Not both sides: one party needs to up its game, the other is likely terminally broken

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times @mikemcgannpa

I’m sure by now you are tired of breathless media takes on what the 2021 elections mean and will mean for 2022. The truth is, though, that both parties in Chester County have issues — granted, one much, much more drastic than the other — and a lot of atmospheric issues (the economy, COVID) will probably drive results more than anything.

While the issues with the county Democratic Party are more of the “needs to grow into a governing organization,” county Republicans have boxed themselves into an immoral cul-de-sac from which there may be no escape.

Let’s be blunt: the full-page ad the county GOP took out before the election was racist and wildly dishonest, the perfect coda to campaign full of lies and crazed behavior.

I was shocked by the number of “lifelong” Republicans from around the county who reached out to me in the last few days noting the ad and recent behavior of the county party was a bridge too far for them.

And yes, it’s been a lot to take in.

The local GOP claims Critical Race Theory is being taught in schools around the county. 

It is not.

Here’s what they are against, really: diversity, equity and inclusion.

They oppose efforts at acceptance of diversity, whether they be gender-based, race-based, religion-based, economic-based, special needs-based and so on. Diversity is about moving beyond white male privilege and acceptance of the vast variety of the human condition. County Republicans oppose this in our schools.

Equity is simple: making sure everyone gets a fair shot and working to remove structural barriers that have prevented that. The county GOP opposes equity.

Inclusion is just as simple: the concept that all people are part of our American melting pot and should be treated as such. The county GOP opposes this.

Additionally, they do not want the real history of the region and nation taught because, yes, some of it is uncomfortable.

But by literally whitewashing our history, we ignore much that is good and worthy of pride. For every wretched story like that of Hannah Freeman — allegedly the last Lenape living along the Brandywine — we have the story of the Underground Railroad, which spirited so many to freedom, or even how some of the roots of the abolitionist movement started right here in Chester County. True history is often ugly and embarrassing but it teaches important lessons.

Another issue: the county GOP has aggressively fought mask mandates in our schools, citing a bunch of pseudo-science BS that ignores more than a century of science. Masks work and protect students and staff — and by extension, slow the spread of COVID. They do not cut off oxygen supply nor build up CO (the size difference between those atoms/molecule and COVID is the difference between a VW Beetle and a bumble bee — we have a real science ignorance problem in this country). Masks just filter the air of virus-sized objects, not atoms.

So, in short, your county GOP is anti inclusion, diversity and equity. It is either wildly ignorant — or worse, doesn’t care how many people get sick — when it comes to masking and vaccines.

In pushing the sort of dishonest crap, the county GOP has looked to punish school board members of their own party for failing to adopt what they know is a false narrative.

And course, this is the same party pushing “The Big Lie” that somehow the 2020 election was rigged. It was not. Donald Trump lost, here in Pennsylvania and nationally. Multiple audits/recounts proved the election was clean and fairly run, yet county Republicans insist on fostering this grievance based on a lie, the sort of grievance that led to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

In short, I’m not sure that this party now so built on lies and deception, can be redeemed.

I hope I’m wrong. We need a center right party to balance the center left Democrats.

But it seems clear that local Republicans have gone round the bend. It make take a new party to take up their role on the right.

The county’s Democrats have another issue: events have moved so quickly putting them in the majority in the county, that the usual process of party building hasn’t had time to happen. Worse, the party seems to be relying on a lot of old-school 20th Century Get Out The Vote mechanisms — I was buried with mailers and robocalls long after I dropped off my ballot. 

Those efforts were ineffective and a waste of money.

In some ways, Democrats need to return to an older style of more personal GOTV — but with a 21st century twist. As an example, I literally have no idea who my county committee people are. They’ve never been in contact (also, frustratingly, they did not recruit a Democratic candidate for Region B of the Unionville-Chadds Ford Board of Education race — a winnable race that likely would have been run by a couple of people I know had they been asked), but should have been doing digital GOTV starting September.

With so many people voting by mail, county committee people are going to have to find other methods of outreach beyond Election Day greeting (which to be honest, wasn’t always that effective even when everyone voted in person). 

VoteBuilder, the voter database used by the party, has a lot of cell phone numbers — meaning it would be possible to send text reminders to most local Democrats (a couple of campaigns have hit me up for money that way already), reminding them how important it is to vote and offering to answer any questions. Ideally, a follow up at the mail/drop off deadline with a reminder of voting options, would help even more. 

Yes, it is a fair amount of work, but if divided between two people and spread out over a week or so, it is not daunting.

Additionally, the party needs to get a stronger social media game and a better plan for earned media. 

In what looks like to be crucial elections in 2022, the county’s Democrats have to step up their game, get stronger training for committee people and embrace new methods of voter outreach. It is not 1995, the methods currently in use do little more than stuff money into vendors’ pockets while failing to really drive persuasion or GOTV.

It won’t be an easy process, but the party needs to grow up and do so quickly if it is going to hold and grow the beachhead it has taken over the last five years.

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