How to Restart the Democratic Party in Shelby County 

Democrats are the majority in Shelby County but have been too afraid and disorganized to show it at the polls.  I place the reasons why Democrats don't vote for Democrats into three categories that can be best described through life lessons I have learned from great teachers and mentors I have had the privilege of knowing. First, you have to be Brilliant at the Basics. Then, you have to make sure you Ride the Right Horse. And, finally always Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing. 

Corey Strong
  • Corey Strong

Brilliant at the Basics: I worked for a captain on one of my warships in the Navy. This captain took over a ship with all types of material problems and very low morale, and he had to prepare the ship for an upcoming deployment. While everyone was concerned about high-level combat-systems training and complex battle problems, he understood if you don't do the little things — like fixing what's broken, you can never move to the bigger items. 

The first reason Democrats don't vote for Democrats in Shelby County is that the party has failed at the basics. The Shelby County Democratic Party (SCDP) must talk to its base, use that conversation to define its values and platform, and put a basic plan in place to execute on that platform. Elections, and policy campaigns, rallies and fund-raisers are all important, but if you don't talk to your voters and communicate a platform and plan to address their issues, they won't vote at elections, participate in campaigns, march at your rallies, or give you money.

Ride the Right Horse: The second reason people haven't voted for Democrats is that the SCDP has had a bad habit of riding the wrong horse when picking candidates. A candidate needs to be one people can believe in. That belief resides in people who have a strong professional record or reputation, have demonstrated a spirit of service, haven't lost multiple elections in the past, and who pledge to support the values and platform of the party. We have frequently supported major candidates who have poor professional or civic reputations — and sometimes none at all — and who have lost election after election. And when they get into office saying they will support our vague platform, they consistently work against that for their own personal gain with no accountability from the SCDP. Without a good horse, you cannot win a race. The SCDP must be the home of democratic values over anything else.

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing: The third reason we don't vote for Democrats is that the SCDP hasn't stayed focused on the main thing — which is our values. Elections and winning are fun — and so are all the little things that come with that — but the purpose of all of it is to make sure our values are present in our community and its governance. We have had any number of local issues that SCDP should champion on a daily basis:

An economy too strongly based on low-income jobs, a government that doesn't spread resources to communities in need, threats to our clean water and green spaces, discrimination based on people's backgrounds or lifestyle, opportunity for a good education, protection of and access to health care — particularly for women — and the list goes on. 

These are all issues that have dominated the news cycle locally in one way or another and that the SCDP and "big D" elected officials have to be better champions of, or why did we elect them in the first place? We cannot stop being Democrats after elections, and we can never stop working to install our values in our community. The SCDP must champion its democratic values in and out of election season.

If the SCDP becomes the true home of democratic values, attracts good candidates to run on those values, and champions those values day in and day out, we will not only win elections but see a truly blue Shelby County that is a clear reflection of our values. This is what Democrats have been telling me since the charter was pulled, and if we listen to them, they will come back home to the party.  Corey Strong, a former naval officer and current special projects director at Shelby County Schools, is the newly elected chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, which was allowed to re-form  this year by the state party after a year of decertification.

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