The College Democrats of Boston College hosted a panel discussion with staff members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Apr. 5 in Gasson 305. This panel was the second event in the organization’s “Politics Outside The BC Bubble” series, which endeavors to examine the intersection of identity politics, national political attitudes, and the role of progressivism in Massachusetts and Boston College in fostering conversations on political involvement.
The panelists included Maureen Garde, the Deputy National Political Director at the DNC, Miles Fernandez, the Deputy Engagement Director for Youth & Seniors, and Scott W. Lang, a partner at Lang, Xifaras & Bullard, a law office in New Bedford, MA.
Each panelist first described the origins of their involvement with the Democratic Party and why the ideals of the party called them to action.
“I have been volunteering in political campaigns since my childhood,” said Garde. “Staying involved and advocating for progressive political campaigns has been a strong value in my family and was something I was actively part of while growing up.”
Fernandez, on the other hand, was a less active participant in advocacy efforts during childhood, yet his political socialization was in some ways reinforced by familial political beliefs.
“My parents were always loyal progressives, but believed that their children ought to have the opportunity to develop and abide by their own opinions through experience,” he commented. “After having the opportunity to work as a legislative intern and participating in other organizing efforts, I came to adopt the values of the Democratic Party.”
Lang described his involvement with the Democratic Party as a function of his commitment to progressive values while growing up. He graduated from Marquette University in Wisconsin in 1972 with a degree in history and political science , and subsequently attended Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C. while working for the Democratic National Committee from 1973 to 2004, where he acquainted himself with the Party’s operations.
Each panelist strove to highlight the importance of youth organizing while emphasizing the importance of holding President Trump accountable for his policy positions and executive actions. The panelists also opined on the growing leftist sentiments of the party and the measures required to return the platform of the Democratic Party to the people.
“The 2018 midterm elections will certainly be the deciding factor in determining the state of the Democratic Party and its social and political status moving forward,” Lang said. “People need to be able to rally around our local and state leaders and use the resources we have to rebuild the party from the ground up. We need to get back to being the party of the people.”
Garde concurred with Lang’s assertions.
“We need our constituents to see that the Democratic Party represents the interests of the people, and have to implement measures that make our party more accessible while directly addressing the needs of our voters. That includes presenting candidates that voters can relate to and trust to uphold their values,” Garde said.
The panelists also discussed the problem of branding within the party and its implications for outreach to millennials.
“The Republican Party Platform is easily condensed into a few key phrases,” Fernandez contended. “We know that Republicans stand for small government, that they oppose increased taxation for large corporations, and that many support the pro-life movement. Democrats, on the other hand, stand for a bigger role of the government in the people’s affairs, believe healthcare is a fundamental right, support the rights of minorities, support LGBTQ+ rights, support fiscal inclusion, and the list goes on and on.”
Fernandez addressed the need to improve and condense the Democratic Party Platform to make the organization’s policies more readily comprehensible and accessible. He also highlighted the need to improve outreach to millennial populations.
“We can’t risk losing out on the support of the voters we hope to represent,” he commented. “We need to be able to organize millennials through causes that they directly value and through progressive policies that impact them positively to retain their support.”
An overarching theme of the discussion, and the point that all panelists agreed upon, was the need for a re-formation of the platform of the Democratic Party so as to more effectively connect with constituents and their day-to-day concerns. This re-formation, the panelists hoped, would help restructure the Party’s legislative agenda and outreach efforts to make it them more topical to the changing needs of constituents while laying the foundation for a more equitable and inclusive future.