After reading Gilas Goat Boy's diary today, I had a moment reading the comments. There were lots of comments about not donating to the DNC, because people feel they don't do a good job with your money. For the most part, I agree with this. Now, most of us are people with only a few bucks to spare... how to spend it?
The way to promote the grassroots is to spend on the grassroots. This takes a little time and research, but if you want to fund a Democratic Party infrastructure that works, and scare the higher levels of the party into changing, this is how I think we do it.
First -- if you live in a state where there is a Clean Election law, make sure you donate your little bit to the candidate that is running locally. They need your checks to get on the ballot and get their Clean Elections check. Do this first. (In the case of Maine, this means $10-15 -- $5 to the candidate for State Rep, $5 to the State Senator, $5 to the Governor). Obviously, if there is a primary first, pick your favorite -- otherwise, give this money unless the Democrat is absolutely terrible. I'm talking about sacrificing kittens kind of terrible. You know, Ben Nelson. Or something.
Now, do your research, and find people who are doing good work. Don't be afraid to ask questions of people -- this is your money you're giving away. You want two things: a candidate who promotes your values, whether they are going to win or not, and a candidate who understands the value of campaigning. And I don't mean the kind of campaigning that happens on TV, I mean the kind that funds field activities. Alternately, seek out Democratic Party committees that do this.
Whether this is a local race where the campaign is waged with $10 in copies and a $3 clipboard (like me!), or a multi-million dollar Congressional candidate, you want someone who runs to win every time, whether they are an insurgent or a twenty-year incumbent. You want people who knock doors, who engage voters, who promote actual democracy -- the kind that involves bringing more voters out, not working just with the ones you have.
Then, fund these people -- from the bottom up, not the top down. This means ensuring that City Councilors win, that Democratic City and County Committees have adequate funding. Ask them to be honest with you -- can they work with what they have, or do they need more? If you give to them, what will your money buy? If it's a clipboard, give. If it's a print ad, move on. Work your way on up, giving to people and organizations that you believe in.
And don't feel bad if you don't give the President a dime. You don't feel passionate about him? That's cool, you'll help elect him anyway. That's the concept behind these donations -- you give to local organizations who will invest the time and effort into building the electorate. They will, in turn, vote for Democrats further up the ticket. All of the benefit of giving to Obama -- he still gets elected -- and you don't have to feel like you supported people you don't believe in.
If you want to change the party, this is the way you give. Make sure the locals can win, and they will make everything else blue. Otherwise, you have counties like mine, which can't open an office every year, while the Congressfolks sit on their cash. Don't we want to see every dime in use electing Democrats? Wouldn't you rather see another computer and phone for a volunteer to call with, than another 30 second TV ad? I know I do.