Ilyse Hogue / Medium
Editor Note: The Democratic Party is faced with the task of rebuilding itself from the ground up. It will select a Democratic National Committee Chair in February of 2017. Past DNC Chair Howard Dean and now Elyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-choice, have dropped out.
There’s nothing quite so unglamorous as announcing you are not doing something. So I won’t bury the lede: I am not running for DNC Chair this year.
In speaking with leaders and party members over the last month, it’s become clear we have two mutually-reinforcing needs. First, the Democratic Party faces a historic challenge — to build an inclusive, durable, fifty-state electoral infrastructure to support not just one candidate or constituency in the next election cycle, but all democratic-minded people for years to come. This means growing and optimizing a big organization, tackling everything from digital infrastructure to branding to local best-practice sharing. This infrastructure is all critical to building power, and it can’t live anywhere but the party itself.
Inclusivity is more than a buzzword, it’s an authentic organizing strategy that recognizes that people’s individual circumstances matter.
At the same time, we also need other groups to lead the day-to-day resistance to the incoming Trump administration and ensure that our party’s path back to power embraces our collective values and principles. No matter where in the Democratic community you are, we can all agree that the party, and the next Chair, cannot and must not engage in this fight alone. As Democrats, we are at our most powerful when the party fully embraces the wisdom that constituency groups offer. Inclusivity is more than a buzzword, it’s an authentic organizing strategy that recognizes that people’s individual circumstances matter. With so much on the line, I believe we need not just a strong party and party leader, but also equally strong leadership outside the party structure.
So while we’ll look to a new DNC Chair to rebuild the concert hall, we will need lots of leadership from outside the party to help write and perform the music.
The angst around the lack of willing women candidates is real. This bruising election, where misogyny played such a glaring role, is a fresh wound for so many. Before Sally Ann Boyton Brown jumped in last week, the field was all men — a great mix of men who represent different viewpoints and constituencies, but all men nonetheless. My decision not to run might be misinterpreted as stepping back from leadership when women’s voices need to be represented more than ever.
That would be a mistake. Leadership in this moment requires me to embrace the notion that running a million-plus-strong national group fighting for women’s interests is as worthy undertaking than serving as party Chair. With so much on the line, I am called now to serve women and families by helping to build the kind of formidable fighting force the moment needs.
[W]e cannot claim moral leadership in this frightening time if we give an inch on defending the dignity of all Americans.
Donald Trump’s rise to power was propelled by insidious misogyny, racism and xenophobia masked as an economic appeal. In this moment, we need to embrace moral leadership as well as practical politics. And we cannot claim moral leadership in this frightening time if we give an inch on defending the dignity of all Americans.
I am proud of the work that our NARAL team and members did this election cycle. We fought like our lives depended on it, because for so many it does. Organizations like mine, who have achieved a great affinity with our members, have a vital role to play while the party rebuilds. While I was at MoveOn, for instance, we were able to mobilize opposition to the war in Iraq ahead of the party and sow the seeds of the change election of 2006. We’ve learned time and again that where durable social movements authentically connect with cyclical electoral efforts, we make gains. It happened in Nevada this cycle, where NARAL was part of a successful effort to make a clean sweep of that state ballot, winning back both state legislative chambers in the process. It happened in North Carolina, where social movements threw their weight behind the effort to oust an entrenched governor.
I want to offer my sincere thanks to all of you who encouraged me to run. Your confidence in my leadership inspires me to stretch myself to new limits as the times demand. To the DNC Committee Members who made time to talk with me about what we need to do to rebuild as a party, I’m grateful for your insight and your wisdom. To those of you who have thrown your hat into the ring, thank you for your vision and your commitment.
If we are to be the peoples’ party, we should double down on processes that encourage participation.
Exploring the prospect of a run with DNC members and local democratic activists has left me energized. There’s so much passion and wisdom among our ranks! Building the systems of support we need to generate popular participation and create affinity for the party itself is the acute need right now. We’re facing a long road; the journey needs to be as inspiring as the destination.
My hope is that my ideas continue to be part of the conversation, and that many others contribute their own. While just about 450 Committee Members get to vote on the party leadership, millions of people are affected by the decision. If we are to be the peoples’ party, we should double down on processes that encourage participation. It certainly worked for the platform. Our participatory process resulted in robust — and yes, sometimes acrimonious — debate. As a platform committee member, I couldn’t have been more proud of the result: the most progressive and inclusive values statement ever for the Democratic party. I expect the one four years from now to be even more so.
So, weigh in. This is our Chair, and the future of the party is our future.
I commit to continue to fight, to put my decades of organizing experience to work for those who fight for all of us. The Chair position is critical, and I will stay a part of the conversation, not as a candidate but as an individual and as a representative of millions who depend on Democrats to have our backs and value our lives in a time when the President-elect has made clear that he won’t. So, weigh in. This is our Chair, and the future of the party is our future.
Ilyse Hogue is President of NARAL Pro-Choice America. Proud Texan. Pastimes include #sharkweek & hound dogs. Love new ideas, so bring ’em.