Dexter Williams: DC Democratic Party needs to embark in a new direction
If you’re not a DC political insider or activist, you might have never heard of the DC Democratic State Committee — or certainly about the functions of the organization. In short, the state committee is the governing body of the DC Democratic Party. It consists primarily of a group of people elected through the Democratic primary that is held every four years. Each ward has four representatives; there are also several at-large members, as well as a national committeeman and committeewoman. Additionally, there are add-on members, seats for the ward-based party chairs, and representatives for various constituency groups.
Over the years, the state committee has been criticized — by both current and former members — for functioning like an exclusive club and failing to meet its basic requirements as an organization. The party is responsible for educating voters about the political process, engaging the electorate, and promoting the values of the Democratic Party. Yet, that doesn’t seem to be what the organization spends its time doing — at least not in recent memory.
That has to change, and it’s one of the reasons that I ran for — and fortunately won — one of the Ward 7 committeeman seats during the 2018 Democratic primary. In a city where 76 percent of registered voters are Democrats, the DC Democratic Party should not only be engaging residents and encouraging participation in the political process, it should also be playing a major role in holding leaders accountable and using the party’s resources to better serve the city.
It’s true that the party isn’t a government entity that’s responsible for providing residents with services, but that doesn’t preclude the Democratic State Committee from speaking out on issues, raising awareness, and empowering residents by focusing on matters of importance to them. This year, there were missed opportunities to weigh in on important policy issues from paid family leave to Initiative 77. In addition to that, the state committee could have played a significant role in the recent Democratic primary by hosting debate forums to ensure that all candidates vying for the party’s respective office nominations would uphold the values of DC Democrats.
But as they say, “It’s in the past.” And now that the 2018 Democratic primary is over, bringing in new and re-elected members, we have to find a way to move the organization forward and make the DC Democratic Party stronger. I know that there are some who blame the chair for the state committee’s dysfunction and are working to oust the administration in the Sept. 20 election. Well, the truth is that there’s enough blame for everyone because an elected body of members, not just a single individual, decides the organization’s direction.
As my future state committee colleagues and I prepare to assume our responsibilities as stewards of the DC Democratic Party, I encourage them to think about what we want to achieve during our four-year terms and about our vision for the party by the time our terms end. Personally, I envision the DC Democrats aggressively engaging voters prior to and during future elections to increase the voter turnout rates; taking a position on major policy proposals and working with the DC Council on them; hosting forums on pressing issues facing the city; and investing more resources in the ward-based democratic organizations so they can implement strategies unique to their communities.
If we truly want the party to be stronger and fulfill its potential, then we just need to make it happen.
Dexter Williams was elected in June as one of Ward 7’s four representatives on the Democratic State Committee. He will be sworn into office on Sept. 20.
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