After three months of operating with its ad hoc steering committee, South Dakota Progress is getting ready to elect its first official Executive Board. This progressive political action group plans to elect nine South Dakotans to lead it in April. To broaden its statewide appeal, SDP will elect two board members from East River, two from West River, two from Indian Country (the definition of which I hope is written clearly in the by-laws!). SDP will add three at-large members, at least one of whom must be an enrolled tribal member.
Currently anyone can join South Dakota Progress simply by attending a meeting (next meeting is in Brookings on March 14, the same day as the Brookings County Democrats’ St. Patrick’s Day festivities). Once the Executive Board takes office and officially passes SDP’s by-laws, membership will cost $10.
The SDP press release announcing the April board election also emphasizes that the organization’s mission will focus on people, not on specific policy positions:
South Dakota Progress is a mission-focused organization. SDP will work to elect Democratic candidates to public office. SDP will not engage in policy movements, party politics, or other efforts outside of the scope of its mission. In his resignation letter on February 19, 2015, outgoing advisor Bajun Mavalwalla emphasized, “Political stands are the business of the SDDP. This includes ballot measures, and ANY support of state-wide or federal candidates.” SDP will seek out and support electable candidates through training, mentorship, and funding. The mission of SDP is intentionally narrow and encourages South Dakotans who would like to see more Democrats holding public office to contact them [South Dakota Progress, press release, 2015.03.03].
I have to read that paragraph twice. Initially, it seems odd if not impossible for a political group to vow not to take political positions. Saying “We want to elect Democrats!” inherently engages in party politics, declaring that one party is preferable to others, a distinction based inevitably (if parties mean anything) on some policy difference.
Here perhaps is SDP’s administrative Big Tent intent. SDP wants to recruit, train, and elect Democratic candidates without getting bogged down in tiffs over TIFs, abortion, or even arguments about what it takes to be a South Dakota Democrat. SDP will take all comers willing to fly the progressive banner and help them become better candidates. SDP won’t issue a platform or position papers; the SDP board won’t debate taxes or guns at its meetings. SPD will focus strictly on the skills and the dollars necessary to win elections.
So, prospective SDP executive board members, save your ideological axes for after the meeting. On SDP’s clock, your job is nuts and bolts, raising money, and helping candidates win elections.