Unlike the majority of people, I voted regularly, kept track of the bills before the KY General Assembly and contacted my reps about them, and wrote the paper about good and bad bills. These were all things a good citizen should do, but despite my efforts I was ignored by my own party. The desires of the Religious Right, who rarely voted Democrat, were always more important.
Years of frustration came to a head in 2004 with the Anti-Marriage Amendment. Under pressure from the Religious Right, the Democrats allowed the bill to come to the floor of the House and voted en masse to send it to the voters. The number of responses I got from my phone calls and handwritten letters could be counted on one hand. I guarantee you that Jody Richards and Rocky Adkins were not among them. I meant nothing to my own party.
Since Meetup.com had just started, I looked up the gatherings of KY Democrats and my wife and I made plans to attend a meeting. Writing and calling my reps wasn't enough. I wanted to see if a change could be made in the party itself.
Two meetings had been scheduled for the same night. We opted for the one that took place in the public library. When we got there, I rapidly became confused. Instead of people yakking about the upcoming presidential election or the fall elections, someone stood at the front with a flow chart showing the process for reorganization and the election of delegates to the state and national Democratic Party conventions.
During my time in college, I studied Ancient Greek, Latin, French, and German. I had no idea what these people were talking about.
"Do you understand what they're saying?" I asked my wife.
"Of course." Well, duh, she was a political science major. At that time, I could have told you more about Athenian politics than Kentucky politics, and more about Roman law than American law.
We made plans to show up for our precinct election. A member of the New Grassroots in Louisville had emailed me the proper form to fill out so we could officially file election results.
The election was very short; Gwen and I were the only people that showed up for our precinct. Since neither of us qualified as a youth, we decided that Gwen should be the precinct person. Thus began our dive into the deep end of the pool.
2004 ended rather badly, of course. I learned just how many people in Kentucky thought that I threatened their marriage and the American Way. Bush was re-elected. The KY House (un?)expectedly lost several races to Republicans. I am proud to say that no one who voted against the amendment lost in November. As a member of Change For Kentucky, I worked like a dog to help several of them keep their seats, and I believe my help was a factor in that.
Later, I learned how much of a difference in my own precinct we had made, simply by walking our streets and meeting our neighbors. Other progressives across the state learned the same, and we began to have some victories. In 2006, I helped gay-friendly candidates join the city council, and in Louisville, Horne supporters reunited behind Yarmuth after the primary and sent him to DC instead of Anne Northup. In 2007, I and others worked hard to keep Stan Lee out of the Attorney General seat. These were great accomplishments. Several members of Change For Kentucky, a group originally viewed with mistrust by the old hands, became members of their Democratic county committees and the State Central Committee.
The time has come again to elect precinct people and reorganize the state party. Precinct committees are the base of the party. They volunteer to spread election material, phonebank, and plant yard signs. They also elect county committee leadership and delegates to the state convention, where the leaders for the state party are elected.
To change the party, you must change its makeup. Attend a training session in March and show up to represent your precinct on April 5th. This is the most effective thing you can do to get your party to listen to you. This is how you can give progressives a greater voice in the Kentucky Democratic Party.