratic Activism and Civic Involvement Using These Information Sources." It can be found on Censored Whig Letters.com.
I issued another flyer with specific goals for the local Democratic Party. I advocated creation of a Democratic Book Discussion Group. I promoted forming a Young Democrats chapter. Publishing a Democratic newsletter and launching candidate recruitment programs were cited as priorities.
My goals include creation of a speaker series. Speakers should include officeholders, Party leaders, union leaders, civil rights activists, voter rights activists, columnists, authors, civil libertarians, etc. I promised greater emphasis on National and State issues from health care, minimum wage, national security, trade policy, privacy and more. Most other candidates for Cecil County Democratic Central Committee have endorsed these goals.
My campaign is a vehicle for a cause much greater than myself or the Party office I am seeking. I hope other candidates will design their campaigns in ways to build our grassroots and national movement. We can change things if we are both smart and creative.
Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.democratictalkradio.com ). Mail: P.O. Box 283, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org . Phone: 443-907-2367.
Feel free to publish without prior notice at no charge.