Local political parties are the backbone of the American political system. These organizations are so important because they are so close to the voter. The local political party is responsible for motivating the electorate to vote for an entire slate of candidates, from the local school board all the way up to the President of the United States. It is involved in all aspects of campaigning, from fundraising to getting out the vote. In order to build a strong national political party, it is important to start with strong local parties.
One problem that often plagues local party leaders is a refusal to delegate. Often, the qualities that make a good political leader, such as confidence and specific know-how, also make a poor delegator. In order to strengthen your political party, it is imperative to delegate. Find volunteers and members who are good at organizing, fundraising, and event planning, and put them to work. Give them the authority to make decisions and build their own team, and you will have more time to worry about “the big picture.”
Good leadership requires communication. If you plan on motivating your members and local leaders, you must be in constant communication with them. Luckily, this is easier then ever. Establish an e-mail mailing list and e-newsletter that you send out regularly. Keep one list of activists and another of more passive members, and use it to spread your message, organize events, and keep your political party motivated for a small fraction of what a traditional snail mail newsletter would cost.
Once your team is motivated, they need the tools to get the job done. Most local activists love politics, but are not intimately familiar with campaign strategy and tactics. It is your job to teach them how to do local politics right. Set up a campaign school or “college” that meets for single sessions or over the course of a few months, and make sure that your local political party is not only ready, but able to carry your candidates to victory on election day.
Utilize every method at your disposal to teach your committeemen and committeewomen, precinct leaders and block captains the basics of campaigning and local organization. Publish pamphlets or whole books on these subjects, and make sure that there are people on your staff or on your volunteer team who are knowledgeable enough to answer questions and teach seminars.
Usually when political parties talk about “modernizing,” they mean buying newer computers or the latest color copier. While these modern office supplies may be important, they are not as important as modernizing the business of politics. If your local party still does haphazard literature drops or thinks polling is “too expensive,” think again. The only way to effectively communicate with voters in today’s cluttered environment is to use polling to target the voters in your district(s) and use targeting to narrow the message each one gets (or doesn’t get). For more information targeting , read the Local Victory article How to Target Your Campaign Tactics.
In order to increase the role your political party plays in the local community, encourage your members to build mini-organizations on their own, under the umbrella of the larger party organization. These mini-organizations can include neighborhood political party groups and clubs, affiliated groups such as the Young Republicans or Young Democrats, or interest organizations such as “Citizens for Better Government.” Encouraging the growth of these mini-groups strengthens your local political party by increasing its reach and membership, and by empowering activists to use their time and talent for the betterment of the party as a whole.