Project Wonderful

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Come Join the Party: Why You Need to be a Part of the Young Democrats of America

The Amazing Shayna Daitch invites us to join YDA. (That would be me and her above. I now I REALLY wish we had taken a better picture.)

Shayna Daitch has called the great state of Oklahoma her home for most of her life and continues to be involved in state politics there. She has served on the board of Young Democrats of Oklahoma as National Committeewoman for two years and recently worked on the re-election campaigns of President Barack Obama and Senator Claire McCaskill. She is currently running to be Secretary of the Young Democrats of America with the YDA Progress team. Follow her twitter, @iknowshayna and @ydaprogress.

I’m really excited to write for y’all about, YDA, a group that is amazing and close to my heart. I got involved with the Young Democrats of America about two years ago. A friend of mine was trying to recruit people from Oklahoma to go the 2011 YDA Convention in Louisville, KY. She tweeted like crazy about it and had fundraised enough money to cover the cost of the trip for a bunch of people. I tweeted back at her and said I was interested in this trip. I was a little suspicious, but hey, free trip! Attending the YDA Convention was one of the best decisions I ever made. Growing up as a Jewish Democrat was often a lonely experience in Oklahoma, but YDA helped change that. I learned so much and met truly incredible friends.

As a member of the Young Democrats of America and a campaign staffer, I saw the impact of the youth vote first-hand and it is directly related to the work of the Young Democrats of America. The 2012 election wasn’t just about President Obama. It was about us as young Americans—the issues that are important to us and affect our future. Because we cared so deeply, youth turnout was the highest since 1968, when the voting age was lowered to 18, and 67% of young Americans choose Obama over Romney. Without youth voters, we know Obama would have lost Ohio, Virginia, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

What is YDA?

The Young Democrats of America was founded in 1932 (shout out to North Carolina for being the founding chapter!) as the official youth arm of the Democratic National Committee. We are currently the largest partisan youth organization in America. In 2002, YDA started to operate separately from the DNC, but the relationship between the organizations remains very close. YDA has three voting members on the DNC as well as one voting member on the DNC Executive Committee.

Some things about YDA:

1) YDA highlights issues that are important to Young Americans. The DNC has an increasing sensitivity to the issues facing young Americans and does a wonderful job of pushing many of our issues into the spotlight. There are many issues that are simply more important than others to us, like college affordability, reproductive rights, and reasonable interest rates. While we agree on issues, since YDA is separate from the DNC we are able to take control of our platform, our budget, and our messaging and focus solely on youth issues. We take guidance from the DNC but have the flexibility and freedom to do our own programming as well as work with groups like the College Democrats of America.

2) YDA is an awesome way to network and further your career. Not gonna lie, YDA is the place to meet remarkable young politicos. YDA hosts several conferences each year around the country and it is great to travel and meet new like-minded professionals. Being from Oklahoma, I longed for a network of people who shared my values and were equally as passionate about moving youth issues forward, passing progressive legislation, and electing Democrats—especially young Democrats. I found these people at YDA. Many of our members are young elected officials in their own right or campaign workers, but some have careers in non-political fields. I’ve actually gotten two campaign jobs because of the relationships I had formed through YDA. The networking is helpful, especially to campaign workers who often move around the country. It doesn’t matter what resource you are seeking, someone in YDA can and will assist. Particularly, in my campaign experience, the YDA network connected me to local clubs where I recruited volunteers, they helped me understand my new turf, introduced me to new people, and once it even found me supporter housing. Additionally, it’s a good place to get the political experience you need, especially if you want to break in to state party politics or other national organizations.

3) YDA is a marketplace of ideas and training opportunities. YDA’s strength lies in its diverse and large membership. YDA has 11 constituency caucuses as well as a faith initiative and regional committees. Since everyone comes from different states and backgrounds, it is the perfect place to crowdsource. I’m constantly blown away by what our members are doing across the country. For leaders who run local chapters, it is wonderful to have the support and advice from others who have faced the same problems. Recently, the Kansas Young Democrats got one of their members elected to their state legislature and the Delaware Young Democrats worked on the initiative to pass marriage equality. In my home state, the Young Democrats of Oklahoma played a role in successfully fighting personhood legislation last year. If I needed fundraising advice, I’d call the young Democrats in California and New York who know how to make it rain. And in states like Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, and others, their local Young Democrats chapters turned out to help with GOTV in 2012. There are just too many examples to list, but YDs get stuff done by helping each other create change across the country. On top of this, YDA is a great place for cheap trainings. In the last year, YDA has offered trainings from the very best in the business like Planned Parenthood, Democratic GAIN, Democracy for America, and senior-level staffers on major campaigns such as OFA. We haven’t had one from CampaignSick yet, but I’m sure that will change, very soon.

Basically, if you love politics and campaigns and under the age of 36, YDA is the place for you. The next YDA Convention will be in San Antonio, TX on August 8-11th and is shaping up to be the best one yet. There will be high-level trainings, guest speakers, and special events. Won’t you join us? For more information and registration visit us on the web.

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