I like Todd Epp on the radio. He’s doing good work for Greg Belfrage and adding some good text and diversity of thought to the KELO Radio website. (He also helps me into some fun on-air conversations—thanks, Todd!)
But maybe Todd could use two jobs—radio on the early shift, then South Dakota Democratic Party exec from lunch ’til bedtime? He’s not angling for the newly opened job, but he’s certainly offering some strong talking points for the go-get-’em applicant who wants to turn the SDDP around.
In his morning Token Liberal post, Epp says the state Dems have wasted time and money on ballot measures while letting voter registration slide:
The decision to put money, time, people, and resources into the initiative and referendum processes the past several elections has resulted in dropping party registration with no appreciable increase in organization or funding at the local level to help Democratic candidates. The bill for this short circuiting of party building has come due [Todd Epp, “What State Democrats Need Now Is a Membership Plan,” KELO Radio: Token Liberal, 2017.04.14].
I’m not prepared to concede that Democratic voter registration (down again, 169,688 by this month’s report, down a half a percentage point since Election Day while Republicans are up 0.69% and indies are up 3.12%; down 17.66% from our July 2009 peak) is a “result” of Democratic work on ballot measures. The slide was well underway before Dems made their ballot measure pushes in 2012, 2014, and 2016. I will agree that resources spent on ballot measures were resources not spent on voter registration; however, I will disagree that Democrats can only do ballot measures or voter registration. A smart, energetic party marshals the resources to do both (and more, all coordinated from new field offices!).
Epp isn’t all either/or, either. He understands parties need to do lots of things, but argues that recruitment is the first thing:
Obviously the party should try to do the other things that political parties should do—raise money, find candidates and volunteers, get a consistent, coherent, appealing message out.
But without members of the Democratic Party, it is all for naught [Epp, 2017.04.14].
We lost 36,000+ registered voters over four election cycles. Epp it’s “completely unreasonable” to think we can win them all back in one (come on, Todd—aim high!), which is why he says we need a long-term exec:
And this will take time, maybe two to three (or more) electoral cycles. The slide toward irrelevance didn’t happen overnight. The fix won’t take place overnight.
So find someone as the new SDDP executive director who is in it for the long haul. And the party brass needs to give them the time to make this work [Epp, 2017.04.14].
If Todd weren’t so smitten with the bright lights and headphones, I’d say, SDDP, hire him! Absent that smart choice, let’s hope the SDDP finds a new exec who says, “Yup, Todd’s right. And field offices!“