Paulmeno: Vision for the Democratic Party

Stephanie Paulmeno submitted this letter to the editor of Greenwich Free Press. Paulmeno was elected to the District Leader position for District 6 of the Greenwich DTC on March 11.  

As we face an election for the Democratic Party Chair, who we select matters. I suggest we look at what our Democratic Party stands for as we seek the best candidate. Idealistic and characteristic differences and motivations between candidates running for office also matter because they become the face of our Party. Who we choose will be a matter of personal preference, but it’s also a factor of political gamesmanship. I propose some factors to consider in selecting our next leader and examining their plans for the direction in which they will take us as a Party.

It is evident that philosophical differences exist between Democratic and Republican ideals and priorities. People need to understand these differences and how they impact their everyday lives. When campaigning for State Representative, going door to door was an eye-opener, especially in our less affluent areas and in neighborhoods with large numbers of immigrants who had so much to gain or lose by their choices. The misinformation people believed was astonishing. It was quickly evident that Democrats have a long way to go to match GOP communication strategies. This could be a focus for the incoming Greenwich Democratic Party Chair. We never develop a unified Party line on any issue as does the GOP on all issues. Misinformation is rarely confronted or replaced with facts. Once a GOP slogan or comment is made it spreads like wildfire across the country regardless of whether it has any basis in fact. It is a remarkable thing to see. As a Party we need to adopt this technique but I’d want to see the Democratic leadership use slogans and discussion points that are factual and can be supported with evidence-based documents. We pride ourselves on an inclusive philosophy on social and economic positions and we need to consistently back up our positions with data and records. Our veracity should be impeccable.

I’ve given considerable thought to where Democrats should be moving with Party elections pending. We need to improve our visibility and our inclusiveness and to expand on this throughout the year. A leader who uses a sound marketing plan, as any good business would do, would be an asset. Our GDTC Chairman must be accountable for implementing a platform and making people aware of what that platform is. Democratic Party ideals must be tangible concepts to the different multicultural, multilingual and socioeconomic groups in Greenwich; the wealthy, middle class, less affluent, special-needs folks, minorities and our many immigrant populations.

Our Latino and minority populations are increasing rapidly in Greenwich. They are not one people but people representing many nations, cultures and socioeconomic groups. We need to learn what is important to them and to inform them about local issues that impact them. Let’s embrace them into our ranks, empower them, and show them how we support them. We need to facilitate voter registration and voting by mobilizing to assist them when that is needed. We need to bring the Democratic Party into their neighborhoods and not have them need to find us. We can partner with people from their communities and institutions who know their cultures. We need to impart Democratic ideals to them in their language as well as English, as this is validating and welcoming. We are the Party of ALL our people.

National Republican leadership has been vocal about whom the GOP represents and values, and who they don’t. Let’s take advantage of their lapses in judgment in making their biases and prejudices so public and so often. Many in Greenwich comprise the disenfranchised groups the GOP has diminished; those receiving housing assistance, low wage earners, people without access to affordable health care, and non-traditional families. We have increasing numbers of families falling on hard times right here in Greenwich who now need Medicaid, food stamps and food pantry goods, some for the 1st time in their lives. We have people who’ve been impacted by unemployment benefit cut-offs and food stamp reductions who have been left bereft of means to care for their families; Greenwich has many low and moderate income senior pensioners and veterans receiving VA-benefits…in other words we have many the GOP has labeled “the users”; those “47 percenters” and we should be openly embracing them and continually enlightening them on the different perspectives between the Democratic Party’s sense of responsibility to them and the Republican Party’s history of blocking legislation and actions that would have helped them during these very difficult economic times. Here in Greenwich our Town health and social services programs that serve them have been reduced. We need to actively recruit these people into our Party through campaigns that address how we better represent their needs and how we have and will continue to fight for them. We need them to know that their voices and their votes matter to us because we value them, and that when they cast their local votes it can make a difference in their daily lives.

Additional GDTC Chairman emphases focus on strengthening efforts to reach Party consensus on issues and to stop the recent in-fighting, to develop and publicize realistic ideas and funding sources for growing and supporting our business district, harbor, and infrastructure including
parks, playgrounds, the pool, OGRCC, and the roads and neighborhoods of our less affluent citizens. As we move to elect a new Chairman I suggest we prioritize strong leadership, capacity-building and collaboration characteristics. We need a consensus builder with an impeccable history of integrity who will work for and with our GDTC to find and support candidates and their initiatives. A visionary could expanding the ranks, profile and visibility of the GDTC. Democratic leadership should prioritize a year-round strategy development in order to efficaciously comport the Party; portraying a successful image appeals to the full range of Democratic-minded Greenwich citizens who come from all socioeconomic ranks and cultures. A financial and fundraising champion in a Party Leader could motivate donors, inspire creative calls-to-action, and inspire attendance at DTC events so the Party portrays a winner’s image.

Let’s address the visual appearance of Democratic headquarters vs Republican headquarters at election time. Most important of all, let’s select a Party Leader who seeks the role not for personal glory or power, but to serve the people of our Party and the people of our Town.