Blue Parties in the Bayou
Liberal organizations emerge in Baton Rouge
By Ariel KingPosted Aug 1, 2012
As a high school freshman in North Louisiana, I realized that I was different than my peers. I ignored it for a while and tried to live in the way that my parents (and the Church) had raised me, but I couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to tell the truth, even though I knew I would lose the respect of many of my friends and family members, and people might have some mean things to say.
All that seems dramatic for choosing a political affiliation, but that is what I experienced as a budding liberal Democrat in Louisiana. I’m what some would call a “blue dot in a red state.” While I would like to encounter more like-minded individuals just going about my daily life, I’ve accepted that it is highly unlikely.
The Democratic Party of Louisiana has been going through some growing pains in recent years and many citizens and elected officials have defected from the Democratic Party. I wouldn’t consider Louisiana Democrats a dying breed, but they may be a vulnerable species. Recently, however, two new groups have formed to try and improve the chances of survival for the Democratic Party in the Red Stick.
Anthony Nelson, a political science undergraduate student at LSU, believes apathy among citizens is to blame for the current predicament of the Louisiana Democratic Party. He joined the local chapter of Young Democrats of Louisiana with the goal of getting more young people to participate in the political process. He was elected chair of the East Baton Rouge Democrats in March, and he also serves as central regional director for the Young Democrats of Louisiana. While the East Baton Rouge Young Democrats support Democratic causes and candidates on national, state, and local levels, Nelson says the group is focused more on helping alleviate the problems we’re currently experiencing within our state.
“Our goal is, of course, to get the President re-elected, but we have to look past that. I think our main goal is just rebuilding the Democratic brand in Louisiana. Because after he’s re-elected, after those four years, we want to make sure that Louisiana can become a blue state. And after the Governor leaves office, we want to make sure that we have a Democratic governor. So it’s just rebuilding and rebranding our party, and bringing new life, progressives, into it.”
But how exactly does one go about rebuilding a political party? Nelson plans to work toward this goal by reaching out to young people. “We do things like voter registration, and we go talk to students on different campuses and just get them aware of what’s going on. We’re more focused on getting young people registered to vote and actually voting.”
Renee Singleton is another Louisiana Democrat who became fed up with the apathetic attitude of citizens in our state, especially those within the Democratic Party.
“Democrats have sat on their rumps and done nothing to support [President Obama],” she said. “Absolutely nothing.”
Singleton is cofounder and interim president of the Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge and hopes to help get Democratic women involved in the political process.
The organization held its first meeting in September of 2011 and is geared toward Democratic women interested in promoting the principles and causes of the Democratic Party. The young organization is still in the organizing and planning stages, but it already has a core membership made up of diverse women of all ages and all walks of life.
Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge participates in phone-bank events in order to recruit volunteers for Obama For America, and in the future they plan to focus on citizen education and to organize fundraisers.
Why did they think the organization should be geared toward women? Betty Powers, a social worker and member of the Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge, answered that question simply: “Why not?” Powers went on to explain that she thinks women thrive in the setting provided by organizations like the Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge.
“Women enjoy getting together and doing this kind of thing just for the sake of the camaraderie, the support. I think it is instinctual to work together and we all, whether we’re male or female, seek out like-minded people. “
Singleton also feels that an organization for women is good and provides a healthy environment, a social outlet that encourages the involvement and leadership of women in politics.
“The social part of it is to provide a society for like-minded people – things for them to do together so that we can talk together, network together, and know who the like-minded people are. Because in this culture and in this political climate, particularly in this state, there are a lot of people underground because they fear retribution.”
Louisiana Democrats may be a vulnerable species now, but they hope political organizations, like the East Baton Rouge Young Democrats and Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge, will provide citizens with support to foster increased growth and involvement within the Democratic Party.
Democratic Women of Greater Baton Rouge
East Baton Rouge Young Democrats