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Democracy for America -- Setting the Agenda

Founded by Governor Howard Dean, Democracy for America (DFA) empowers Americans to take their country back.  We value fiscal responsibility, social progress and the power of grassroots activism.  Our strategy calls for standing up for what we believe, regardless of how “red” the state or district.  Tactically, we conduct on-line campaigns to engage and grow our membership, promote hundreds of monthly organizing events in all 50 states, advise a growing coalition of like-minded state-based organizations, conduct grassroots activist trainings, and encourage our members to run for office.

Join the conversation at 8:00 PM Eastern and let’s discuss how you and DFA can set the Democratic agenda for next decade.

Posted by TomHughes-DFA on October 24, 2005 at 06:57 PM | Permalink


Hi Tom. Thank you for posting at the MViMV Blog and inviting us to discuss how we and DFA can set the Democratic agenda for the next decade.

My first question is: Will this discussion make a difference in DFA's strategy? I guess I'm looking for a logistical answer here, like, Is there a process that grassroots ideas are implimented (or not) into DFA's actions?

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 7:49:28 PM


I love that we're not giving up on red districts anymore. They need us more than ever. ; )

In a previous post, Lanya offered a creative activity for making folks aware of issues as they relate to their locality. It made me wish once again that I had a repository that I could visit with great ideas like hers. Does DFA have anything like that yet? If not, will you be including it in your "tool box"?

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:03:23 PM

Hi Jessica,

First of all, thanks to the MViMV team for inviting me to blog with you tonight.

Now, let's get to business.

We're always looking for innovative ways to further the mission of taking our country back. Each month DFA-Link hosts (formerly Meetup hosts) are asked to submit feedback on their events. Those reports help craft the strategy and tactics for the months ahead. More often than not the agendas for DFA-Link come from suggestions from grassroots leaders across the country.

Jim, Chris and I have also been traveling a fair amount this year, meeting with as many leaders as possible. I think Chris has been to 20+ state organizing conventions so far!

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:04:20 PM

Hi Charlene,

We're getting there with the "Idea Library." As an intermediate step, we just launched the Group Blogs on www.dfalink.com. These give groups the ability to share info (and best practices) more readily. Building in the ability to share and store files in coming shortly.

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:08:12 PM

>> I think Chris has been to 20+ state organizing conventions so far!<<

Well, Tom...

The Virginia State Organizing Convention was imposed on Virginia by DFA after DFA was contacted by somebody from DC, not based on the activities of Virginia DFA supporters. It was held in DC, not Virginia.

The organization of Democracy for Virginia went forward anyway, because basically we were told to organize then at that venue or DFA would find somebody who would.

That's my view of how it happened. It doesn't seem to be listening to the grassroots, it seems to be trying to get the grassroots to be footsoldiers for decisions made in Burlington.

Posted by: rich^kolker | Oct 24, 2005 8:10:21 PM

One thing we're all doing through DFA is "spreading the playing field" by competing in traditionally "red" districts. It was fun to see John Courage win the Grassroots All-Star vote last month. He's in a deep red district. But it's one of those races that we can make competitve with very few dollars and whole lot of volunteers.

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:11:30 PM

Hi Rich,

Thanks for chiming in.

I think at times it's important to look beyond state boundaries and recognize that our community does too. After the Febuary event in DC (which was terrific), we made sure that the next two training events were held in VA to focus on the elections there next month.

Posted by: TomHughes_DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:14:53 PM

Thanks, Tom. I'll stop by and check out the group blogs and see if any good ideas are fermenting.

20+ state conventions...maybe Chris' title should be changed to DFA Ambassador.

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:17:38 PM

One thing I wanted to make sure to say to MViMV, "Congratulations!"

Everyone is looking forward to DemocracyFest in San Diego next year. You did a great job on organizing the process that chose California.

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:18:31 PM

Tom, Are there other opportunities for grassroots input besides the Linkups? My schedule hasn't allowed me to attend one in a while and I'm certain I'm not alone there.

How do folks like Rich (for instance) get their disappointments heard if they can't attend a Linkup?

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:19:50 PM

Thanks Tom. We appreciate you listening to the grassroots ideas and feedback. I guess my question is: What's the next step? How does a grassroots idea become a DFA action?

Maybe you need a little cartoon jingle like the How a Bill Becomes a Law thing ;-)

Actually, that's probably a good example...I just suggested you create a cartoon jingle. How is it decided if DFA will create a cartoon jingle or not? If it's at your discretion to say that's the stupidest idear I've ever heard and not impliment it, that's fine. I'm just wondering if there is a process, and if so, what that process is.

My ultimate goal here is to have you make the process more transparent so the grassroots can most effectively communicate their ideas to you. I'm really not just trying to be a PITA ;-)

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 8:19:55 PM

Here's a question for you...

If, in December, you could design a DFA on-line and off-line action that would further the cause of taking our country back, what would it be?

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:21:09 PM

Thanks, Tom. Much appreciated. MViMV has a great all volunteer Exec Committee and Board, which gets all the work done. Al is our web administrator. He can't be here for Monday evenings but he'll read that compliment later.

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:21:22 PM


I don't want to get into an argument, but I was on the telecon where Virginia asked that we have our own organizing convention, and it be put off sufficiently long for planning to take place in advance. We were effectively ignored in that request. The DC event was planned and scheduled in advance of even telling Virginians it was taking place. We were already organizing. We were already planning to train people.

What I'm trying to say is that DFA HQ needs to see those of us out here is part of the management of what DFA is, not just the people to follow direction. That was forgotten in the case of the Virginia organizing convention, and I am disappointed you don't see it.

As I said, I don't want to start an argument, so at this point I'll yield the floor to others who want to talk to you.

Posted by: rich^kolker | Oct 24, 2005 8:22:20 PM

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:21:09 PM

December of which year? ;-)

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 8:23:47 PM

Given the time of year and the increasing American population living in poverty, I'd bring attention to that cause by having DFA Corps events to help out at NPOs that assist the poor. It should be simultaneously with an informational program that brings awareness to the American public that poverty is all around us. Unfortunately, it is usually hidden from those of us in Suburbs because we manage to stay secluded from low-income residential areas. (another good reason for mixed use zoning regulation)

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:25:59 PM

Hi tom! I really appreciate that you are still with us. I am feeling very lost in NYC about mayoral election... What do i do when H. clinton, B. Clinton, and most importantly H dean rally around a candidate that sucks just cause he is a dem... do i vote for him just cause he is a dem, NO... so where do i stand.... I think this is also a glass ball onto the next pres election, Hilary seems to be what is going to happen--Dean was our alternative last time, what about now?

Posted by: ChrisNYC | Oct 24, 2005 8:27:21 PM

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:21:09 PM

I would try to mobalize (local and national) volunteers for the candidates you endorse...not just money. Money's great, but as a former candidate, I feel that actual help would have been more, well, helpful.

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 8:27:33 PM

The idea process isn't rigid.

For example, the Delay billboard concept came from our friends at Blue State Digital. It was then tweaked considerably. A gentleman from OH submitted the winning slogan, that then got tweaked again. Marla at Democracy for Texas created the billboard graphic. And with several edits and lawyers and such it got put up in Houston, where Democracy for Houston had a field day promoting it.

For the Leave My Child Alone program, that idea came from a Meetup host in California who also happened to work for Working Assets. He pushed the idea when we were all together in Austin at DemocracyFest.

For the Framing with George Lakoff agenda, that idea came right out of the monthly Meetup reports.

So, it's not a rigid system. But it sounds like we need to make it clearer.

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:29:36 PM

I can relate because I know someone who says vote Democrat no matter how bad they stink. That just sends the wrong signal to everybody involved.

Seems to me our rally cry has been to find someone else to run against them, even if it has to be you, Chris. ; )

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:31:23 PM

No joke here as you know TOM--this is about fear against hope, and $$$$ always settles the nerves, we do not have a good enough farm team for mayor or president for the upcomming elections, we all want dean or Gore, Gore in my oppinion if he steps to the plate could have a chance, but will he run... We did mobilize, but bloomberg as you may know, has done a decent job, better than ferrer can do, and honestly he would be better at running the city than the chosen dem, which is not saying much

Posted by: ChrisNYC | Oct 24, 2005 8:33:08 PM


Monisha Sujan and Quintus Jett are working with the Louisiana NAACP to host a great event for DFA members in the South on Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge. The working title: "Rights, Recovery and Renaissance." I hope it can give many groups ideas of productive DFA Corps actions that they can take this holiday season. People need it.

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:34:45 PM

Tom, who came up with the nominate your friend for Supreme Court Justice idea? I love it.

Maybe to generate more belief in the ideas actually making it to DFA, a hall of fame should grow at DFA. It could show the fruition of implemented ideas.

Posted by: Charlene | Oct 24, 2005 8:36:12 PM

Posted by: TomHughes-DFA | Oct 24, 2005 8:29:36 PM

Thank you Tom. The grassroots are tougher than you may think. If the process is that the sqeaky wheel gets the grease, that's fine, we'll just know to be speakier. I think a significant amount of tension could be avoided by just making the process for implimenting grassroots ideas more transparent...whatever that process may be.

Next question: How does DFA decide which grassroots and non-grassroots organizations to work with. Is there a process or criteria for that?

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 8:37:06 PM

speakier = squeakier

Although in this case, that may be the same thing...

Posted by: Jessica | Oct 24, 2005 8:38:09 PM

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