Can Labor Help Break the Power of the Democratic Establishment? A Connecticut City's Model for Change
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Grassroots organizing will remain a central part of the unions’ strategy even as they draft legislation and attend committee hearings. In doing so, they hope to avoid repeating the mistakes of those who supported Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign. “If you look at Barack Obama, there was a huge amount of grassroots organizing to get him into office that ended when he got into office,” Gwen Mills observed. “It made it much more difficult to change many of the things he talked about in the campaign. The key to achieving the changes people talked about on the campaign is maintaining the organizing at the grassroots that made the campaign successful in the first place.”
So in the Newhallville neighborhood, for instance, Delphine Clyburn has continued knocking on doors even though the election is over. Four mornings a week, Clyburn, who has been active in her union since 1987, spends three hours revisiting constituents she met during the campaign. In some cases she’s checking in on the issues they want her to champion. She’s also following up with voters who during the campaign promised to serve on a neighborhood committee separate from the Democratic Party’s ward committee. And she has started work on creating a new political youth organization.
“The people will come with me,” Clyburn vowed. “I promise you that.”
Paul Bass, who has covered New Haven for more than thirty years, edits the online New Haven Independent. He is the author, with Douglas Rae, of Murder in the Model City: The Black Panthers, Yale and the Redemption of a Killer.