There are several reasons to point to as to why Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald J. Trump.
The challenges we face as a nation, however, transcend the election of the most unfit and unqualified candidate ever to run for the office. Certainly it wasn't because of Donald Trump that Democrats lost the majority in the House of Representatives in 2010 or the majority in the Senate in 2014.
The dwindling of influence by the Democratic Party has evolved over years if not decades as is further evidenced by the fact that approximately two-thirds of the state houses and governorships are held by Republicans.
Certainly the gerrymandering of districts has contributed to this imbalance. The 2010 Supreme Court ruling commonly referred to as “Citizens United” which opened the door to big money influence in elections severely contributed to this imbalance of influence among the two major political parties.
So, you ask, what is the remedy? The aftermath of the election of 2016 unleashed pundit after pundit, advising that the Democratic Party must work from the “bottom up.”
I heard political adviser David Axelrod recommend this approach as I have heard the same guidance from numerous other pundits and political scholars.
BUT, what exactly does this entail? How is rhetoric turned into action? What will it take to inspire the almost two-thirds of the electorate that did not vote in the 2016 presidential election to feel that their vote does indeed count and their voice does indeed matter?
The very basis of Congressman John Sarbanes' Government By the People Act, which provides for public funding of elections, is to make the grassroot voters and their small donor contributions just as meaningful as the big donor because it is the small donors who will generate matching public funding.
Similarly, Montgomery County has instituted public funding for the County Council and the County Executive which has seen a rise in candidates.
Will it see an increase voter turnout? We shall see.
Even more important than public funding, however, is getting voters to care enough to vote. That is where the Democratic Central Committee of Montgomery County comes into play.
I had the opportunity to speak at length to a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee, Ms. Emily Shetty, who gave me an encouraging picture of the ongoing work and focus of the Central Committee in the wake of the devastating defeats the party experienced over the last several years including the election of a Republican governor in an extremely blue state, Maryland.
The County Canvass Program is at the core of the Committee's work. This effort is designed to reach out to voters in an ongoing manner to identify the issues most important to them.
This, of course, requires a level of flexibility because, clearly, not every location or voter prioritizes the same issues in the same order.
This ongoing outreach is quite different from previous approaches which basically focused on fundraising for candidates and Election Day work.
It is now recognized that reaching out to voters and hearing about their concerns must be an ongoing effort if that effort is to have any credibility with the voters.
Ms. Shetty, an individual who has dedicated herself to community and then public service her entire life starting as a young girl gives a great deal of credit to Central Committee leader Dave Kunes for recognizing the need to change course and making voter outreach a continual process and not a one-time event limited to asking for a voter's money or vote.
To assist in this effort a questionnaire was developed and the most important question is “What issues matter most to you and your family?”
The questionnaire also seeks to determine if the individual is willing to volunteer to be more connected to the process and whether the individual is willing to stay connected via email.
A simple one-pager has been developed to drop off at each home. The data collected is shared with candidates to enable them to better focus on issues that matter to their particular constituencies.
The State Democratic Party headed by Kathleen Matthews is doing similar outreach to voters across the state, but, since Montgomery County accounts for one-sixth of the voters in the state, outreach in this county and developing a true understanding of which issues matter most to voters is of the utmost importance.
Sounds encouraging but, like most good ideas, there are challenges.
For one thing, due to fearmongering of the Trump administration, many registered voters are afraid to even open their doors or get involved with government efforts in any way.
This may be a truly disturbing development, but one that makes the outreach effort of even greater importance.
In addition to identifying issues of concern, the outreach effort includes providing voters with election dates and reminders and contact information for answering voter questions.
With the current administration in the White House and its attacks on healthcare, civil rights, voting rights and so on, we are at a crossroads.
As Ms. Shetty emphasized throughout the discussion, “the status quo is not an option.”
Coordination among the DNC, the state and the county to assure voters that they are participants in finding solutions to the challenges we face is a major step in placing both the Democratic Party and, more importantly, the country on a new trajectory that, it is hoped, will serve as a model for other states and municipalities to follow.